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The Origins and History of Video Poker

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Tracing the history of poker machines back to the 19th century, we can see that video poker has closely followed the development of slot machines.

The first mechanical poker machine dates back to 1891, invented by the Sittman and Pitt Company of New York. The machine contained 5 drums, each with 10 different cards. These games from a bygone era were the precursors of today’s video poker machines.

1891 poker machine
The first poker machine, manufactured by Sittman and Pitt in 1891

Poker Machines from 1891

To start a game on Sittman and Pitt’s poker machine, players would insert a coin into the slot and pull a lever. Each of the 5 drums would start spinning, and then stop on a card at random. A winning hand of a pair of kings or better awarded the player with a prize.

The poker machine did not pay out coins! Players got free drinks or cigars as prizes, and they had to get “their winnings” from the machine operator. Casinos didn’t exist in those days, but poker machines were a common sight in the bars of Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

First Poker Machines with Coin Payout

The first poker machine to pay out real money was invented by Charles Fey in 1898. He named his machine the Card Bell. It automatically paid out cash prizes to the winner, the largest of which was 20 coins. This “jackpot” was won with a royal flush. It was the first poker machine that allowed players to win real money. So historically, it was Charles Fey who introduced the first poker game machines with automatic payout.

In 1901, Fey created another poker machine called the Skill Draw which had a “Hold” feature. After the initial spin created a poker hand, the player could hold some of the cards and re-spin the other drums in an effort to improve the hand. This invention is now a basic feature available on all video poker machines.

The First Video Poker Machines in 1970

It wasn’t until 1970 that Dale Electronics introduced the first video poker machine called “Poker-Matic”. The game was available in many Las Vegas casinos, but it wasn’t a big hit. At that time, players preferred classic slot machines. And poker players didn’t see the point in playing poker against machines.

In the mid-1970s, Bally Gaming tried to market another video poker machine. Having failed to convince their business partners, Bally Gaming’s project was abandoned, and the game’s patent was purchased for a modest sum by the Fortune Coin Co. of Reno, Nevada.

Bally video poker machines, 1970

Fortune Coin’s management had made a hell of a deal! By 1978, video poker machines had quite unexpectedly become a popular game in US casinos. These poker machines may seem rather primitive by today’s standards, but at the time they were quite an invention.

At the end of 1978, the Fortune Coin Co. became part of International Gaming Technology (IGT). Today, IGT is the world’s largest manufacturer of slot machines.

The 2000s

Throughout the 2000s, video poker became increasingly popular.  Many players found the devices less intimidating than playing live table games. The first video slots didn’t really catch on in casinos in the 1970s, but the situation has changed since then.

Many variations of poker can now be played in casinos all over the world. There are even versions that offer the chance to win over $100,000 thanks to special bonus features added to the software.

Modern video poker machines use 52 cards, attracting a new generation of poker and blackjack enthusiasts.

Video Poker Rules

The rules of video poker games are relatively easy to learn. Each bet has two rounds to play. When the first 5 cards have been dealt, you can choose the cards you want to keep by pressing the HOLD button. You then press the DEAL/DRAW button to discover your final hand. If you have a winning hand, you will automatically receive a payout. For example, in the video poker variation “Tens or Better”, the minimum paying hand is a pair of tens. The winning combination that has the highest payout is the royal flush, which usually pays 4000 times the bet.

Video Poker Today

Since the 2000s, video poker machines have been considered classic games in most casinos. The same goes for real money online casinos. The 52-card game is played exclusively in electronic format, and against the house. Unlike classic poker which is played against opponents, in video poker you’re alone against the machine.

Online Casino Games

Classic versions of video poker were already available to players on the first casino sites launched between 1994 and 1997. Nowadays, online casino catalogs all include several variations of the game, with bets ranging from a single cent to $100.

Popular Variations


Casino video poker machine

The most innovative poker games offer multi-play versions, allowing you to play several hands simultaneously. Other video poker machines are connected to communal progressive jackpots, offering the opportunity to win huge prize pools. To enjoy a wide range of game variations, it’s best to register at an online casino.

IT and Electronics

Without the invention of electronic components and then computers, video poker machines would not exist.

Electronics dates back to the invention of the first component that could amplify an electrical signal to sustain an oscillation. Lee De Forest invented some of the first electronic components in the 1900s. And it was Alan Turing who was behind the first modern computers (source A true genius of the 20th century, Turing is considered the pioneer of the information age.


Tribute to Charles Fey by Anthony

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