According to the British actor Joseph Crowell, the history of poker dates back to 1829 in Louisiana. The game was played by 4 players with 20 decks of cards. According to the book An Exposure of Arts and Miseries of Gambling by Jonathan H. Green, the game then started to spread from New Orleans to the other areas of the United States. The game travelled with the boats of the Mississippi River — these boats had a reputation for having a lot of gambling activities.
The game we know now was not the same in those times. It evolved and went through a number of phases, specifically during the Civil War in the United States. All of these phases and circumstances resulted in multiple versions, including Stud Poker and Straight Poker. Other versions came about with the introduction of new concepts like the wild card, community card, lowball and split pot poker.
The popularity of poker started to increase rapidly in 1970 when the first ever World Series of Poker (WSOP) took place. This was the first poker competition to take place on a wide scale. Those who won in these early tournaments included some of the biggest names in the poker world, including Bobby Baldwin, Puggy Pearson, Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson. Doyle Branson is the author of the first book about poker strategy, called Super / System.
Mainstream media capitalized on the popularity of poker by the 1980s. In the media, poker was portrayed and viewed as a recreational activity. It made an appearance in more than 10 episodes of the hit sci-fi TV show, Star Trek, where it was a weekly game the senior staff of the fictional spaceship enjoyed.
Poker rose to new heights in the 1990s when gambling started to spread in the United States. It was highly popular in Atlantic City, which is a gambling empire second in the United States only to Las Vegas.
The popularity of poker spiked in the first years of the 21st century, a direct result of hole-card cameras and the advent of online poker. Online poker helped the spread of the game to anyone who had a computer. No longer were players obligated to leave home in order to enjoy the game. As for the hole-card cameras, they single handedly turned poker from a card game into a spectator sport that players can watch and enjoy.
Besides the WSOP, other poker tours that started to capitalize on the games popularity, including the World Poker Tour and the European Poker Tour. The first poker governing body, the International Federation of Poker, was founded in Switzerland in 2009.