The Enduring Appeal of Texas Hold ‘em
When I was a little girl, my father set up a family poker night every Sunday after our roast dinner. We played Cowboy, Spit in the Ocean, Low Ball, Acey-Deucy-One-Eyed-Jack and all sorts of other really fun games. Now, decades later, when I get together with my brothers or friends to play, they always want to play Texas Hold’em. Huh? But why, I cry.
Some card games have made such a significant impact that it seems as if they have been around forever. Texas Hold ‘em is one such game. Often called “the thinking man’s game,” this variation on poker had an unassuming start. As the name suggests, it originated in Texas, in a place called Robstown to be more exact, but even though it immediately recalls shoot-outs in the Wild West, Texas Hold ‘em is widely believed to have been invented during the early years of the 20th century.
Experts are still stumped as to who invented the game and the conditions that it emerged from (many card games throughout history were linked to popular culture and social interactions), but it remained in Texas until the mid to late 60s when it was first brought to and played in Las Vegas. Even though Texas Hold ‘em is a ubiquitous game now in Sin City, during its early days, it could only be played in one casino: the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas. One of the seedier joints in the area, it didn’t attract any of the big-name high rollers, so the fate of this card game could’ve been quite different indeed.
As fate would have it, Texas Hold ‘em wouldn’t remain under the radar for too long! In 1971, it became the official game of choice for the main event of the prestigious World Series of Poker (WSOP) tournament. Established by father and son team Benny and Jack Binion just one year prior, the WSOP started as a modest tournament, but grew steadily over the years and now, thousands of the world’s best poker players compete in this event annually. Texas Hold ‘em has also risen in popularity and prominence to be the main game on the World Poker Tour as well as other leading poker tournaments like the European Poker Tour. The 2006 reboot of the James Bond franchise “Casino Royale” even cast Texas Hold ‘em in a leading role. In the original Ian Fleming novel, Bond has to play a game of baccarat to take down villain Le Chiffre; however, in this remake, Texas Hold ‘em is the game of choice for the nail-biting standoff between Daniel Craig’s Bond and Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre.
This poker variant also played a significant part in the rise of online poker and casino games. Back in 2003, the winner of the WSOP Main Event, Chris Moneymaker, qualified to participate in the tournament through an online game of Texas Hold ‘em and was the first player to do so. His $2.5 million-dollar prize money had a huge effect on the popularity and growth of online poker across the world, with keen casino enthusiasts eager to play this game online. Since those early days of the internet, as gaming technology developed so too have the ways to play Texas Hold ‘em. Although it’s still immensely popular as an “offline” game, nowadays, there are all sorts of exciting variations online like Split Hold ‘em from PokerStars, which puts an exciting twist on the classic no limit rule set.
Over the years, other variations of Texas Hold ‘em have begun to emerge in high-stakes casinos and local tournaments alike. Some of these include:
- Pineapple Poker – which is played the same as classic Texas Hold ‘em, except it starts with three cards instead of two.
- Crazy Pineapple – which starts the same as regular Pineapple Poker but calls for the third card to be discarded after the round following the flop.
- Omaha Hold ‘em (not to be confused with Omaha Hi-Lo) – which allows players to have four cards instead of two.
Even though it’s only been prominent in the card and gaming culture for a matter of decades, Texas Hold ‘em has had a significant impact and has transformed into a world-renowned, mainstream pursuit. Whether it’s played professionally and broadcast to global TV and online audiences or recreationally at home with a classic deck of cards, many people continue to enjoy and participate in this game. It may have had humble beginnings, but it’s safe to say that Texas Hold ‘em is a game that will continue to be played for many years to come.
Top Photo: by Pfc. Medina Ayala-Lo, License Public Domain