For many centuries Ganjifa cards were used in India to play a variety of games. When in the mid 19th century Europeans brought us the now standard 52-card deck, we began inventing new games. Paplu (Indian Rummy) was one of the first and is still the most popular card game played here today. Others we invented include Seep, Mendikot, Dehla Pakad, Vazhushal, Langdi and our popular gambling game Flush, also known as Flash and Teen Patti or Teen Pathi.
There was a poker boom that made No-Limit Hold’em hugely popular in the United States. Leading up to the boom was the birth of online poker in 1998, and the movie Rounders which starred Matt Damon and Edward Norton was released that same year. It started growing in popularity when the World Poker Tour (WPT) began airing high stakes tournaments on television in the spring of 2003. This is reflected in the number of entries to the $10,000 buy-in WSOP main event. It went from 613 in 2001 and 631 in 2002 to 839 in 2003.The real boom came following Chris Moneymaker (and to be clear that is in fact his legal birth name) winning the $10,000 buy-in 2003 WSOP Main Event taking home $2.5 million USD (about Rs. 1.36 crore) in prize money. What was significant about this is he was an amateur player that worked as an accountant. He won his entry to play in the event in an online tournament that cost only $39 to enter. What helped is that ESPN had coincidentally expanded their television coverage of the WSOP this same year. This became the most popular poker tournament ever shown on TV. It reached a point where reruns were played on a near daily basis.After watching this episode, players flocked to play online. Other high stakes tournament series were created and aired on television while the World Poker Tour (WPT) ratings also soared.
The result was the number of WSOP entrants grew from 839 in 2003 to 2,576 in 2004, 5,619 in 2005, and 8,773 in 2006. The number of players playing online also grew, and it was around this time No-Limit Hold’em began to catch on in India.
Poker came to India the same way it came to much of the rest of the world. First, let me explain, there is no card game called poker. This is a name given to a family of card games that are all played by two or more persons. Some commonly played versions of poker are 5 card stud, Pot Limit Omaha and “the cadillac of poker” – Texas Holdem. Such games existed before today’s 52-card deck was even invented. What has greatly changed poker was the invention of the No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) variant.
To make a long story short, in 1960’s gambling was illegal in much of the United States. A group of gamblers from Texas discovered No Limit Hold’em. They decided that because it is an easy game to learn, and because anyone can win in the short term, but over the long run skilled players win the most, that it was a good game to promote.After playing it in backrooms and all kinds of shady places, in 1967, four Texas road-gamblers Crandell Addington, Roscoe Weiser, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim moved to Las Vegas where poker had already been legal for 36-years. They got a casino to spread the game and worked hard to promote it. In 1969 the first ever tournament was held. The following year this became the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and was held annually every year since. In the 1970’s the US media began covering the WSOP’s $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament. This helped the game become better known.At no point did any entire country just start playing Hold’em as the recreational card game of choice. In fact, to this very day, in the United States, Spades, Hearts, Pitch and other social games are still probably more popular at kitchen tables than Hold’em is – the same way Paplu and Flush are so in India. But when it comes to playing cards for money, there is no game more ideal than Hold’em. Again, this is because it is easy to learn, and also because there are no partners – which makes it difficult to collude and cheat.