Poker guide – Video poker history online
Video Poker derives from both slot machines and the game of poker. While the history of poker has yet to be definitively documented – there is not even agreement whether the name comes from the French ‘poque,’ the German ‘Pochspiel’ or the Hindu ‘pukka’ – the earliest known references to poker were made in 1834 by Jonathan Green who observed the development of the game on riverboats on the Mississippi River.
Coin-operated gaming mechanisms were first developed in the Eastern part of the United States in the late 1800s. They rapidly became popular in the cigar stores and saloons of San Francisco. The early drop card machines made use of fifty cards on five drums with the Jack of Hearts and Ten of Spades generally being those cards eliminated from the deck. “That stinks!,” you’ll say, and you’re right, but some players got their own back by using counterfeit coins.
Many quaint customs made the early history of poker machines colourful; for instance, it wasn’t unusual for a Royal Flush to pay either 100 cigars or drinks. The acknowledged “pure” of the whole industry was Charles August Fey, whose three-reel Liberty Bell of 1899 was a harbinger of slots to come. In his factory at 406 Market Street, the 6-Way Paying Teller was produced; it featured 5 rows of drop cards. All but one of these “bell” machines were destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906; that one was rescued by Charlie Fey himself and can be seen in Reno in his grandsons’ Liberty Belle Saloon and Restaurant.
Mechanical poker machines went in and out of fashion after that time. 1964 marks the beginning of the age of electronic games; Nevada Electronics came out with a solid state “21” machine. By the mid-70’s, with other companies in on the action, solid state roulette, horse racing and poker machines were all available. Dale Electronic’s Poker-Matic met with the most success and was ubiquitous in Vegas.
The Fortune Coin Company built a video bell slot machine in 1975; sluggish acceptance by the casinos led to its being converted to a draw poker machine, which took off. William “Si” Redd became a kingpin of the new industry; his A-1 Supply company acquired the pioneer video game producer Nutting Enterprises which manufactured BlackJack and Draw Poker consoles. A-1 Supply eventually changed its name to International Game Technology; to this day it is a giant in the field. The invention of the video chip in the mid-70’s facilitated the development of video poker machines, which have since proliferated and became a mainstay of many casinos.