When, and indeed where, did the game of poker start? Well that is unfortunately a question to which there is no absolute answer. The game would seem to have evolved from various other games into the form we know it today and it has been suggested that games similar to Poker were played in China over 1000 years ago. The Egyptians and the Persian also used ranking (face value) cards to play betting games involving "bluff" to deceive their opponents.
The pack of cards used by the Persians was called a Ganjifa deck and consisted of 96 cards and the Persian pack was 25 cards used to play a game called "As Nas"
The Spanish game of "Primero" dates back to 1526 and from it the French game of "Poque" and a German game called "Pochen" are said to have evolved. All these games involved bluffing and placing high bets to try to make your opponent think your hand was better that it really was if you had a poor hand. "Poque" was imported to the New World (America) by French colonists and it is generally agreed that Poker as we know it today developed from this game played in New Orleans by the French settlers in 1829.
From New Orleans the game spread up the Mississippi by gamblers on the riverboats and the pack used at this time consisted of 20 cards consisting of four suits, each suit having the Ace, King, Queen, Jack and 10 as the ranking cards. 20 card Poker is mentioned as being played in 1833 and 1835 on the Mississippi riverboats. It was during the Gold Rush of 1848-1855 that the pack is thought to have become 52 cards (possibly so more people could play?). There were always people ready to take your money by playing cards as an easier option to actually trying to find gold!
It was during the American Civil War from 1861-1865 that Poker became very popular with soldier on both sides playing and Draw Poker and Stud poker first made their appearance. The Joker became a wild card around 1875. Draw Poker went on to become the most popular game of poker for almost a century until Texas Hold'em became the most frequently played game in the 1970's.
Poker has obviously been a game that has evolved from many games played in many countries. Perhaps it will evolve into yet another game in the future. The "American" game has come a long way from its start in New Orleans via the Mississippi, the Gold Rush and the Civil War to where it is now - a world wide game that was spread not by settlers but by American GIs' in the Two world wars. Now the internet and online poker have made Poker even more popular and millions of viewers watch it on TV every day. Poker has now become respectable.