Public Image of Poker

Public Image of Poker

Although the game of poker dates back to the early nineteenth century, it is only in the last fifty years that it has reached the attention of the mainstream. Prior to this time, poker had a negative reputation and was considered to be a game played only by gamblers.

However, a tourist attraction in Las Vegas during 1951 helped to create a more positive public perception of the game. Famed players Johnny Moss and Nick “the Greek” Dandolos played a high-stakes poker game for five months that was in clear view of the public. This brought more attention to poker and helped to pave the way for the next major step in erasing poker’s negative image.

Las Vegas poker 1951

Even though poker was being played across the United States in countless kitchen and home games, the image of the game and gambling in general was still negative. In 1970, the creation of the official World Series of Poker helped to establish poker as a game of skill and brought popularity to many players that were considered to be experts of the game.

Poker ambassadors such as Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson became part of mainstream culture, appearing on televised talk-shows and making other public appearances that took the game out of hiding and more accessible to people.

This trend continued into the next decade, with more places, such as Atlantic City and cities in California, legalizing poker in the casinos and some states declaring home poker games to be legal. With many new options for places to play, the interest began to rise and the negative connotation to the game slowly fell away.

At the same time, poker strategy books began to appear that described the nuances of the game and explained how its basis in skill made it unlike other casino games in which an inherent house advantage provided an edge to casinos.

The yearly broadcast of the World Series of Poker on ESPN brought more casual fans of the game, but the action of the game was still foreign for viewers that had little to no experience playing the game. This changed in 1999 when the British programme, Late Night Poker, chose to use hole cams to show viewers what cards players held. This proved to be an ingenious decision as it made the game understandable even to common viewers, thereby increasing interest in the game.

The World Series of Poker followed suit in 2002, bringing about the poker boom that raised the number of people enjoying the game to new heights. With this new knowledge, the seedy image of poker has been largely dispelled and it is well-known to be a skill game, closer to chess than to roulette or blackjack.

The invention of online poker cemented this positive image foundation even more. With people being able to play the game through many Internet applications, the amount of casual poker players has grown immensely and it has become a well-respected game of the mind, exceeding the popularity of chess and other games that require extreme mental acuity.