Many gambling fans might be surprised to hear that video poker is the second most popular casino game, coming right behind slot games.
It’s a game similar to slots but different in certain elements, primarily due to the slight skill element involved in the gameplay.
Today, you can find video poker games in almost every casino on the globe. So, how did this game become so popular, and when was it first introduced into the gambling world?
Let’s trace back the history of video poker to learn more about how it evolved into one of the most popular gambling games.
A Quick History of Poker Machines
The first poker machine was created back in the late 19th century and ran on a simple and straightforward mechanical design.
The machine had five rolling drums, with ten cards per drum. After the player spins the drums, they would stop at random to show a five-card poker hand.
At the start of the 20th century, the famous inventor Charles Fey, who invented the first slot machine, adapted the poker machine and added a “Hold” feature. He called the game Skill Draw.
This innovative feature changed the game and made it more interactive.
It allowed players to hold some of the cards after the initial spin and re-spin the card they didn’t hold.
Since Skill Draw and all other poker machines that followed it in the next few decades were purely mechanically driven, they were still far from the modern electronic video poker machines we are used to today.
In fact, video poker games as we know them are some of the youngest you can find in a casino. Compared to some centuries-old gambling games, video poker in its current form has only been around for over half a century.
The 1970 – The First Real Video Poker Machines
It was only during the 1970s that the first video poker machines were invented. First, a company called Dale Electronics built the Poker-Matic in 1970. They combined a central processing unit with a TV monitor to create a machine similar to the video slot machine, which quickly gained popularity.
However, this first video poker machine was clunky and not very appealing, as the screen was black and white.
Dale Electronics distributed the Poker-Matic machine over various Las Vegas casinos. Although it was widely available in almost every Vegas venue, it failed to garner wider attention from gamblers at the time.
The main reason behind this was that most players weren’t prepared for an electronically based poker game, as they were still used to traditional versions.
In the mid-1970s, William “Si” Redd, an American businessman and inventor, came up with his own electronic poker version and called it Video Poker.
He based the machine on the popular poker variation Jacks or Better five-card draw. But, his idea was rejected at first, as the slot manufacturer Bally refused his new video poker patent.
After a few turbulent years of trying to get a company behind his new invention, William Redd formed Si Redd’s Coin Machines in 1978, with the help of the Fortune Coin Company. Three years later, after the company went public, he changed its name to International Game Technology (IGT).
The 1980s – Taking Over Vegas
By 1981, video poker machines completely took over all Vegas casinos and were a fascinating game for many first-time visitors.
As the decade unwound, the popularity of video poker games grew. The game capture the attention of many slot machine players, and the two games helped propel each other’s popularity.
During the late 1980s, IGT grew to become one of the biggest and most prominent casino software manufacturers, a title it still holds to this day. IGT was instrumental in spreading the popularity of video poker machines but also excelled in many other areas.
The 1980s marked the golden age of video poker machines, as some of the most popular variations were created during these years. This includes the iconic Jacks or Better video poker game, which still stands as the absolute standard for all other video poker variations.
What’s more, the vast majority of today’s video poker games are based on the Jacks or Better version as the principal archetype.
Today, IGT is known as one of the most successful gambling machine and software manufacturers in the business. The company is responsible for creating the first, and to this day, most successful wide-area progressive jackpot system – Megabucks. IGT launched the game in 1986.
The 1990s – Invention of Online Video Poker
When the 1980s turned into the 1990s, a new wave of players came about, enjoying video poker through a completely original entertainment channel – the Internet.
The first online casinos started popping up in the early 1990s. Naturally, online casino software providers jumped on the new trend immediately. The first online video poker games were made in 1994 by Microgaming, and many providers soon followed.
Online video poker quickly became one of the most popular games around. Plus, without any physical restraints limiting casinos on how many machines they could offer, the online gambling scene was rapidly getting richer in content with every passing year.
Video Poker Today
Nowadays, you can choose from hundreds of video poker variations, regardless if you prefer playing online or in land-based casinos.
These exciting and flashy games remain some of the most popular worldwide and present an excellent option for players looking for a game more complex than slots but still straightforward and easy to play.
Although countless video poker variations have been made since the early Dale Electronics and William Redd poker machines, the game hasn’t changed much over the course of its history.
If you master one video poker version, you’ll have no problem getting around most other variations. That said, these games are endlessly entertaining, simple but still tactically demanding to a degree.
They offer a great house edge, and variance isn’t too bad, making them a must-try for any gambling fan.