Texas Hold ‘Em: The Thinking Man’s Game Hits Vegas in 1967

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Legendary poker players outside Binion's Horseshoe

Legendary poker players Johnny Moss, Chill Wills, Amarillo Slim, and Puggy Pearson, and World Series co-founder Jack Binion (fourth from left) in 1974. (Source: Wikipedia)

I love to play Texas Hold ’em. The game rekindled my love for poker itself, and I play regularly at a local bar (though, in my state, we can’t bet actual cash). Little is known about the true history of this variation of standard poker. It dates back to the early 1900s, and the state of Texas credits the city of Robstown as its birthplace.

Hold ’em (as it was initially called) was introduced to Las Vegas in 1967 by Texan card players. For some time, the only casino to feature the game was the Golden Nugget. Its poker room, though, didn’t cater to many rich “drop-in” players, so professionals started hunting for a better, more prominent place to play. The Dunes Casino, in 1969, opened its doors to hold ’em, and professionals loved it because there were many inexperienced players against whom they could win.

Hold ’em became immensely popular due to strategic play. Unlike draw poker, where you’re dealt cards you can swap and bet only twice per hand, in hold ’em you’re dealt two cards that play along with up to three of the five that are playable by everyone, and there are four bets per hand. Hold ’em is referred to as a “thinking man’s game” because the primary method of play is more strategic than other types of poker.

In the early ’70s, after the Gambling Fraternity Convention was renamed the World Series of Poker, no-limit Texas hold ’em became the main event. In 1972, the event only had eight professional entrants. By 1982, more than 100 entered, and more than 200 entrants made their way to the series in the early ’90s.

Texas Hold'Em Metal SignSome interesting facts about Texas hold ’em:

  • One of the first books to explain hold ’em was Super/System, a self-published guide by legend Doyle Brunson that, in 1978, carried a price of $100. (You can get it in paperback now for less than $20.)
  • It wasn’t until the 1980s that the game started gaining traction outside the Vegas circuit. Today, it’s popular across the entire United States.
  • At first, hold ’em was prohibited in California because it was seen as a form of stud-horse, which was made illegal in 1885. This changed in 1988 after the estate of the deceased  owner of Oaks Card Room filed suit against the state’s Attorney General. (You can read the original complaint here.)
  • Hold ’em got really hot in the early 2000s due to televised poker events. In 2005, more than 5,500 people entered the World Series main event, playing for a purse of $7.5 million. The number of entrants each year continues to grow.
  • Hold ’em is now one of the most popular forms of poker played on the internet, and on smartphones and tablets.
  • The best hand in this game is a royal flush, which consists of cards 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace, all in the same suit. The odds of hitting it are about one in every 650,000 hands. (I’ve hit it once.)
Poker Table And Chips Neon Sign

The final touch to any poker night or game room: a pocket aces neon sign.

Texas hold ’em has been adopted by many establishments, like bars and pubs, as a form of entertainment. Since many jurisdictions don’t allow for actual cash betting, many of these places only allow players to tip the dealer, but some also allow for players to work toward playing in a cash prize tournament sponsored by the establishment. It’s also a popular “game night” poker game for professional conferences and conventions.

Are you a hold ’em fan? What’s your favorite hand to be dealt?


Last updated: Feb 05, 2014
Filed under: Classic Games Tagged with: card games, classic games, Las Vegas