Sunday, February 28, 2010



REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - March 23, 2009 - Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) announced today that Need for SpeedTM SHIFT, the all-new authentic racing game in the Need for Speed series, will hit stores in Europe on September 17 and North America on September 22, 2009. Need for Speed SHIFT brings a true driver's experience to some of the world's most iconic racing tracks, including the storied Brand's Hatch in the UK. The game also features the largest roster of high-performance cars in Need for Speed history including race cars such as the Pagani Zonda F, Porsche 911 GT2 and Lotus Elise.

"With Need for Speed SHIFT, we set out to create a racing game that pushes the genre and delivers something never before seen in a Need for Speed title," said Patrick Soderlund, Senior Vice President at EA Games Europe. "By focusing on the driver's experience through the first-person view, we are able to capture the high-speed intensity and gripping emotions of racing."

Players are thrust into the loud, intense, and athletic experience of racing a car from the driver's perspective through the combination of perception based G-forces, the hyper reality of the cockpit view, and the all-new brutally disorienting crash dynamic. Need for Speed SHIFT features an accurate, accessible physics-based driving model that allows you to feel every impact, every change of track surface and every last bit of grip as you push yourself to the edge.
Need for Speed SHIFT is being developed by Slightly Mad Studios in collaboration with Black Box and Patrick Soderlund. Slightly Mad Studios includes developers and designers that worked on the critically acclaimed games GT Legends and GTR 2. The PSP version is being developed by EA's Bright Light studio.

Need for Speed SHIFT will be released on PLAYSTATION3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, PC and PSP (PlayStation Portable) in fall 2009. More information can be found at
Global Studio Teams Drive Quality and Innovation in Three New Games. REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – January 30, 2009 – Fifteen years; more than 40 countries; close to 100 million games sold. Need for Speed™ has helped to define automotive culture for millions of fans with its embrace of the car lifestyle and its cool rebellious attitude. Today, Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS) unveiled the details of what is in store for the franchise over the next 12 months, as the property expands to new platforms, new categories and new media.

Need for Speed is committed to providing unique and customized experiences for all types of racing fans by establishing three independent series; simulation, action and arcade racing. Each series will be developed by a highly-specialized team dedicated to delivering the ultimate racing experiences to car enthusiasts around the world – whether they be interested in adrenaline action, arcade fun or authentic simulation.

“We recognize racing videogame fans are very passionate and unique — they want customized gameplay experiences. Whether it’s more of a realistic driving game with accurate car physics or over-the-top cop chases, we are making different games for different audiences,” said Keith Munro, vice president of marketing, Need for Speed. “Each game provides a deep, engaging and rich racing experience. We’re giving players the option to choose the best racing title that suits their style of gameplay.”

Need for Speed SHIFT – Fall 2009
Shift into high gear! Designed to deliver a true driver’s experience that reflects contemporary motorsports, Need for Speed SHIFT is built by racers for racers. Need for Speed SHIFT delivers an authentic and immersive driving experience developed by Slightly Mad Studios in collaboration with executive producer Michael Mann at Black Box and senior vice president Patrick Soderlund at EA Games Europe. Slightly Mad Studios includes developers and designers that worked on the critically acclaimed games GT Legends and GTR 2. Need for Speed SHIFT replicates the true feeling of racing high-end performance cars like never before. Players are thrust into the heart of the action with immersive and exciting features including a stunningly realistic first-person cockpit view camera and an all-new crash mechanic, providing an unrivaled sensation of the speed and feeling of racing a car on the extreme edge of control.

Soderlund is also part of a racing team that recently competed in the 4th edition of the TOYO TIRES 24H Dubai 2009, the first major race event of the year. His team ranked #5 in the high-profile race. Soderlund and the SHIFT development team are committed to bringing the on-the-track experience to players across the world.

Need for Speed SHIFT will be released on PLAYSTATION3 computer entertainment system, Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, PSP (PlayStation Portable) and PC in fall 2009.

Need for Speed NITRO (Working Title) – Fall 2009
Developed by EA Montreal, Need for Speed NITRO for Wii™ and Nintendo DS™ will have players of all skill levels hooked from the moment they get into the action, while arcade racing fans will be exhilarated by the deep and challenging gameplay. EA Montreal has already established a strong track record of developing for these platforms and will bring their unique creativity and innovation to the Need for Speed franchise.

Gamers can build up their boost as they drift and drag behind their opponents and use it strategically to change the course of the race, but watch out for the cops! Offering a fresh and unique visual style, the game features a variety of licensed cars which can be fully customized to let the game reflect the player’s taste and personality. This evolutionary take on arcade racing, bringing back the best features found in Need for Speed games, comes exclusively to the Nintendo platforms this fall.

Need for Speed World Online – Winter 2009 in North America, (Summer 2009 in Asia)
Co-developed by Black Box and EA Singapore, Need for Speed World Online takes the race into the largest open world in the history of Need for Speed - designed exclusively for the PC. Beginning in Asia, this Play 4 Free action racing game will give Need for Speed fans access to licensed cars, parts and multiple game modes. Players will prove their racing supremacy through the sophisticated online matchmaking features and fully customize their profile and their ride.

EA and Black Box will have more news about the Need for Speed franchise in the months ahead.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Racing Games History

Racing Games History

The History of Racing Games from 1981 to 2009.

1981 Turbo (Sega)

1982 Grand Prix (Activision)

1982 Pole Position (Atari/Namco)

1986 Outrun (Sega)

1987 Final Lap (Namco)

1987 Test Drive (Accolade)

1989 Hard Drivin' (Atari)

1990 Stunts (Broderbund/Mindscape)

1992 Lotus Turbo Challenge (Gremlin)

1992 Virtua Racing (Sega)

1993 The Need for Speed (Electronic Arts)

1993 Rigde Racer (Namco)

1994 NASCAR Racing (Papyrus)

1994 Daytona USA (Sega)

1994 Cruis'n USA (Midway)

1994 Sega Rally (Sega)

1995 Formula One 95 (Psygnosis)

1997 Gran Turismo (Sony)

1998 Colin McRae Rally (Codemasters)

1998 Need For Speed Hot Pursuit (Electronic Arts)

1999 Grand Turismo 2 (Sony)

2000 Midnight Club (Rockstar)

2001 Project Gotham Racing (Microsoft)

2001 Gran Turismo 3 (Sony)

2002 BurnOut (Acclaim)

2003 Project Gotham Racing 2 (Microsoft)

2003 Need For Speed Underground (Electronic Arts)

2005 Gran Turismo 4 (Sony)

2005 Project Gotham Racing 3 (Microsoft)

2006 Test Drive Unlimited (Atari)

2006 Ridge Racer 7 (Namco)

2007 Forza Motorsport 2 (Microsoft)

2007 GRID (Codemasters)

2007 Colin McRae: DiRT (Codemasters)

2007 Project Gotham Racing 4 (Microsoft)

2007 MotorStorm (Sony)

2008 MotorStorm 2: Pacific Rift (Sony)

2009 Need For Speed Shift (Electronic Arts)

2009 Forza Motorsport 3 (Microsoft)

In 1986
Outrun is the racing game everyone wants to play. Offering players the opportunity to race across America in 80s dream machine, the Ferrari Testarossa, it is a smash hit in the arcades, but doesn't translate well to the home computer. If you fancy giving it a go now, fire up MAME32 (or pick up a copy of 2006 sequel Coast 2 Coast).

In 1989
Due to the limitations of the technology available, racing games are never fully realised on home machines. Spectrum, Amiga and Megadrive owners are united in enduring a steady stream of sub-standard arcade conversions like Roadblasters, Overlander, WEC Le Mans and Turbo Outrun. On the PC, the Test Drive games provide an altogether more satisfying experience, simulating illegal road-races in Ferraris and Porsches that necessitate avoiding other traffic as well as the police. Geoff Crammond's Stunt Car Racer (pictured) is the first game to successfully use polygons without sacrificing speed.

In 1990
With 16-bit computers now firmly established, software began to improve. On the ST and Amiga, aside from a port of Test Drive 2, Toyota Celica GT Rally impresses with its realistic co-driver and weather effects, while the split-screen racing of Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge proves a hit with reviewers and public alike. 4D Sports: Driving (top pic) makes an appearance on PC and Amiga while Test Drive 3 (bottom pic) takes the series into 'full' 3D, albeit not altogether successfully (ie it's rubbish).

In 1991
Geoff Crammond returns with the first successful 'simulation' racer, Formula One Grand Prix. Offering more than other games of its ilk, some reviewers are reluctant to recommend it on the basis that it might be too complex for most gamers, instead preferring the 'F1-lite' approach of Lankhor's Vroom. Nevertheless, it is deservedly a massive hit. Also in this year, Crazy Cars 3 (pictured) wins many fans with its story-based career mode, which involved prize money, car upgrades, and betting on the outcome of races.

In 1992
The eagerly-awaited Super Nintendo finally arrives and brings with it the lightening fast futuristic racer F-Zero (top pic) and the awesome Super Mario Kart. The former is fun, the latter is an all-time classic, especially in multiplayer. They both make arcade racers on the PC look very silly indeed.

Stoo: on the simulation side of the genre, for the PC there is Car and Driver, an early offering from the wonderful Looking Glass Studios.

In 1993
Ridge Racer appears in the arcades and radically alters our perception of racing games. It looks fabulous, it plays like a dream, and if you were really lucky you might get to sit in a real-life car (er, a Mazda) while you played. It even puts Sega's Virtua Racing in the shade, although the successful port of the latter to the Megadrive (pictured) finally gives owners of Sega's console a half-decent racer.

In 1994
The 3DO arrives to moderate fanfare, although it's thin on the ground as far as decent games are concerned. One notable exception is The Need for Speed (pictured), a slick update of the Test Drive template. On PC, the focus is more on motorsport and simulation. Papyrus produce IndyCar Racing, easily superseding F1GP in terms of looks and certainly its equal in terms of gameplay. In the arcades, Sega strikes back against Ridge Racer with Daytona USA, a super-fast Nascar game with jaw-dropping graphics.

In 1995
The major console players bring out the big guns. Ridge Racer is a launch title for the Playstation, while Daytona USA is ported to the Saturn. However, both are overshadowed by more original titles like the smash 'em up Destruction Derby, and hyper-cool hover-racer Wipeout (pictured). With the 3DO now effectively defunct, its best games are converted to the PC, including The Need For Speed. With a Pentium in every home (well, almost), PC racers started to benefit, with Ridge Racer clone Screamer proving more than a match for the glut of console conversions finding their way onto PC this year. In the arcades, Sega Rally is the latest title to wow the legions of narrow faced, slack-jawed youths.

In 1996
The Saturn finally gets a version of Sega Rally, which is pretty good, but easily matched by the new generation of PC racers. Screamer 2 (top pic) knocks it into a cocked hat, while Network Q RAC Rally offers some more authentic action. However, the real excitement is reserved for the long-awaited Formula One Grand Prix 2, which fulfils expectations despite looking rather dated. The Playstation, however, has its own Formula One game, entitled, er, Formula One, which looks pretty sharp and even has Murray Walker doing the commentary.

Wipeout 2097 (bottom pic) also appears around Christmas time and sends console reviewers into a frenzy (i.e. it's not bad). PC owners know they'll get conversions of both soon enough, and focus their jealousy on those happily playing Super Mario Kart 64.

In 1997
The advent of 3D acceleration means lots of good-looking racers. The first of these is Pod, a futuristic effort that boasts a bewildering array of lighting effects and is the nearest thing we have to Wipeout on the PC until Wipeout 2097 finally makes its way across later in the year. Screamer 2 is also spruced up and given a re-release as Screamer Rally. Codemasters' TOCA Touring Cars (top pic), while not the best looking of the new generation, is a worthy simulation, and Need for Speed 2 is a bit rubbish.

Elsewhere, many succumb to the dubious charms of 'shock racer' Carmageddon. Fun for a while, but with essentially limited appeal, it receives scandalously high marks in some circles. Although not technically a racer, it, along with Grand Theft Auto (which also appeared this year) arguably paved the way for free-roaming driving titles such as Midtown Madness.

In 1998
Carmageddon 2 appears and the world goes mad again, but elsewhere things are looking more promising. Formula One 97 (top pic) gets a PC outing, and while superficially impressive it doesn't measure up to Ubisoft's F1 Racing Simulation or the new game from Papyrus, Grand Prix Legends. In the 'pretty but shallow' section we have Kalisto's Ultim@te Race Pro and Motorhead from Gremlin, both boasting LAN support and some impressive flashing colours.

Colin McRae Rally appears on PSX and PC and sets the new standard for rally games, Motocross Madness becomes the first decent motorbike game, and the third Need For Speed game (bottom pic) isn't bad either. However, 1998 was most notable for the benchmark racing title, Gran Turismo. While catering for those wanting a quick 15-minute blast the real beauty of the game was the career mode, offering an almost bewildering amount of depth.

In 1999
While PSX owners rave about Driver, PC owners shrug when it fails to measure up to Microsoft's Midtown Madness. Both feature a fully working city, but Midtown's lack of a clichéd 70s plot keeps the emphasis on racing, allowing for more freedom and more fun. Codemasters' TOCA 2 (top pic) improves on the original, especially in the graphics department, although it remains an uneasy balance of arcade game and sim. The Dreamcast appears and gives the world Sega Rally 2 (also ported to the PC) which is largely ignored.

EA apply their FIFA mentality to the Need For Speed series, with Road Challenge (bottom pic) being almost inseparable from last year's Hot Pursuit.

In 2000
Gran Turismo 2 and Colin McRae Rally 2.0 squeeze a bit more life out of the PSX. The latter is converted to PC and, despite competition in the form of Rally Masters and Rally Championship, easily beats them to the top of the rallying tree. Midtown Madness 2 (top pic) and Formula One Grand Prix 3 arrive to moderate acclaim, although in truth they offer little more than their predecessors.

EA release another Need for Speed game, Porsche 2000. It's actually a significant improvement over their last two efforts, but unfortunately, no-one buys it. To make up for this sales shortfall, EA acquire the F1 license and immediately put it to use, releasing the not-bad F1 2000 and the slightly better F1 Championship Season 2000.

Le Mans 24 Hours offers serial loners the opportunity to simulate the full-length race. Those who prefer a slightly shorter challenge seem to enjoy the game, however. On Dreamcast, Metropolis Street Racer hogs the attention of console-heads, but Vanishing Point (also on PSOne, bottom pic) is another worthy racer.

In 2001

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec is released on PS2 and the world applauds, although not as loudly as it thought it would. Essentially a flashier version of GT2 (with not as many cars) it is nevertheless the premier racing game. On the PC, EA's F1 2001 surpasses Grand Prix 3 as the top F1 game and Colin McRae 2.0 is belatedly challenged by the superb Rally Championship Xtreme (pictured)from Actualize.

In 2002
EA resurrect the Need for Speed series with Need For Speed:Hot Pursuit 2 (pictured), which takes the series even further from reality by featuring police helicopters dropping exploding barrels in their attempts to stop you. For some reason separate versions are released for PS2 and PC, with the latter inevitably proving inferior.

Further sequels include Colin McRae 3, Grand Prix 4 and F1 2002, while Sony "do a FIFA" by releasing a "special edition" of Gran Turismo, GT Concept: Tokyo 2002, which actually has less to offer than the original. Burnout 2: Point of Impact impresses many, building successfully on the original's "go faster by driving irresponsibly" premise. Auto Modellista's cel-shaded graphics turn a few heads, but sadly it drives like a wet fish. The TOCA series gets a revamp, with TOCA: Race Driver offering a story-based career mode (with cut-scenes and everything).

In 2003
Need for Speed takes to the streets in Need For Speed: Underground, while Rockstar produce a worthy rival in Midnight Club 2 (pictured). EA's effort has an impressive visual sheen but is let down by iffy handling and unnaturally solid roadside objects. MC2, meanwhile, is a little rought around the edges but offers a more satisfying drive.

Elsewhere, a couple of old SNES racers get a new lick of paint for the Gamecube: F-Zero GX and Mario Kart: Double Dash are both reasonably well-received.

In 2004
Driver 3 is finally released, but sadly it feels unfinished and fails to match the likes of Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City for auto-based crime fun.

While the console world settles down to wait for Gran Turismo 4 (with some even prepared to pay £25 for a cut-down version - GT4: Prologue), PC gamers experience a breath of fresh air in the form of Trackmania.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shooting Games

History Of Shooting Games


Shooting games are games in which the player fires a weapon at a target. Many shooting games utilize the role of first-person shooter (FPS), where the player isn't represented by a figure on the screen. Rather, the screen represents what the player's character sees within the game. There are many free online shooting games as well as more advanced games designed for consoles as well as the online MMORPG communities.
Shooting games draw their background from shooting sports, which go back for centuries. Shooting clubs date back to the 13th and 14th centuries in German. In the U.S. the first shooting games were rifle competitions called "turkey shoots" that took place in the early The History of Shooting Sports (1995) The first FPS games had their debut in 1974 Maze War and Spasim both had their debut that year,but because documentation is slacking, it isn't certain which one actually came first.

First Person Shooter

The first-person shooter (FPS) sub-genre offers a particularly visceral experience by letting you jump right into the action from the perspective of a game character. Perhaps no other genre is as capable of drawing you into the game world, whether it’s putting you in the middle of the epic battles of World War II, the modern-day Middle-East, or the far reaches of outer space.

FPS & TPS Shooting Games

Prepare yourself for an intense, over-the-top experience in a wide range of action-packed shooting games from Electronic Arts. Shooting games make up one of the most popular genres in gaming with millions of titles sold annually to gamers of all ages from pre-teens and up.

Guns Blazing Online

You can get even more out of your shooting game experience by going online via Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network for PS3 where you can jump into one of the several online-only gaming modes, including Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and others. Some shooter games even track statistics so you can see how stack up against the best of the best from around world.

A Rich History of Shooting Games

Electronic Arts has a storied history of shooting games, including its trendsetting and award-winning Medal of Honor and Battlefield franchises. Both franchises are still going strong and have been joined more recently by a host of other gripping and engaging FPS games.

Each EA shooter game provides a level of authenticity or historical accuracy not found anywhere else, whether it’s storming the beaches of Normandy or going to battle in exotic locations like a war-torn Venezuela. Shooter games typically include a massive arsenal of weapons to help keep the game fresh and exciting and your enemy on their toes.

Guns Blazing Online

Most shooting games are rated T for Teen due to Blood, Language, and/or Violence. Be sure to check the ESRB for specific game ratings and descriptor information. Upcoming shooting games from Electronic Arts include new entries in the Battlefield and Medal of Honor franchises, plus a new episode in the Dead Space saga.
You can get even more out of your shooting game experience by going online via Xbox LIVE or the PlayStation Network for PS3 where you can jump into one of the several online-only gaming modes, including Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and others. Some shooter games even track statistics so you can see how stack up against the best of the best from around world.

Early first person shooters: 1970s and 1980s
The earliest two documented first-person shooters were Maze War and Spasim. Maze War features on-foot gameplay that evokes modern first-person shooter games. Development of the game began in 1973 and its exact date of completion is unknown. Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974. The game was a rudimentary space flight simulator, which featured a first-person perspective. Spasim led to more detailed combat flight simulators and eventually to a tank simulator, developed for the U.S. army, in the later 1970s. These games were not available to consumers and it was not until 1980 that a tank game, Battlezone, was released in arcades. A version was released in 1983 for home computers, the first successful mass-market game featuring a first-person viewpoint and 3D graphics.

MIDI Maze was an early first-person shooter released in 1987 for the Atari ST. It was unique in featuring network multiplayer through the MIDI interface long before mainstream Ethernet and Internet play became commonplace. It is considered the first multiplayer 3D shooter on a mainstream system and the first major network multiplayer action game, with support for as many as 16 players. It was followed up by ports to various platforms in 1991 under the title Faceball 2000, including the Game Boy and Super NES, making it possibly the first handheld and multiplatform first-person shooter and an early console example of the genre.

Id Software released Hovertank 3D in 1991, which pioneered ray casting technology to enable faster gameplay than 1980s vehicle simulators. Later developers added texture mapping with Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (by Looking Glass Technologies), a role-playing game featuring a first person viewpoint and an advanced graphics engine, released in 1992. During development, this led to Catacomb 3-D which was actually released first, in late 1991, and introduced the display of the protagonist's hand and weapon (magical spells) on the screen.

Rise in popularity: 1992–1995
Wolfenstein 3D (created by id Software and released in 1992) was an instant success and is generally credited with inventing the first person shooter genre proper. It built on the ray casting technology pioneered in earlier games to create a revolutionary template for shooter game design, which first person shooters are still based upon today. Despite the violent themes, it largely escaped the controversy generated by the later Doom, although it was banned in Germany due to the use of Nazi iconography; the Nintendo version replaced the enemy attack dogs with giant rats. Apogee Software, the publisher of Wolfenstein 3D, followed up its success with Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold in 1993. The game was initially well received but sales rapidly declined in the wake of the success of id's Doom, released a week later. Doom, released as shareware in 1993, refined Wolfenstein 3D's template by adding improved textures, variations in height (such as stairs the player's character could climb) and lighting effects such as flickering lights and patches of total darkness, creating a more believable 3D environment than Wolfenstein 3D's repetitive levels. Doom allowed competitive matches between multiple players, termed "deathmatches", and the game was responsible for the word's subsequent entry into the video gaming lexicon. The game became so popular that its multiplayer features began to cause problems for companies whose networks were used to play the game. Doom has been considered the most important first person shooter ever made: it was highly influential not only on subsequent shooter games but on video gaming in general, and has been available on almost every video gaming system since. Multiplayer gaming, which is now integral to the first person shooter genre, was first achieved successfully on a large scale with Doom. While its combination of gory violence, dark humor and hellish imagery garnered acclaim from critics, these attributes also generated controversy from religious groups, with other commentators labelling the game a "murder simulator." There was further controversy when it emerged that the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre were fans of the game; the families of several victims later unsuccessfully attempted to sue id Software, among numerous other video game companies, claiming they inspired the massacre.

Bungie Studios released its first FPS, titled Pathways into Darkness in 1993 for the Mac, shortly after Wolfenstein 3D. It laid the groundwork for the highly successful Marathon trilogy which began in 1994. Marathon pioneered many FPS features, including secondary weapons functions, a free look camera, and aiming in the vertical dimension. It also featured a network multiplayer mode.

Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 after LucasArts decided Star Wars would make appropriate material for a game in the style of Doom; however, Star Wars: Dark Forces added several technical features that Doom lacked, such as the ability to crouch or look up and down. Descent, (released by Parallax Software in 1995) a game in which the player pilots a spacecraft around caves and factory ducts, was the first truly three dimensional first person shooter. It abandoned sprites and ray casting and introduced polygons and six degrees of freedom. Apogee's Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, was the last successful sprite-based first person shooter, winning acclaim for its humor based around stylised machismo as well as its gameplay; however some found the game's (and later the whole series') treatment of women to be derogatory and tasteless.

Arrival of 3D graphics: 1996–1999
Shortly after the release of Duke Nukem 3D, id Software released the much anticipated Quake, which used 3D polygons instead of sprites. Like Doom, Quake was influential and genre-defining, featuring fast paced, gory gameplay. It was centered around online gaming and featured multiple match types still found in first person shooter games today. It was the first game to have a following of clans, attracted increased modification and expanded the market for video card hardware.

The first landmark, best-selling console first-person shooter was Rare's GoldenEye 007, based on the James Bond film and released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. Highly acclaimed for its atmospheric single-player levels and well designed multiplayer maps, it featured the ability to aim at a precise spot on the screen, a sniper rifle, the ability to perform headshots, and the incorporation of stealth elements.

Released in 1998, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six started a popular trend of tactical first person shooters, though it was not the first of its kind. It featured a team-based, realistic design and themes based around counter-terrorism, requiring missions to be planned before execution and in it, a single hit was enough to kill a character. Medal of Honor, released in 1999, started a long running proliferation of first person shooters set during World War II.

Valve's Half-Life was released in 1998. Initially met with only mild anticipation, it went on to become an unprecedented commercial success. While previous first person shooters had focused on visceral gameplay with comparatively weak plots, Half-Life had a strong narrative; the game featured no cut scenes but remained in the first person perspective at all times. It featured innovations such as non-enemy characters but did not employ power-ups. Half-Life was acclaimed for its artificial intelligence, set of weapons and attention to detail and, along with its sequel Half-Life 2 (released in 2004), is consistently reviewed as one of finest examples of the genre.

Starsiege: Tribes, also released in 1998, was a multiplayer online shooter allowing more than 32 players in a single match. It featured team-based gameplay with a variety of specialized roles, and an unusual jet pack feature. The game was highly popular and later imitated by games such as the Battlefield series. Id's Quake III Arena and Epic's Unreal Tournament, both released in 1999, were popular for their frenetic and accessible online multiplayer modes; both featured very limited single player gameplay. Counter-Strike was also released in 1999, a Half-Life modification with a counter-terrorism theme. The game and later versions (the latest being Counter-Strike Source, released in 2004) went on to become by far the most popular multiplayer first person shooters.

Recent milestones: 2000–present

At the E3 game show in 1999, Bungie unveiled a real-time strategy game called Halo; at the following E3, an overhauled third-person shooter version was displayed. Later in 2000 Bungie was bought by Microsoft, and Halo was revamped and released as a first person shooter, one of the launch titles for the Xbox console. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, and is considered a premier console first person shooter. It featured narrative and storyline reminiscent of Bungie's earlier Marathon series but now told largely through in-game dialog and cut scenes. It also received acclaim for its characters, both the protagonist, Master Chief and its alien antagonists. The sequel, Halo 2 (2004), brought the popularity of online-gaming to the console market through the medium of Xbox Live, on which it was the most played game for almost two years. Deus Ex, released by Ion Storm in 2000, featured a levelling system similar to that found in role-playing games; it also had multiple narratives depending on how the player completed missions and won acclaim for its serious, artistic style. Metroid Prime, released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, another highly praised console first person shooter, incorporated action adventure elements such as jumping puzzles and built on the Metroid series of 2D platformers.

Battlefield 1942, a World War II shooter released in 2002, featured large scale battles incorporating aircraft, naval vessels, land vehicles and infantry combat. In 2003, Planetside allowed hundreds of players at once to compete in a persistent world, and was promoted as the world's first massively multiplayer online first person shooter. Doom 3, released in 2004, placed a greater emphasis on horror and frightening the player than previous games in the series and was a critically acclaimed best seller, though some commentators felt it lacked gameplay substance and innovation, putting too much emphasis on impressive graphics. In 2005, a film based on Doom emulated the viewpoint and action of a first person shooter, but was critically derided as deliberately unintelligent and gratuitously violent. Bioshock was acclaimed by some commentators as the best game of 2007 for its artistry, narrative and innovation. Crysis (2007) and Far Cry 2 (2008) broke new ground in terms of graphics and large, open-ended level design, whereas Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), its sequel Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009), Resistance: Fall of Man (2006) and its sequel Resistance 2 (2008) presented increasingly refined linear levels and narratives. As of 2006, in terms of revenue for publishers, the first person shooter was one of the biggest and fastest growing video game genres.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The History of Poker

History of Poker

This page was contributed by David Parlett, games inventor, consultant and historian and author of many card game books including the Oxford History of Card Games.

* Introduction
* Birth and Growth
* Coming of Age
* Ultimate Origins
* Relatives and Ancestors
* The Problem of As-nas
* The Role of Brag
* Conclusion

Poker is a five-card vying game played with standard playing-cards.

A vying game is one where, instead of playing their cards out, the players bet as to who holds the best card combination by progressively raising the stakes until either -

* there is a showdown, when the best hand wins all the stakes (‘the pot’), or
* all but one player have given up betting and dropped out of play, when the last person to raise wins the pot without a showdown.
It is therefore possible for the pot to be won by a hand that is not in fact the best, everyone else having been bluffed out of play. One of Poker's earliest names was, in fact, ‘Bluff’. Bluffing is as essential to vying as finessing is to trick-play.

A five-card vying game is one where, no matter how many cards may be dealt to each player, the only valid combinations are those of five cards. In orthodox Poker these are, from highest to lowest:
* straight flush (five cards in suit and sequence, Ace high or low, as heartAKQJ10 or spade5432A)
* four of a kind, fours (four cards of the same rank and one idler, as K-K-K-K-x)
* full house (three of one rank and two of another, as Q-Q-Q-4-4)
* flush (five cards in suit but not in sequence, as heartJ-heart9-heart8-heart7-heart3)
* straight (five cards in sequence but not in suit, as spade10-spade9-diamond8-club7-heart6)
* three of a kind, threes, triplet, trips (three of the same rank plus two of two different ranks, as 7-7-7-x-y)
* two pair (as Q-Q-9-9-x)
* one pair (as 3-3-x-y-z)
* high card (no combination: as between two such hands the one with the highest card wins)

(The highest possible straight flush, consisting of A-K-Q-J-10 of a suit and known as a royal flush, is sometimes added to the list in order to bring the number of combinations up to the more desirable ten, but of course it is not different in kind from a straight flush. Other five-card combinations, known as freak hands, are recognized in unorthodox Poker variants.)
Any vying game based on these five-card hands is a form of Poker, and any game lacking either or both of them is not, even if it contains Poker as part of its title. For example, so-called Whisk(e)y Poker and Chinese Poker are gambling games played with Poker combinations, but both lack the element of vying, the former being a commerce game and the latter a partition game. Other games or game components are sometimes drafted into the form of Poker known as Dealer’s Choice, but this does not make them forms or Poker. On the other hand, it does not prevent Dealer’s Choice from being classed as a form of Poker so long as it also includes genuine Poker components.

Poker is of French-American origin and is the national vying game of the United States, though it has come to have a world-wide following in many different forms. Other vying games include Brag (British, a three-card game), Primiera (Italian, a four-card game), and Mus (Spanish, also with four-card hands).

Birth and growth

The birth of Poker has been convincingly dated to the first or second decade of the 19th century. It appeared in former French territory centred on New Orleans which was ceded to the infant United States by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Its cradle was the gambling saloon in general and, in particular, those famous or notorious floating saloons, the Mississippi steamers, which began to ply their trade from about 1811.

The earliest contemporary reference to Poker occurs in J. Hildreth’s Dragoon Campaigns to the Rocky Mountains, published in 1836; but two slightly later publications independently show it to have been well in use by 1829. Both are found in the published reminiscences of two unconnected witnesses: Jonathan H. Green, in Exposure of the Arts and Miseries of Gambling (1843), and Joe Cowell, an English comedian, in Thirty Years Passed Among the Players in England and America (1844).

Green and Cowell describe the earliest known form of Poker, played with a 20-card pack (A-K-Q-J-10) evenly dealt amongst four players. There is no draw, and bets are made on a narrow range of combinations: one pair, two pair, triplets, ‘full’ - so called because it is the only combination in which all five cards are active - and four of a kind. Unlike classic Poker, in which the top hand (royal flush) can be tied in another suit, the original top hand consisting of four Aces, or four Kings and an Ace, was absolutely unbeatable.

Twenty-card Poker is well attested. In 1847 Jonathan Green mentions a game of 20-card Poker played on a Mississippi steamboat bound for New Orleans in February 1833, and in The Reformed Gambler (1858), a new edition of his earlier book, another session played at a Louisville house in 1834. A vivid account of a Poker game played on a Mississippi river boat in 1835 appears in Sol Smith’s Theatrical Management in the West and South for Thirty Years (New York, 1868), with an anecdote hinging on the two players’ switching from ‘low’ cards to ‘large cards’, i.e. Tens and over.

This provides evidence that the 20-card game was being challenged by the 52-card game in the mid-1830s. The gradual adoption of a 52-card pack was made partly to accommodate more players, perhaps partly to give more scope to the recently introduced flush (the straight was as yet unknown), but chiefly to ensure there were enough cards for the draw - another relative novelty, and one that was to turn Poker from a gamble to a game of skill. These novelties were regular features of Poker’s English relative Brag as played in its early 19th-century American form. (Brag is no longer played in America, and modern British Brag differs substantially from 19th century American Brag.)

It was in this form, but as yet without the draw, that Poker first reached the pages of American ‘Hoyles’. The earliest mention occurs in the 1845 edition of Hoyle’s Games by Henry F. Anners, who refers to Poker or Bluff, 20-deck Poker, and 20-deck Poke. In a Boston Hoyle of 1857 Thomas Frere describes ‘The Game of "Bluff", or "Poker"’, with a reference to the 20-card game so brief as to suggest it was becoming obsolete. Dowling, however, points out that it was apparently still played as late as 1857 in New York, for "In that year the author of a guidebook to the metropolis issued a warning against playing 20-card poker, which was described as one of the most dangerous pitfalls to be found in the city".

Between about 1830 and 1845 Poker was increasingly played with all 52 cards, enabling more than four to participate and giving rise to the flush as an additional combination. The end of this phase saw the introduction of the draw, already familiar from contemporary Brag. This increased the excitement of the game by adding a second betting interval and enabling poor hands to be significantly improved, especially the worthless but potentially promising fourflush. The first printed mention of Draw Poker occurs in the 1850 American edition of Bohn’s New Handbook of Games, p.384.

The introduction of Poker into English society is often credited, if only on his own claim, to General Schenck, the American ambassador to Britain. Blackridge quotes a letter from Schenck to General Young of Cincinnati describing a weekend retreat to the Somerset country home of a certain ‘Lady W.’ in the summer of 1872, when he was prevailed upon by the other guests to teach them this peculiarly American game. As part of the exercise he drew up a written guide for them. Some of his pupils subsequently had these rules printed in booklet form, much to Schenck’s surprise when he received a copy upon his return home. Schenck notwithstanding, a probable earlier reference to the game in England dates from 1855 when George Eliot is reported (in her second husband’s 1885 biography) as writing ‘One night we attempted "Brag" or "Pocher"

Coming of age
From the middle of the 19th century Poker experienced rapid changes and innovations as it became more widespread through the upheavals of the Civil War. Stud, or ‘stud-horse’ Poker, a cowboy invention said to have been introduced around Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, first appears in The American Hoyle of 1864. More contentious was the introduction of Jack Pots, which originally meant that you were not allowed to open unless you held a pair of Jacks or better, and were obliged to open if you did, though the second half of this rule was subsequently abandoned.

(At a table of five, at least one player will normally be dealt Jacks or better.) This device was intended to impose discipline on the game by driving out wild players who would bet on anything, while encouraging cautious players who did have something not to

be frightened out of the pot by openers who didn’t. Blackridge opposed Jack Pots, pithily declaring it ‘equivalent to a lottery except that all players must buy tickets’. He added that the rule reportedly originated at Toledo and was common in the west, rarer in the east, and absent form the more conservative south. In 1897 Foster complained that ‘The jack-pot, with its accompanying small-limit game, has completely killed bluffing - that pride and joy of the old-timer...’

Nevertheless, he adds, self-contradictorily, ‘The two great steps in the history and progress of Poker have undoubtedly been the introduction of the draw to improve the hand, and the invention of the jack-pot as a cure for cautiousness... It has come to stay.’

Draw, Stud, and Jack Pots, all appear in the 1875 edition of The American Hoyle, together with Whiskey Poker, a form of Commerce based on Poker com

binations, and Mistigris, which was Poker with a 53rd card ‘wild’, namely ‘the blank card accompanying every pack’. (This borrowed from a variety of Bouillotte in which the Jack of clubs appears under that name as a wild card.) By this time, too, the full range of Poker combinations was widely recognized, though not universally so. The 1875 edition notes that four of a kind is the best hand ‘when straights are not played’, and repeats it as late as the 1887 edition.

It is curious how unstraightforward was the introduction of the straight. The 1864 edition gives the hands as: one pair, two pairs, straight sequence or rotation, triplets, flush, full house, fours. It adds ‘When a straight and a flush come together in one hand, it outranks a full’ - not fours, be it noted, in defiance of the mathematics, and probably for the following reason. Without straights and straight flushes, the highest possible hand is four Aces (or four Kings and an Ace kicker),

which is not just unbeatable but cannot even be tied. Traditionalists clinging to the unbeatable four Aces of Old Poker were opposed by innovationists, who found the game more interesting with straights. In this light, the acceptance of straights ranked in the wrong order may be seen as a temporary compromise. As late as 1892, John Keller defended his view that the straight ‘should be allowed. My authority for this is the best usage of today, and my justification is the undeniable merit of the straight as a Poker hand.’ He clinches this with the moral argument that has prevailed ever since - namely, that it is unethical and ungentlemanly to bet on such a sure thing as four Aces. If the best hand is a royal flush, there is always the outside chance that it may be tied. However minute that measure of doubt, it has to be morally superior to betting on a certainty.Under the aegis of the United States Printing Company and, subsequently, the New York Sun,

a great deal of research was conducted into the origins and varieties of Poker with a view to drawing up a set of definitive rules, which first appeared in 1904. In 1905 R F Foster published his book Practical Poker, summarizing the fruits of all this research plus additional material gleaned from the Frederick Jessel collection of card-game literature housed in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Amongst other things, it would appear from this that Dealer’s Choice began attaining popularity about 1900, according to Dowling. Subsequent developments can be traced through successive editions of Hoyles published by the United States Playing Card Company.

Following Draw and Stud, a third major structural division of the Poker game, represented today by Texas Hold ’em, is that of varieties involving one or more communal cards. The earliest of these appears in the 1919 edition under the name Wild Widow, whereby a card was dealt face up to the table immediately before each player received his fifth card, and the winner was the player making the best five-card combination from his own hand plus the turn-up. In the 1926 edition this is replaced by Spit in the Ocean. Here only four cards each are dealt, but the turn-up and the three other cards of the same rank are all wild. Deuces wild first appears in the 1919 edition.

High-Low Poker, in which the pot is divided equally between the highest and the lowest hands, is attested as early as 1903 (according to Morehead and Mott-Smith). It first appears in the 1926 edition and achieved its greatest popularity during the ‘thirties and ‘forties, subsequently giving rise to Lowball, in which only the lowest hand wins.

The rise of modern tournament play dates from the World Series of Poker started in 1970.

Ultimate origins
So many ridiculous assertions are made about the antiquity of Poker that it is necessary to point out that, by definition, Poker cannot be older than playing-cards themselves, which are only first positively attested in 13th century China, though some arguable evidence exists for their invention a few centuries earlier. Playing-cards first reached Europe in about 1360, not directly from China, but from the Islamic Mamluk Empire of Egypt through the trading port of Venice. Mamluk cards themselves also do not derive directly from Chinese cards but bear obscure relationships to the geographically intervening cards of India and (even more obscurely) Persia (Iran). Surviving specimens of Mamluk cards come from an original 52-card pack consisting of four suits (swords, polo sticks, goblets, coins) of 13 ranks each (numerals one to ten, junior viceroy, senior viceroy, and king). The only known Chinese card games of that period were of the trick-taking variety; and, while we have no contemporary account of games played with the Mamluk pack, it too was clearly designed for trick-taking.

Fourteenth century Europe saw an explosion in the variety of designs, suit-systems and structures of playing-cards, culminating before 1500 in the establishment of the principal European suit systems (Italian, Spanish, Swiss, German, French) and a correspondingly wide variety of accompanying games. A major European contribution to the realm of card play was the concept of a trump suit, first embodied in the Italian invention of tarot cards (at first called triumphi or triumph cards) in the 1420s, though also prefigured in the German game of Karnöffel. Also developed during the same period were a number of gambling games based on acquiring or betting on card combinations such as flushes (Flusso, Flüsslen, etc), sequences (Quentzlen, etc), matches (pairs, triplets, quartets), and numeration (as in Thirty-One, the ancestor of Twenty-One and perhaps Cribbage). Melding and numerical games were probably derived from, or modelled on, dice games of the period, though we lack sufficient information to be able to reconstruct the actual forms of dice play.

It is hard to imagine a process of Poker-style vying operating in dice games of the time, as vying originally depended entirely on being able to hide the identity of the cards you hold or draw by exposing only their plain sides to the other players, whereas the outcome of dice throws is necessarily open and visible to all. (As Cardano famously noted in 1564, ‘There is a difference form play with dice, because the latter is open, whereas play with cards takes place from ambush, because they are concealed.’) Nevertheless, whether originating in Europe or imported from elsewhere, there can be no doubt that vying card games were in use by 1500. This should not be taken to imply Poker-style vying, however, which may be a very late development. The earliest style of vying may more closely have resembled that traditionally followed in the English game of Brag.

It is possible that vying developed in trick-taking games as an extension of the process of ‘doubling’ now seen in modern Backgammon. In ancient card games such as Put and Truc, two players each received three cards and played them to tricks, but either player at any point could offer to double the stakes before playing a card. The other could then either accept the double and play on, or decline it and concede defeat for the existing (undoubled) amount.

A problem endemic in card-game history is that contemporary descriptions of vying are never unambiguous, partly because they find it easier to give an example of a round of vying without detailing the principles on which it is based, thus giving rise to irresolvable ambiguities, and partly because it never occurred to them that there could be more than one possible way of doing it. Two fundamentally different types of vying may be categorized as the Equalization method (Poker style) and the Matching method (English Brag style).

Equalization method.
A player wishing to stay in the pot must increase his stake by the amount necessary to match the total so far staked by the last raiser, and may also raise it further. If unwilling to do either, he must fold. In the following example, column 3 shows the total staked so far by each player, and column 4 the total in the pot.
A 111
B1 to stay, raise 123
C2 to stay25
D2 to stay, raise 138
A2 to stay310
B2 to stay, raise 1412
D1 to stay413
A1 to stay, raise 1515
D1 to stay516
A and D have now equalized, thus calling for a showdown. Whichever of them wins it gains a pot of 16 less his total stake of 5, making 11 profit.

Matching method.
In this case a player wishing to stay in the pot must match the stake just made by the preceding active player, instead of merely making up the difference between his total stake and that of the last raiser. As before, he may then also raise it further, or, if unwilling to do either, must fold.
A 111
B1 to stay, raise 123
C2 to stay25
D2 to stay, raise 138
A3 to stay411
B3 to stay, raise 1615
D4 to stay719
A4 to stay, raise 1924
D5 to stay1229
In this case the winner gains a pot of 29 less the amount of his own stake, which in A’s case is 29 - 9 = 20 and in D’s is 29 - 12 = 17.

Further variations may be encountered, especially in Brag. For example, under what might be called a 'flat rate' system, each in turn must either add a fixed, invariable unit to his stake or else fold, and play continues until only two remain in the pot, when one of them can call by betting double. American Brag, as played according to an 1830 American Hoyle, used the equalization method, but an edition of 1868 points out that the game is played in various ways and describes a different vying procedure. In this, a player who brags when holding a pair (but not otherwise) may demand a private showdown with the next active player in rotation. They then examine each other's hands without showing them to the others, and the lower of the two must be folded. Play continues until only two remain and one of them either folds or 'calls for a sight [showdown]' upon equalizing. This procedure has the peculiar consequence that you can be forced into a showdown without having had a chance to raise. In Bouillotte there are circumstances in which equalizing does not necessarily force a showdown but entitles the next active player in rotation to instigate another round of raising. It is also possible for a player who cannot meet the last raise to call a sight for the amount he has left and stay in the pot (without further betting) until a showdown, when, of course, he cannot win more than the amount he has staked even if he proves to have the best hand.

Relatives and ancestors

Articles on Poker history mention a wide variety of earlier vying games, not all of them entirely relevant. For the sake of clarity, they may be grouped according to the number of cards dealt and listed as follows.

Three-card games
include Belle, Flux & Trente-un (French, 17th - 18th centuries, known as Dreisatz in Germany), Post & Pair (English and American, 17th - 18th centuries) and its derivative Brag (18th century to present), Brelan (French, 17th - 18th centuries) and its derivative Bouillotte (late 18th - 19th centuries, French and American). Of these, Bouillotte and Brag are most relevant to the genesis of Poker.

Four-card games
include Primiera (Italian, 16th century - present) and its English equivalent Primero (16th - 17th centuries), Gilet (under various spellings, French, 16th - 18th centuries), Mus (Spanish, specifically Basque, current, of unknown age), Ambigu (French, 18th century). None of these have much bearing, if any, on Poker.

Five-card games
include the German Pochen or Pochspiel, which may be equated with a 15th-century game recorded as Bocken, and was played in France first under the name Glic and subsequently as Poque. Of all early European gambling games this one is most obviously germane to the genesis of Poker to the extent of having ultimately furnished its name. Pochen is a verb meaning to primarily to hit, strike, or knock on the table, and secondarily ‘(I) play’ or ‘bet’ or ‘raise’. Thus Pochspiel is the game (Spiel) of poching, i.e. knocking or betting. In its earliest form it appears as boeckels, bocken, bogel, bockspiel and suchlike.Pochen has a long history in the German repertoire and is not entirely extinct today. It requires a staking board of special design and consists of three phases: payment for being dealt the best card, vying as to who holds the best combination, and playing cards out as in a ‘stops’ game such as Newmarket or Michigan. A similar tripartite structure applied also to Belle, Flux & Trente-un, in whose second part the players vied as to who held the best flush, and to Post & Pair, in whose second part they vied as to who held the best pair or three of a kind. An early form of Brag was also played as a three-stake game, and a similar pattern underlies Mus - where, however, the first part has been split into two, thus turning it into a four-part game.

We may surmise that dedicated gamblers found the central section of these games - the vying - more interesting than either the first, where a stake was won for being dealt the best upcard (‘belle’), or the third, where it was won for drawing cards totalling nearest to 31 (or, in some games, for playing a variety of Stops). If so, Brelan may be characterized as an extract of B-F-&-31, Brag as an extract of Post & Pair, and Poker as an extract of Poque.

Given that Poker originated in culturally French territory, its likeliest immediate ancestor is Poque, the French version of Pochen. Poque first appears under this name in the late 16th century, but was previously played in France under the name Glic. It remained current until well into the 19th century, undergoing a brief mid-century revival under the spelling ‘Bog’. The French equivalent of ‘Ich poche eins’ is ‘Je poque d’un jeton’ (‘I bet one unit’), and poque itself denotes one of the six staking containers. The final ‘e’ is briefly pronounced as a neutral vowel, which may explain why non-Francophone Americans perceived and perpetuated the word as ‘poker’ rather than ‘poke’. Louis Coffin writes "The French name was poque, pronounced poke, and Southerners corrupted the pronunciation to two syllable to pokuh or Poker". This sounds more plausible than a fancied derivation from ‘poke’ as related to ‘pocket’.

Poque, however, was a tripartite game played by up to six players with a 32-card pack, whereas the earliest form of Poker was a one-part game played with a 20-card pack equally divided among four. If Poker was based primarily on Poque, we must assume that it developed naturally within a community that was already acquainted with a 20-card vying game and decided to use the same stripped pack for a new version of Poque based only on the vying section. A possible candidate for this influence could be its contemporary and equally French game of Bouillotte, itself played by four with a 20-card pack, albeit with only three cards dealt to each and the top card of stock turned up to enable four of a kind. This, however, would have left a five-card vying game in which the only effective combinations were four or three of a kind. To account for the introduction of one and two pairs and the full house we must either assume that they were obvious additions that may already have been drafted into Poque itself, or else look for another game from which they could have been borrowed. Which brings us to ...

The problem of As-nas
Contentious calls have been made on the possible contribution to Poker of a Persian five-card vying game called As-nas through the medium of ‘Persian sailors, or Frenchmen who had been in the French service in Persia’ - whatever that may mean. The problem with this theory is that it is based on no more than a strong resemblance and suffers from a total lack of contemporary evidence, since the earliest descriptions of As-nas do not occur until the 1890s. The first, very brief, is by ‘Aquarius’ in 1890; the second occurs in Stewart Culin’s 1895 catalogue for an exhibition of ‘games and implements for divination’ under the short title Chess and Playing Cards. Culin, in connection with several incomplete sets of Persian playing cards generally referred to as ganjifeh, consulted a certain General A. Houtum Schindler of Tehran and received a reply describing As-nas in terms remarkably similar to that of Poker.

The following table shows how the earliest form of Poker compares with Schindler’s game and the two most relevant contemporaneous French vying games:

BouillottePoqueAs-nasPoker I BragPoker II
players4 (3, 5, 6)4 (3, 5, 6)443-63-6
cards20 (28)32 (36)20205252
hands fours
2 pair
2 pair
2 pair
The resemblance between As-nas and 20-card Poker is very close (though Schindler does not mention four of a kind - probably by oversight. Original descriptions of 20-card Poker unfortunately do not specify how combinations rank). Schindler’s description also leaves open the possibility that raising could continue after equalization: it all depends on the precise meaning of ‘when the stakes of all players are equal and no one raises any more’. (Does ‘and’ specify a second requirement for a showdown, or does it merely amplify the first?)

The question naturally arises as to which way round any borrowing may have taken place. Favouring the priority of As-nas is the fact that As-nas cards, a subset of the Persian ganjifeh pack, are attested as early as 1800 in Persia, though without any account of the game played with them. Against it are -

* the absence of any description of the game earlier than 1890;
* the fact that As is not a Persian word and obviously derives from the French for Ace; and (hence)
* the probability that As-nas derives from a European vying game rather than the other way around.

The role of Brag
Research by Jeffrey Burton has thrown new light on the significance of Brag to the development of Poker. Brag is the English national vying game and remains popular in Britain today, though it has undergone considerable evolutionary development in the past 100 years and is restricted to a social stratum having no significant overlap with that of Poker. First described by Lucas in 1721, Brag is basically from the central section of the tripartite game of Post and Pair, or Belle Flux et Trente-un. For much of the 18th century it was popular with the same sort of society that played Whist, especially with its distaff side, which accounts for the fact that Hoyle himself went so far as to write a Treatise on it published in 1751. Brag - which means ‘vie’ or ‘bluff’ according to context - is a three-card vying game. The version described by Lucas, which has formed the basis of most printed descriptions until the last quarter of the 20th century, is actually of a three-stake model, but it had shed its two outer portions by the time of Hoyle’s effusion. The latter describes a game played by five with a short pack of 22 cards, or by six with one of 26, four of which - the black Jacks and the red Nines - were known as ‘braggers’ and could represent anything, including themselves. The first round of betting was followed by a ‘draw’ to give each player a chance to improve a pair to a pair-royal or a lone card to a pair or pair-royal by discarding and ‘taking in’ fresh replacements from stock. However, given that the peculiar length of pack, leaving only seven or eight cards to draw from (implying a maximum of one each), is unique to this notoriously unreliable and muddled source, we may assume that Brag was mostly played with all 52 cards, and that Hoyle’s reflected some local or temporary aberration.

Burton surmises that Brag reached America in the late colonial period at the hands of English emigrants, British colonial officials, and perhaps Americans returning from transatlantic visits. At first played mainly in the plantation colonies of the South - Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas - by about 1800 it had caught on in New England, as well as in the southern states of the young republic. Its first description, in The New Pocket Hoyle (Philadelphia, 1805), continued to be faithfully reproduced in a succession of American Hoyles for much of the 19th century, though the game itself was well on the way out by 1850, having been replaced by - or, rather, merged into - the form of Poker to which it contributed the draw. Until that time, however, as Burton says, a multitude of contemporary memorabilia testifies that the rules and procedures were more or less the same in the California goldfields at the end of the 1840s as they had been in the gaming salons of Mobile or New Orleans in the 1820s and in the taverns of Washington or New York twenty years before that.

Brag, he continues, "disappeared during a period of no more than five or six years between, roughly, 1848 and 1853. What had happened is that the ‘taking in’ or draw feature of Brag was merged into the new game of full-deck Poker. The five-card Poker hand yielded a far greater range of distinctive combinations than the Brag hand, in which the pair-royal (three of a kind) and pair were still the only ones recognized by American players. Hence, when the draw was transplanted from Brag to Poker, the three-card game lost its following in next to no time. The result of the amalgamation could have been called Five-card Brag; instead, it became known as Draw Poker."

Nobody ever knows how a classic card game really originates because at the time it does so its originators do not know that it is going to become a classic and so keep no record. In any case the process of origination rarely takes place at a single table but mostly among a group of players within a given locality, so gaming ideas and variations pass around without anyone being sure who thought of them first. By the time a game description appears in a book it has by definition settled down into some sort of fixity, and may be more than a generation old - especially in the case of games played by a community that circulates its cultural artefacts orally rather than in writing. The following summary of the genesis of Poker is therefore no more than a surmise, albeit at least consistent with the evidence outlined above.

Original Poker, a game in which four players received five cards each from a 20-card pack and vied as to who held the best hand, evidently originated in the New Orleans some time between 1810 and 1825. Its gaming milieu was that of French-speaking maritime gambling saloons, especially those of the Mississippi steamers. Its name suggests that its first players felt they were continuing the tradition of playing a game called Poque in which one said Je poque to open the betting. At this time and place, and before it underwent development, Poque probably denoted a five-card vying game consisting of the central section of a formerly tripartite game of the same name. Its ultimate ancestor must have been the substantially similar German game of Poch (Pochen, Pochspiel), which can be traced back to the 15th century.

Poque itself was played with 32 or 36 cards by up to six players. Its transition to one played with 20 cards by four players may have been influenced by the known contemporary French vying game of Bouillotte, or by the speculated Persian game of As-nas, or both. As-nas would be an ideal candidate were it not for the fact that there is no evidence for any knowledge of it at that time or place.

In the 1830s, having spread northwards along the Mississippi and westwards with the expanding frontier, Poker had adopted its anglicized name and become increasingly played with 52 cards to accommodate a greater number of players, thus also giving rise to the flush as an additionally recognized combination. Under the influence of Brag, its three-card British equivalent, it adopted the draw. This led to its further and more rapid expansion of popularity, as Poker-players preferred the additional round of betting after the possibility of improving a promising hand, while Brag-players preferred the wider range of combinations offered by a five-card hand. Draw Poker, first recorded about 1850, marks the coming of age of what Allen Dowling rightly calls ‘The great American pastime’ - a game which, as Burton observes, could equally well have been dubbed ‘five-card Brag’