Video poker is a marriage between the strategy of poker with the bells and whistles of the slot machine. Because of this video poker really has two histories. The family tree of video poker begins with the game of poker itself, then includes the creation of the slot machine, and then leads to the fusion of the two in the 1970s. The history of the two distinct games created something new, and this new game has achieved great success in both land casinos and online.
History of Poker
Poker is said to have been created in medieval times from various card games like Brag, Asnan, and Poche. The version of poker played in casinos today dates back to the middle of the 19 th century. It began in the United States on the gambling boats that ran along the Mississippi River. That game was first documented by Jonathan Green who wrote about how it was played with only the Aces, tens, and face cards for a total of the twenty card deck.
Poker traveled west as what was known as the “wild west” became a little more settled. It was the most popular card game in the saloons at that time. Different games stemmed from the basic premise of poker that included flushes, wild cards, joker, and jackpots.
History of Slot Machines
The original slot machines were actually created around the idea of the poker game. Winning results were based on the poker card combinations. The games were coin-operated and created in Brooklyn by the Sittman and Pitt company in the latter part of the 19 th century. Unlike today’s slot machines though players didn’t win cash, but because the games were normally in bars and restaurants, they won free prizes in the form of liquor or tobacco. The games were instantly a huge success.
Here’s how the original slot machines worked. A player puts a coin into the slot and then pulls the handle activating a mechanism that would spin a series of drums that were decorated with pictures of different poker cards on them. When the drums came to a stop the “cards” it stopped on would be the players poker hand. The combination of cards would determine whether a player won or lost and what kind of prize they would win. To rig the game in favour of the bar owner the Jack of Hearts and Ten of Spades were removed from the drums in order to reduce the chance of a player winning.
While these poker-based slot machines were the originals, Charles Fey developed the more famous version of the slot machine. The Liberty Bell was created in 1887 and had a huge impact on the market. The Liberty Bell also relied upon playing card symbols at first, but added stars, horseshoes, and bells. The machines was such a success that in a few short years Fey was working constantly to fill the orders he was receiving so he joined up with the Mills Novelty Company.
Fey’s part in the creation of video poker was the “draw” feature which allowed a player to use some of their poker skills instead of relying completely on the luck of the draw. This addition meant a player could hold onto the results of some drums after one spin while spinning the others with the pull of the handle. This combination was the first “hold and draw” action in a slot machine.
The Birth of Video Poker
Mechanical poker machines came in and out of fashion in the first half of the 20 th century. The first electronic version came out in 1964 when Nevada Electronics came out with the “21” machine. Other companies followed by coming up with machines based on roulette, poker, and even horseracing. It was also in this era that the smash hit “Poker-Matic” was introduced by Dale Electronics.
The next evolution in video poker came with the creation of the personal computer in the middle of the 1970s. It was that development that allowed video poker to become a reality with a television style monitor. The rudimentary graphics didn’t sway excited gamblers who wanted to try out this new game.
In 1975 The Fortune Coin Company created a video bell slot machine that evolved into a draw poker machine. It was this game that is considered to be the one that brought video poker to the masses. It was an instant hit and was followed by another instant hit that furthered the popularity of video poker. That game was called Draw Poker and came out in 1979. It was created by SIRCOMA which still enjoy success in the industry today as International Game Technology.
Nearly every land casino features video poker machines these days. The combination of the two popular casino games in one machine has led to its success. Some enjoy video poker because of its simplicity while other players enjoy the solitary experience of being able to play while being undisturbed by the rest of the sights and sounds in the casino.
Online Video Poker
Like many other successful games of chance there is also an online version of video poker. The online casino allows players from all over the world access to all the different kinds of games offered in a land casino from the privacy of their own homes. Because video poker was already an electronic experience it was also a fairly easy one to transport to the internet.
While video poker may be a shorter and simpler version of regular poker, it does require an understanding of the game’s strategy and rules. Video poker is far less intimidating for beginners than a huge poker tournament, but at the same time there are key decisions that have to be made. The slot machine is a game of pure luck while the game of poker is almost all strategy. Video poker lies somewhere in between.
Internet video poker has also allowed players to try out different versions of the game such as Jacks or Better, All American, and Deuces Wild. The online version is a combination of luck and skill that has been embraced by many players all over the world.