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The Evolution of Poker from the Wild West to VR

I just returned from Las Vegas so glamorous shows, Casinos, and free drinks are on my mind. How is VR dealing with gambling? Get it? Dealing? OK, moving on...

When most think of poker, visions of Clint Eastwood-type Cowboys playing in saloons or Las Vegas mafia bosses in the sixties most likely comes to mind. Many don’t realize that these are Hollywood visions of the game, indeed when the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) event took place at a Las Vegas casino in 1970, there were only 30 players. These days, the number of entries is well over 100,000 people. So, when did poker evolve into the popular game we all know today? Well, you can read the full story of its humble beginnings here, but here is the story of how it evolved into the most popular card game in the world, although players of World of Warcraft may disagree!

After the first WSOP event, which was won by Johnny Moss, the game began to become more popular. It wasn’t until the 1980s that it started to become the household name that we know today. What happened? Well, the game was introduced to popular culture through television and movies, and people started to take note of the game.

Surprisingly, the television show that brought the game into many a geeks life was, in fact, Star Trek the Next Generation, which ran from 1987 till 1994. In the show, the main characters would often meet to play poker as it was seen as an integral part for plot development. Star Trek was such a massive cult show, and characters such as Jean-Luc Picard were seen as being so cool that fans would copy everything they did – including playing cards!

The game was also featured in movies such as Rounders and Maverick as well as the incredibly popular television sitcom Friends. A new generation of fans was born and notions such as the ‘boy’s poker night’ became commonplace.

Of course, what brought gambling to the masses was when it was introduced to the internet in the late-90s. Now matches could be played online with people across the globe, rather than a monthly match between friends and with this, the popularity grew. Indeed, the game was becoming so popular that in 2001 tournaments like WSOP were televised with specialized cam technology and graphics that allowed viewers to feel a part of the action.

In 2003, the card game inspired a whole host of new players when amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event after entering via satellite for just $39 winning himself $2.5million. After this, hundreds of thousands of people were inspired to play cards online in the hopes of being a part of the ‘Moneymaker effect’ and winning themselves a fortune.

From here poker has only excelled in popularity, especially with the introduction of poker apps to smartphones. These days, we can play a game of Texas Hold’em wherever and whenever we want making it incredibly accessible to the masses.

So where do AR and VR come into all this? Developers are still trying to enhance the experience of online poker through the latest technologies such as gesture control, AR, and VR. The latter of which holds particularly exciting opportunities to play virtually around the world in different environments or even periods of history. Want actually to play the game on the Starship Enterprise? Well, VR makes all this possible. I just wish the new Star Trek Bridge Crew game would get in on this action!

Although VR technology is still in its infancy, the software is available to players through websites such as Casino VR and the technology is proving popular as players can enjoy the thrill of a live game while still playing from the comfort of their home. How successful this technology will become remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: as long as poker continues to remain popular, the industry will continue to innovate and improve the experience for players, both on and offline.