The story of video poker is also the story of slot games, which were the direct descendant of modern video poker. So, to see how modern electronic video poker was created, we must first look at how the slot game was born. This story takes us all the way back to 1891, where a machine was invented that would change the world.
The machine, an incredibly complicated device that used five rotating drums, was perhaps more like modern video poker than many might assume. The drums had a total of fifty playing card faces, with one on each drum being displayed at a time. The player inserted a nickel, pulled the lever, and the drums spun. When they came to a stop, if the displayed playing cards made a decent poker hand, a prize was given. Of course, back in the day an automatic payout system was beyond the mechanical ingenuity of the time, so prizes were given by the bartender of the establishment, ranging between free drinks, free cigars, and perhaps a free shave, if the establishment was a barber.
The machine proved overwhelmingly popular, and was generally the focus of attention in every bar it could be found. The demand for the machines was massive. There were, however, problems with the machine, the first being that bartenders were starting to get very tired of constantly having to manually hand out prizes. An automatic payout system was needed, but proved to be an impossible task. With five drums and fifty playing cards the possible winning combinations were immense, so many so that devising a mechanical payout device was an insurmountable task. Thus a new, simpler machine was created.
The Liberty Bell used the same principal as the poker machine, but was simplified. Instead of five drums and fifty playing card faces, three drums were used, with just five symbols. The symbols were no longer related to poker, but instead a horseshoe, bell, and other symbols still used today. So, the slot game steered away from being directly related to poker, but not for very long. Slot games never lost their link to the popular game of cards. Regardless, the Liberty Bell slot game was a smash hit, and came complete with an automatic payout system.
In 1963 a simple electronic slot game was created, which had all the hallmarks of a modern slot game. It still had a lever that could be pulled, but the game functioned perfectly well with the press of a button. The game, titled Money Honey was another runaway success, and it soon became obvious that the electronic slot game was the way of the future.
There had been many versions of slot games up until 1963, with many different symbols and designs being used. Fruit machines, which had become popular prior to 1963, were a commonly used design choice, and playing cards had been used on many occasions. None of these games, however, were true modern video poker games. Such games only made their appearance after 1976, when the electronic slot games we know today were created.
These early electronic machines were revolutionary, seen as device close to being science fiction fantasy. They were incredibly primitive, by modern standards, but still near identical to modern slot games in the systems they used. The greatest thing about electronic slot games was, however, their astonishing versatility.
Modern Video Poker
Electronic slot games, unlike mechanical slot games, were found to be easy to adapt and change as was required. Working with digital visuals meant that switching symbol designs could be done without having to dismantle a complicated device, which, of course, meant a great deal more slot game versatility. As a result new slot games were introduced and experimented with on a regular basis, with different systems and interesting new approaches. And this is where video poker was born.
Working on the relationship between slot games and poker, an electronic game was created based entirely around the rules of poker. The player was dealt electronic cards, could choose to hold certain cards and redraw others, and then be granted payouts based on the value of the final hand. But, since the game was a version of poker that did not put the player against other real opponents, a payout system was developed based on the likelihood of certain valuable card hands being achieved. This was video poker, and the same version we play today.
Online video poker is identical to the version played in real world casinos, following the exact same rules. You can play video poker now at almost any online casino website, and even a mobile version on your smart phone or tablet. Imagine the looks on the faces of 1890s gamblers if they say a version of electronic video poker on a modern tablet. It’s almost enough to get that time machine built, just for the laughs.