PokerJunkie > Blog > Poker and society > The Origins of Poker: Myths and Facts (Part I)

The Origins of Poker: Myths and Facts (Part I)

13 April 2010, By: foldsworth

Today most scholars I know agree that the game of Poker (as we know it today) was a gift from Squanto to the pilgrims of the Mayflower, but who gave poker to Squanto? You may be surprised to learn that the answer involves Möngke Kahn, Nostradamus and yes, Ma Gu, the Taoist Goddess of Hemp.

In this multi-part, exceedingly long essay I intend to dispel some of the common myths regarding the much-disputed origins of poker and focus on hard facts. It will take you on a long and tedious (but no doubt important) journey through a timeline spanning thousands of years of poker history minutiae. But let’s start from the very beginning.

The first card game that resembled poker was invented in ancient Babylonia under the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar II in around 581 BC. Obviously, it was not known as “poker” at the time, it was called Positive EV Betting Challenge. However, this game was completely unlike Texas Holdem – ancient Babylonians used three hole cards and it was therefore much more similar to Crazy Pineapple.


It quickly caught on with the Babylonian upper class. Early tournament variants of the game were held on river boats, which constantly traveled up and down the Euphrates for reasons of tax evasion and to avoid legal harassments of the hookers.

While this early poker variant became an established part of society for many decades into the 400s BC, it almost disappeared completely after the Greek invasion of 330 BC. If it wasn’t for a band of traveling hippies en route to central Asia, poker could have been lost forever. Fortunately, as we all know, that didn’t happen.

Part II: The first high-stakes game ->>

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  • Doug 14/04/2010 9:19am (11 years ago)

    Hey guys: poker WAS invented in the US, but this article is a joke. See author profile ;)

  • Dante 13/04/2010 6:58pm (11 years ago)

    Yes Tom D, because everything was invented in the US.

  • Tom D. 13/04/2010 2:48pm (11 years ago)

    Man are you arab yourself? Anti US in any case. Buh.