Poker with a 52-card deck and modern hand rankings began in real money casinos around 1842 and for 125 years the games of choice were 5-card draw and 5-card stud. The start of the first “poker boom” in North America involved a much different game which was introduced to Las Vegas in 1967 by a group of Texas road-gamblers that included both Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. This game of course was Texas Hold’em, which is believed to have been invented in Robstown, Texas around 1925, but was not known in Texas road-games till the early 1960s, and most outside of Texas never heard of the game till it was introduced to Las Vegas.
Texas Hold’em is now by far the most popular form of poker played both live and online. To put this into perspective during the month of Mach 2010 85.3% of ring game tables started at the world’s largest online poker site PokerStars.com were Texas Hold’em tables. The remaining broke down as 6.6% Omaha, 3.7% Omaha Hi/Lo, 1.3% 7 Card Stud, and 1.2% 5 Card Draw; plus a half dozen other games combined to account for the remaining 1.9%. PokerStars has more non-holdem traffic and non-holdem games than their competitors so it is likely safe to say “More than 85.3% of poker games played online use the Texas Hold’em variation”.
In the remainder of this article we’ll cover the history of Texas Hold’em and then conclude with the best places to play Texas Hold’em online.
Texas Hold’em History
As we mentioned in the intro Texas Hold’em was first introduced to Las Vegas casinos in 1967 by a group of Texas gamblers that included Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim. This game didn’t catch on right away. For the first couple years the only Las Vegas casino to spread it was the Golden Nugget, which was downtown as opposed the strip and therefore didn’t attract many rich drop-in gamblers.
While perhaps the Texas Hold’em boom was destined to occur at some point regardless of who did what, a man you don’t hear about too often named Tom Moore deserves credit when covering Texas Hold’em history. In 1968, along with his wife Lafayne, Moore hosted The First Annual Gaming Fraternity Convention to promote the Holiday Hotel in Reno. 50 select high stakes gamblers were invited to compete in casino table-game tournaments during the convention. This was largely a flop so the next year they changed the format to poker, in what would be dubbed the first ever poker tournament.
In 1969, the Second Annual Gaming convention attracted bookies, pool sharks and top poker professionals including Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Crandell Addington, James “Longgoodie” Roy, Aubrey Day, Benny Binion, Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Jimmy Casella, Minnesota Fats, Bill Boyd, Jack Straus, Felton “Corky” McCorkindale, George Barnes, “Sailor” Roberts, Johnny Joseph, and the notorious father of actor Woody Harrelson, Charles, now serving life for the 1979 assassination of John H. Wood, a U.S. District Court justice in San Antonio. Approximately 30 players participated in this week long poker tournament which was a live game, meaning players could continue to re-buy. The games played were Texas hold’em, Kansas City lowball draw, razz, stud, and ace-to-five lowball draw.
This tournament was so successful that Benny and Jack Binion purchased rights to it the following year and renamed it the World Series of Poker. The 1970 World Series of Poker saw Johnny Moss elected by his peers the first World Champion of Poker and received a silver cup as a prize; he won the same titled again in 1971. In 1972 the World Series of Poker switched its main event to a $10,000 buy-in winner take all freeze out No-Limit Holdem Tournament. Many members of the media were invited to this event which had eight entrants. The event was one by Amarillo Slim and after his victory he appeared on several talk shows including the tonight show.
Texas Hold’em popularity continued to rise; contributing factors to the games growth were a 1978 book by Doyle Brunson eventually re-titled Super System, California legalizing holdem games in 1988, and several WSOP champions following in Amarillo Slims footsteps as promoters of the game. After receiving only eight entrants in 1972, the number of entrants to WSOP grew each year with over one hundred entrants in 1982, and over two hundred in 1991.
In 1998 the first online poker room was launched, and dozens would follow suit in the coming year. Also that same year a Miramax film called Rounders was released. This movie started Matt Damon and Edward Norton in the world of underground high-stakes poker and helped further introduce the World Series of Poker to the masses. In the years to follow televised poker with hole cards came out and in 2003 an accountant from Tennessee named Chris Moneymaker was successful in parlaying a $39 tournament entry at PokerStars.com, into a $10,000 WSOP buy-in and the $2.5 million dollars first place prize which crowned him the World Champion of Poker. It was a true Cinderella story and before you knew it, millions across the globe were logging into online poker sites looking for the chance to become the next Chris Moneymaker.
Of course there are some gaps in our history and many other names and events we could mention. If you’re interested in history we recommend books byDoyle Brunson, and also suggest searching Wikipedia and Google for more on the topic.