Read ‘Em And Weep: The Origins Of Texas Hold’Em

By Christine
August 16, 2021

There are an awful lot of poker players out there who only know how to play Texas Hold’em. When you sit down at a poker table anywhere in the world or online, unless otherwise specified, you’re pretty much going to be playing hold’em. But how much do you know about the history of Texas Hold’em? And can understanding that history make you a better player? We’re not sure about that, but it can certainly impress your friends and give you a bit of extra dinner party banter.

So read on to discover the journey of Texas Hold’em from its lowly roots to global powerhouse.

Did the history of Texas Hold’em really start in Texas?

As far as we know, yes it did. The Texas Legislature officially states that Texas Hold’em originated in Robstown, Texas back in the early 1900s. But how did the game spread from this sleepy southern Texan city to the world?

Hold’em hits Vegas

For the first half of the 20th century, the history of Texas Hold’em was squarely centered around the state in which it’s from. But by the 1960s, things started to change. Professional poker player Felton “Corky” McCorquodale is credited with first bringing the game to Las Vegas, introducing it to the California Club.

The 1960s was arguably the golden age of poker in Las Vegas. It’s when the game really started to take shape and the scene as we know it now began to form. One of the founders of the World Series of Poker Crandell Addington was an early fan of Texas Hold’em, realising the strategic potential in the game over the more traditional Draw poker. He first played it in 1959, but by 1967 he was playing it on the strip regularly, alongside legends and WSOP Main Event winners Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson, among others.

The Golden Nugget was one of the original hot spots for hold’em. However, it was far from the classiest casino on the strip, so in order to spread the word, hold’em fans had to find a different stage to showcase the game. The Dunes Casino was selected and in 1969, several players hit the felt in the entrance to show the world what the game was all about.

A match made in heaven: WSOP and Texas hold’em

In 1970, the first World Series of Poker took place in Binion’s Horseshoe. Of course, another Las Vegas establishment. That first year, the Main Event was actually not a poker game at all. The players had to simply pick the player they thought deserved the title. But from 1971 onwards, the Main Event was always no limit Texas hold’em. And it still is to this day. Just like the history of Texas Hold’em, the popularity of the WSOP has ramped up considerably since the early days. In 1972, there were only eight Main Event entrants. Less that 20 years later, that number jumped to over 200.

The history of Texas Hold’em spreads

In 1978, Brunson self-published a hugely influential strategy guide called Super/System and sold copies for $100 a pop. A whirlwind on the poker landscape, it discussed Texas Hold’em in a way no one had ever seen before and gave the game of poker a whole new life. The next truly influential book about hold’em was the 1983 tome The Biggest Game in Town by Al Alvarez. All about the 1981 WSOP, this book spread the word about poker to the masses.

From Las Vegas to the world

Up until 1988, card rooms in California were effectively prohibited from playing anything other than draw poker. But this quirk in the legislation was ironed out and by the late 1980s, Texas Hold’em was offered to players there too. The game took off in a big way in the state.

Of course, many foreign nationals frequented the card tables of Las Vegas and grew to love the game of Texas Hold’em. Two visitors credited with bringing the game to Europe were Irish Poker Open creator Terry Rogers and professional poker player Liam Flood. These Irish men were said to take the game from the casinos of Las Vegas across the Atlantic and to the card rooms of Europe in the early 1980s.

Global domination

For the next 20 years, Texas Hold’em’s start just kept on rising. After being prominently featured on TV, online poker rooms and even literature, it outstripped seven-card stud as America’s favorite poker game. And soon after that, it became the world’s favorite poker game too.

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