Video Poker History

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One of the earliest mechanical gambling devices ever invented was a coin-based poker-playing machine manufactured in Brooklyn toward the close of the 19th century. It would flip cards randomly in five windows, and when they all came to halt, winnings were paid out according to the strength of the resulting hand.

Not much changed over the next half century. Gaming machines operated through complicated combinations of gears, levers, cams and springs. Then, a wave of electronics sweep through the industry, as electro-mechanical devices made their appearance, comprising motors, solenoids, and electro-magnets as well as the traditional moving parts.

By 1970, the gaming world was ready for a major breakthrough. It was delivered by Dale Electronics, combining computerization with video technology in a rudimentary machine called Poker-Matic.

It certainly helped the game’s cause that live poker was undergoing something of a Renaissance in 1970. That’s when the first annual World Series of Poker was introduced in Las Vegas. Three years later, CBS Sports televised the World Series for the first time, bringing the game direct to household across the United States.

By 1975, Random Number Generator (RNG) programming was developed, making computerised poker even more like the real game. And at last, in 1982, International Game Technology (IGT) unveiled its “Draw Poker” game and the genre known as Video Poker exploded onto the scene.

It did not take long for Video Poker to become available in casinos around the world. IGT could hardly produce units quickly enough. In many places, the new video games forced conventional slot machines right off the gaming floor as row upon row of the card-dealing sensations were installed.

Based upon the original Draw Poker, variations were added, such as Deuces Wild and Joker Poker. Pay tables were modified to allow for higher payouts on big hands, such as four Aces or a Royal Flush. By 1996, a product called “Game King” was released, a multi-game, multi-denomination machine that quickly became the industry standard. Then came Triple Draw Poker in 1998, allowing three hands to be played by a single player each draw.

Even as Video Poker was making it mark, two huge communications networks were being merged—an electronic information exchange used by educators referred to as ARPANET and the U.S. government’s own scientific research network called NSFNet. In the late 1980s, this combined network became popularly known as the Internet.

In 1994, a Canadian entrepreneur named Warren B. Eugene paid a team of programmers to develop a casino-software package with 18 games. In 1995, he established operations in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where he launched “Caribbean Casino” onto the Internet, creating the world’s very first online gambling site and giving birth to Video Poker online.

It was only a matter of months until competitive sites began springing up from St. Martin to Australia. Antigua-Barbuda started licensing online casinos, and European principalities soon followed suit in Gibraltar, Malta and Aldernay, among others. By 1996, hundreds of online casinos were offering Video Poker via the Internet.

Initially, online Video Poker was modeled after IGT’s successful games, with Jacks or Better being the standard. But Microgaming, Cryptologic, Playtech and other software developers saw opportunities in expanding choices. They introduced Bonus pay tables, such as Double Double and Triple Double, along with Tens or Better, Aces & Faces and other variations.

Next came progressive Video Poker with huge jackpots, paying out some $280 million and creating more than a dozen millionaires by 2008. Today, there are multi-play versions that give players the option of playing five, ten and even a hundred Video Poker hands at a time, plus an uncountable number of innovations, from 10 Hand 7-Card Stud and Texas Hold’em Heads-Up Poker to such exotic games as Spin Poker, Multi-Strike Poker, Ace Invaders, Hot Pursuit and Ultimate X Poker.

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