Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker variant played today, but that hasn’t always been the case. Games such as draw and stud once dominated card rooms of Las Vegas and beyond until Hold’em rose to prominence in the 1960s.
Little is known about the exact time hold’em was invented, although Texas State Legislature officially recognises Robstown, Texas as the game’s birthplace, hence the game being formally known as Texas hold’em poker.
Poker wasn’t always a mainstream activity and games were often held privately. Poker games were often dangerous places hosted by unscrupulous people and as such gamblers used to travel in groups rather than alone. The legend that is Doyle Brunson once said that winning money in these games was the easy part, it was getting out of town with your winnings that presented the biggest problem.
Brunson was part of a group of travelling gamblers who introduced hold’em to Las Vegas. Brunson, along with Amarillo Slim, Crandell Addington, and others, began to play hold’em regularly in Las Vegas in 1967.
For many years, anyone wanting to play hold’em had to head to the Golden Nugget Casino located in Downtown Las Vegas as it was the only venue spreading the game. Due to its location and décor – it had oiled sawdust covering the floors – the Golden Nugget’s poker room wasn’t high on the list for rich players wanting to play this new game so the professional players looked for a more prominent location to play hold’em.
They finally settled on the Dunes Hotel and Casino – it was demolished in 1993 and the Bellagio now stands in its place – on the world famous Las Vegas Strip. The moved proved to be a successful one as inexperienced hold’em players lined the professional’s pockets, and the game’s popularity grew.
Texas Hold’em at the WSOP
A gambler called Tom Moore established the “Gambling Fraternity Convention” and added poker tournaments, including hold’em, to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention in 1969. Benny and Jack Binion bought the rights to the convention and renamed it the World Series of Poker, before moving to their own casino, Binion’s Horseshoe.
During the World Series of Poker’s second year, Texas hold’em was played as the Main Event and drew only eight players, a far cry from the several thousand that compete in it each summer in Las Vegas.
Hold’em popularity continued growing in the 1980s when California’s legal card rooms began spreading the game, and received a further boost when Irish bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam Flood saw the game in the early 1980s and they introduced it to Europe when they returned home, later creating the Irish Poker Open, the second-longest running tournament in the world behind the World Series of Poker Main Event.
The game continued to gain fans during the 2000s and thanks in part to the invention of the “hole card cam” which allowed people watching footage at home to see the cards the players held and how they were playing. Then in 2003, the aptly named Chris Moneymaker won a $38 buy-in satellite online. His prize was a seat in the WSOP Main Event, which he went on to win for $2.5 million. Then an accountant, Moneymaker became an inspiration for thousands of budding poker players because there he was, an everyday man taking on the professionals at their own game, in their own backyard, and walking away with the life-changing top prize.
Moneymaker beat a field of 839 in 2003, a figure that rose to 2,576 in 2004 when patent attorney Greg Raymer won the title. By 2015, the field grew to 5,619 before hitting an all-time high of 8,773 entrants in 2006 when Jamie Gold won the $12 million first place prize. While those dizzy heights have never been reached since, the WSOP Main Event’s attendance hasn’t fallen to less than 6,352 entrants since Gold’s amazing win.
The first real-money online poker site popped up in 1998. Planet Poker was followed three years later by partypoker in 2001, making us one of the original online poker sites – has it really been 15 years?
So there you have it, an insight into the history of the amazing game that is Texas hold’em, a game that partypoker ambassador Mike Sexton once said “takes a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master.” We hear you, Mike.