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Poker History References

This page contains supporting references for David Parlett's History of Poker

‘Aquarius’ (Louis d’Aguilar Jackson), Italian Games at Cards and Oriental Games (London, 1890).
Blackridge, J, The Complete Poker Player (New York, 1880)
Burton, Jeffrey, ‘Bluff English Game - with American Branches: Brag in Literature and Life’, The Playing Card (Journal of the International Playing-Card Society, Volume XXIV, 3 - 4, Nov 1995 - Jan 1996)
Cardano, Girolamo, Liber de ludo aleae (1564); also Gould, Sydney (trans.) The Book on Games of Chance (Princeton University, 1953)
Louis Coffin, former treasurer of the United States Playing Card Company, in the Introduction to George Coffin’s The Poker Game Complete (London 1950).
Joe Cowell, Thirty Years Passed Among the Players in England and America (New York, 1844). ‘One night, while I was getting instructed in the mysteries of uker [Euchre], and Sam was amusing himself by building houses with the surplus cards at the corner of the table, close by us was a party playing poker. This was then exclusively a high-gambling Western game, founded on brag, invented, as it is said, by Henry Clay when a youth; and if so, very humanely, for either to win or lose, you are much sooner relieved of all anxiety than by the older operation.
‘For the sake of the uninformed, who had better know no more about it than I shall tell them, I must endeavour to de¬scribe the game when played with twenty-five cards only [sic; evidently twenty as implied below], and by four persons.
‘The aces are the highest denomination: then the kings, queens, jacks and tens: the smaller cards are not used; those I have named are all dealt out, and carefully concealed from one another; old players pack them in their hands, and peep at them as if they were afraid to trust even themselves to look. The four aces, with any other card, cannot be beat. Four kings, with an ace cannot be beat because then no one can have four aces; and four queens, or jacks, or tens, with an ace, are all inferior hands to the kings when so attended. But holding the cards I have instanced seldom occurs when they are fairly dealt; and three aces for example, or three kings, with any two of the other cards, or four queens, or jacks or tens, is called a full, and with an ace, though not invincible, are considered very good bragging hands. The dealer makes the game, or value of the beginning bet and called the ante - in this instance it was a dollar - and then everybody stakes the same amount, and says, "I’m up".’
Dowling, Allen, The Great American Pastime (New Jersey, 1970). This is the only accessible history of Poker worth reading.
Citation and reference from the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. poker.
Foster, R F, Foster’s Complete Hoyle (London 1897); see also Foster, Practical Poker (London 1904).
See Depaulis, Thierry, ‘Une boîte à jeux du musée de Cluny’, in La revue du Louvre (February 1987, No 1).
Jonathan H. Green, in Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling, (New York, 1843; republished with additional material in 1857 as Gambling Exposed.)
Hildreth, James, Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains; Being a History of the Enlistment, Organization, and First Campaigns of the Regiment of U.S. Dragoons; Together With Incidents of a Soldier's Life, and Sketches of Scenery and Indian Character. By a Dragoon. (N.Y., 1836) Pages 128-130 describe a late-night game of poker in the soldiers' barracks, beginning "The M- lost some cool hundreds last night at poker...". Hildreth refers to it as popular in the South and West but little known in the East. He does not specify whether it was played with the 20-card or full 52-card pack.
Hoyle, Edmond, A Short Treatise on the Game of Brag (London, 1751) Hoyle’s unsatisfactory work was not republished, and only two copies are known to survive. As Burton says, it "betrays evidence of haste and muddle. Hoyle was almost 80 years old in 1751, and may not have had any especial interest in what he was writing about. His reputation as an oracle, perhaps not unmixed with vanity, may have prompted him to produce a handbook on a new variation of Brag which, all of a sudden was all the rage in the clubs and drawing-rooms of the capital. Just two years earlier, indeed, Horatius (Horace) Walpole had informed a correspondent, Sir Horace Mann, that ‘Methodism is more fashionable than brag’; the women, he added ‘play very deep at both’. And it was news of the Brag revival that had moved Lady Montagu to refer [in 1749] to its first burst of popularity, forty-some years previously."
Keller, John, The Game of Poker (New York, 1892)
‘Theophilus Lucas’, Lives of the Gamesters of the Restoration (1714). ‘Bragg’ first appears in an appendix to the 1721 edition. Republished London, 1930, with an introduction by Cyril Hughes Hartman.
Morehead and Mott-Smith
Morehead, A, and Mott-Smith, G, Culbertson’s Card Games Complete (New York, 1952)
Robert Cumming Schenck was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St James in 1870.
Schindler’s description of As-nas cards and the game played with them reads in part as follows (p.928-9):
The word ganjifeh is in Persian now only employed for European playing-cards (four suits, ace to ten; three picture cards each suit), which, however, are also called rarak i âs - rarak i âsanâs - or simply âs, from the game âs or âsanâs. From travellers to Persia in the seventeenth century we know that a set of ganjifeh consisted of ninety or ninety-six cards in eight suits or colors. At present a set consists of twenty cards in five colors or values. These values are:
  1. Shîr va Khurshíd or âs: Lion and Sun, or Ace.
  2. Shâh or Pishâ: King.
  3. Bîbî: Lady (or Queen).
  4. Sarbâs: Soldier (or Knave).
  5. Lakat (meaning something of little value): generally a dancing-girl.
The backs of the cards are always black or of a dark color, but their faces have grounds of different colors, viz: The Lion and Sun, a black ground; the King, a white ground; the Lady, red; the soldier, gold; the Lakat, green. The pictures on the cards show much variety and are often obscene, particularly those on the card of the lowest value. The ordinary types as now made are: Ace, a Lion and Sun, as in the Persian arms; a King sitting on a throne; a European lady in a quaint costume; a Persian soldier shouldering his rifle; a Persian dancing-girl. The word ganjifeh I have explained. Âs is no doubt our word ‘ace’, probably introduced into India through the Portuguese. Neither of the words is found in Persian dictionaries. The game of As is exactly like Poker, but without any flushes or sequences. There are four players, and each player gets five cards, dealt to the right. The dealer puts down a stake. The first player then looks at his cards. If he ‘goes’, he says dîdam (I have seen), and covers the stake or raises it. If he does not wish to play, he says nadîdam, (I have not seen) and throws his cards. He may also ‘go’ without looking at his cards - that is, in poker parlance, ‘straddle’ - and says nadîd dîdam (not seeing, I have seen). The second player, if he wishes to play, must cover the stakes, and can also raise. The third player and the dealer then act in the same way just as in poker, and when the stakes of all players are equal and no one raises any more the cards are turned up and the player holding the best hand wins the stakes.
The hands in the order of their value are as follows:
  • She va just, i.e., three and a pair; a ‘full’., i e., three and a pair; a "full."
  • Sehta, i.e. threes, aces, kings, etc.
  • Do just, i.e., two pairs; aces highest.
  • Just, i.e., one pair; aces highest.
When two players have the same pair or pairs, the other cards decide; for instance, a pair of kings, ace, soldier, and lakat.
‘Bluffing’ is a feature of the game and is called tûp zadan, literally ‘fire off a gun’. A bluff is tûp.
The phrase is Dowling’s, his source possibly Louis Coffin, who writes: "American Poker probably originated in New Orleans among French inhabitants who had been in the French Service in Persia circa 1800-20".
Smith, Sol Theatrical Management in the West and South for Thirty Years (New York, 1868). (Citation and reference kindly provided by Professor Evert Sprinchorn.)
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