If you reflect on the history of today’s popular casino games, you’ll notice that nearly all of them date at least 150 years back. Considering that video poker was invented fewer than 40 years ago, its history may appear both brief and insignificant. But it’s precisely that brevity that makes video poker history such a wonder.
How, in such a short period of time, did video poker gambling break into the upper echelons of the 21st century’s most sought after casino games?
To answer that question, let’s take a look at another popular mechanical casino game—the slot machine. In reading casino and online slots history, it becomes clear that the first slots were, in fact, poker machines. These machines, which were developed in 1891 by Sittman and Pitt, played 50 card symbols across five drums. The jack and ten of spades were removed because it was difficult to complete a video poker hand like a straight this way.
Of course, those machines could not pay out by themselves. If you chose to play video poker and won, your handsome reward would likely be a drink, some candy or cigars. You'd collect your prize at the counter of the establishment in which the machine was placed.
In 1899, Charles Frey invented the infamous slot machine known as Liberty Bell. The playing cards on the drums were replaced by hearts, spades, bells and horseshoes. Instead of poker hands, the winning combinations now consisted of a combination of symbols. For many years thereafter, video poker hands did not appear on slot machines.
With the invention of the personal computer more than half a century later, the world ushered in the age of electronic entertainment. In 1970 the first video poker machine was presented by Dale Electronics. It was called the Poker-Matic video poker machine. To look at it today, you'd hardly recognize it as a video poker machine. It looked more like a refrigerator equipped with a television screen.
The Poker-Matic machines appeared mostly in Las Vegas casinos and were not, initially, a huge hit. Still, it was the advent of the Poker-Matic that gave rise to modern video poker machines.
In 1975, video poker history crossed paths with slot machines yet again, when Walt Fraley invented the first video slots. Fraley’s machines had trouble gaining popularity among casino patrons, who complained that they couldn’t see the reels spinning and, therefore, didn’t trust the video slots payout.
It was video poker that yielded the turning point for video slots. In 1979, a company by the name of SIRCOMA – today known as IGT – introduced a video poker machine simply titled, Draw Poker. It was an immediate success and laid the foundation not only for today’s video poker games, but for video slot machines as well.
Throughout the 80's the popularity of both slots and video poker gambling grew. Thousand of different gaming variations were invented, most of which are still played today. The success of video poker gambling rested on one fact: people who had previously felt intimidated by casino table games and their pro-players felt comfortable competing against a mechanical opponent. Thus, many new players came to the casinos, later taking up other casino games and giving them a boost in popularity as well.
As the technology of the video poker machines continued to develop and better and more entertaining machines were invented, the popularity of video poker grew without boundaries. In 1989, video poker was said to be the third most popular casino game in Las Vegas, beating out real poker!
The next step in video poker’s rise to fame was the advent of the Internet. Since video poker was already an electronic entertainment medium, the conversion into a popular online game was only logical. Within this new format, video poker could reach people who had never set foot in a real-life casino.
Online video poker spread throughout the world in a matter of months. In 1994 Microgaming introduced the first online casino software, thus giving video poker the perfect platform upon which to further develop.
In the last ten years online casinos have prospered and replaced brick and mortar casinos as the most popular place to gamble. Video poker was with them all the way, gaining traction as a successful and prolific casino game with each passing day. Currently, video poker is one of the ten most sought after casino games, proving that the popularity of a casino game does not depend solely on a lengthy history. Video poker history is both brief and dynamic.