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Why Hold’em reigns supreme

Written by Ben Blaschke

When the casual player thinks “poker”, the first game that springs to mind is invariably Texas Hold’em. Many probably aren’t even aware there are variants, despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of different types of poker – Omaha, Stud, Razz, Lowball, (arguably) Badugi, Manila … the list goes on.

Doyle Brunson played a key role in introducing Hold'em to Las Vegas

Doyle Brunson played a key role in introducing Hold’em to Las Vegas

So why is Texas Hold’em considered the game?

It all began in the late 1960s when a group of renowned Texan gamblers including Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim introduced Hold’em to Las Vegas. Brunson would later describe Hold’em as the “Cadillac of Poker” – the truest test of a player’s skill out there – but back then it took a while to catch on.

Offered by only a handful of Vegas casinos and only then at the behest of the top player, it wasn’t until 1971 when the brand new World Series of Poker decided to use Texas Hold’em for the main event that its popularity began to soar.

Two other moments proved crucial in the growth of poker, and therefore Hold’em, too. The first happened in 1999 when Britain’s Channel 4 introduced hole cameras built into the tables for their telecast of Late Night Poker. Suddenly, viewers could see what cards each player held which allowed for a far more exciting experience for the wider audience.

Chris Moneymaker wins the 2003 WSOP main event

Chris Moneymaker wins the 2003 WSOP main event

The other came in 2003 when accountant Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event and its US$2.5 million first prize after qualifying for the tournament for just $39 on online site PokerStars. That led to a huge explosion in player numbers all wanting to emulate Moneymaker’s feat and of course the game they all wanted to play was Hold’em.

These days, the WSOP main event attracts more than 6,000 players every year and although other forms of the game have experienced a rise in popularity in recent years, Texas Hold’em will always remain king.