The Cognitive History of Hold’em Poker Games

Earlier this month, we were privy to a riveting, televised broadcast of the 47th Annual World Series of Poker Main Event‘s conclusion. The elite final 9 of 6,737 entries took to the felt to battle it out in the ultimate Texas Hold’em showdown, where Qui Nguyen was crowned champion and awarded over $8 million for his efforts.

History of Hold'em Poker GamesAs countless fans tuned in, watching hand after hand pass by, some – including myself – began to wonder where a poker game that’s drawn so many enthusiasts came from? Naturally, we assume Texas Hold’em came from somewhere in the heart of the Lone Star State, and that’s correct. But Omaha Hold’em was not – as most would think – a native game of Nebraska.

We’ll take a closer look at the history of Hold’em poker games, how they got their names, and the vast popularity they enjoy today on the internet and in live poker rooms.

Cognitive History of Hold’em Poker

Why a “cognitive” history of Hold’em poker, you ask? Facts tend to get jumbled over the years, especially when they are being spread by professional poker players known for their uncanny aptitude for bluffing. Thus the following accounts are the most widely accepted theories behind the introduction of Texas and Omaha Hold’em poker games.

History of Texas Hold’em

As the legend goes, Texas Hold’em was born in the early 1900’s in the town of Robstown, TX. Some say it actually started in Dallas, TX in 1925, but know one really knows for sure. Over the years, its popularity among local players grew until it finally made its way to Las Vegas in 1967.

A group of Texan born gamblers, Amarillo Slim, Crandell Addington, and Doyle Brunson, are credited with bringing Texas Hold’em to Vegas, hoping to find a bigger crowd of players to compete against.

Up until this point, it was simply called Hold’em. Because the gamblers were from Texas, it soon took on a more regionally-derived name; Texas Hold’em.

It was only picked up by the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las Vegas for the first few years, and drew the majority of professional to its tables. In an effort to spread poker’s popularity in Las Vegas, those professionals were invited to play Texas Hold’em outside the former Dunes Casino. It was then featured as a tournament at the second annual Gambling Fraternity Convention in 1969, which leads us to…

History of the World Series of Poker

In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion acquired rights to the Gambling Fraturnity Convention, renamed it World Series of Poker and, like the previous version, held a Texas Hold’em tournament at Binion’s Horseshoe during the event. On the suggestion of a local journalist, the 1971 WSOP featured “No Limit” Texas Hold’em, and that structure has stuck ever since.

Interest in the annual WSOP has grown exponentially over the years. In 1972, only 8 players entered the tournament. Ten years later, over 100 players joined in, rising to over 200 in 1991. Texas Hold’em is now the most popular form of poker in the world, attracting thousands upon thousands of players to Vegas for the WSOP each year.

History of Omaha Hold’em

If this Hold’em poker game didn’t come from Nebraska, why the name? It actually appeared first in Detroit, Michigan in the early 1970’s, but was never known by the name Omaha Hold’em until it came to Las Vegas. By then, it was already popular in many southwest states, under numerous titles and rule variations.

Nevada’s casinos already had a game with Omaha in the title, in which “two cards” were used. To differentiate Texas Hold’em from this new game, wherein players receive 4 hole cards and must use two of them, they decided to utilize the well-known “two cards” label, titling it Omaha Hold’em.

Over the years, Omaha Hold’em (unlike its Texas cousin) evolved into other popular Hold’em poker games, like Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better, and has become the most popular form of Pot Limit poker games, affectionately termed PLO by the pros (aka Pot Limit Omaha).

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