If you mention the history of poker to poker players, you're bound to open up a debate with many differing opinions. Even the name poker, origins are shrouded in mystery. It's most likely descended from the French word poque which itself is comes from the German word pochen (to knock), but it's not very clear if the games bearing those names are the origins of poker. Poker has a resemblance to the Persian game of as nas and could well have been taught to the French settlers in New Orleans by Persian sailors.
It is widely believed that pokers beginnings can be found in the Renaissance game of primero and the French game of brelan. Brag, an English game, original known as bragg clearly has its roots in brelan and included bluffing, though bluffing was used in other games around this time. It's highly likely then that poker early development into the game we now play was influenced by all of these games.
In 1829 Joseph Crowell, an English actor, wrote of the game being played in New Orleans. The game was played with a 20 card deck, had 4 players who bet on which player's hand was the most valuable. The book An Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling published in 1843 describes how the game spread from New Orleans to the rest of North America via the Mississippi riverboats where gambling was widespread. With this it spread up the Mississippi and West particularly during the gold rush. It's then thought to have become part of the frontier pioneering culture.
Initially poker was played with just one round of betting. Five cards were dealt face down to each player and there was no drawing of cards. The rules where later tailored by professional gamblers to raise the profitably of the game. Sometime after 1850 it became common practice to have wild cards and bluffing in games and around the same time drawing cards was introduced.
With the introduction of the draw another round of betting was included. This was especially useful for the professional gambler due to it giving them another chance of cheating their opponents. It also moved from a pure gambling game to one that now included skill. Not long after this the full 52 card English deck was used and the flush was first introduced. At the time of the American Civil War, many additions were introduced including draw poker, stud poker (5 card variant) and the straight. Poker developed further in the U.S.which included wild card circ 1875, lowball and split pot poker circ 1900 and community card poker games circ 1925. Poker, in all its forms, was spreading to other countries, in particularly, Asia. This is generally credited to the presence of the U.S.military.
Such is the influence poker has had on American and English culture that the jargon in poker has become common place. Phrase such as ace in the hold, ace up one's sleeve, beats me, blue chip, call one's bluff, cash in, high roller, pass the buck, poker face, stack up, up the ante, when the chips are down, wild card and many others are in use in everyday conversation even by those unaware of their origins are at the poker table.
The modern era of poker started with the inaugural World Series of Poker in 1970. it was played in Binions Horseshoe casino Las Vegas and has grown into the massive event of today. Around about the same time the first serious strategy poker books start to appear on the bookshelves. Poker has constantly evolved over the years first with online poker which made it possible to play poker 24/7. T.V. got in on the act with the introduction of the hole camera. Then, followed the poker boom of 2004 which started with the Chris Moneymaker effect.