There is no denying that Texas Hold’em is the world’s most popular poker game. But that hasn’t always been the case, as Texas Hold’em has only been the top poker game for the last 30 or so years, and it wasn’t all that long ago that Texas Hold’em was an afterthought when it came to casino poker.
The question now is:
Why is Texas Hold’em the most popular poker game? As is the case with most things when it comes to poker, there isn’t a black and white answer to this question about Texas Hold’em’s popularity.
To answer this question, we will go back to the start and explain the rise of Texas Hold’em, then look at why the game continues to dominate the poker landscape to this day. With that, let’s jump into it by taking a look at the modest beginning of the world’s most popular poker game, Texas Hold’em.
Why Is Texas Hold’em The Most Popular?
There isn’t a well documented history when it comes to the birth of Texas Hold’em, but the game started popping up in the late 1950s in smokey back rooms across Texas.
The game eventually made its way to Las Vegas by the mid-1960s but didn’t gain wide mainstream popularity for decades. Texas Hold’em was slow to spread, as many of the state’s gaming commissions did not have rules in place for this type of poker, known in the industry as a flop game, due to the community cards that players share each hand. Prior to Hold’em, nearly all casino poker games were either stud or draw-based games. These regulations made the spread of the game slower than it should have been, but once the regulators started getting on board with this new type of game, we started to see Texas Hold’em being played all over the country.
If I had to point to a single date in time where Texas Hold’em finally got its turn in the limelight, I would point to 1987, when California legalized all flop games, including Texas Hold’em.
California Action Fuels The Early Hold’em Boom
Texas Hold’em was nowhere near the most popular poker game when California decided to legalize it in the late ‘80s. 7 Card Stud and Kansas City Lowball Draw were the top games at the time, but once the California players got a hold of Texas Hold’em, it instantly became the game of choice for casual and professional players alike.
California Is King:
A lot of people look at Las Vegas as the poker capital of the world, but when it comes to the sheer number of tables in California, and all of the money that gets put into action daily in the Golden State, poker in California dwarfs anything that Las Vegas has to offer.
A quick glance at the world’s largest poker rooms shows me that the top 10 is littered with California rooms, including casinos like the Commerce, Hawaiian Gardens, Hustler, and the Bicycle card room. Whatever game is the most popular in California, tends to quickly become the most popular elsewhere, as the west coast leads the poker trends for the rest of the country and the world.
Poker Boom 2.0
The legalization of Texas Hold’em in California turned the game from a fringe game played only at high limits, into a game that was played by all players, at every limit imaginable.
Texas Hold’em was quickly the game to play at casinos all over the west coast, but the game didn’t go mainstream until a perfect storm of events took place just after the turn of the century. When Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million by taking down the World Series of Poker main event in 2003, it set off a series of events that changed poker forever.
Moneymaker was an everyman with a special last name, and he showed the world that poker was for everyone, not just seasoned pros.
Online Poker Throws Gas On The Poker Fire:
When it was later announced that Moneymaker had won his seat by playing an $80 dollar satellite online, the online version of poker quickly got the boost that it needed to hit the masses. Seemingly overnight, everyone, and I mean everyone, was caught up in the online poker craze!
Both online poker and the World Series of Poker turned into big business and Texas Hold’em was now being played everywhere. Prior to this 2nd poker boom, dubbed the Moneymaker Effect by those in the industry, most Texas Hold’em games were limit cash games played in casinos or at kitchen tables.
But shortly after, the vast majority of the games being spread were no limit games played online. Online poker made it easy for players that may have been intimidated to play in a casino a chance to try the game out from the comfort of their own home, at stakes they were able to afford. And the gold bracelet given to the winner of a World Series of Poker event, gave poker players their version of the Master’s Green Jacket, as a trophy coveted by all.
In the years since the Moneymaker Effect took hold, poker has mostly managed to hold its own. While the game hasn’t continued to grow at an insane pace, the game is enjoying a resurgence as of late in the post-COVID world, as the pent-up demand for action has produced record-breaking fields all over the world.
Why Do Casinos Love Texas Hold’em?
We just spent some time talking about how Texas Hold’em spread across the country, going from backrooms and kitchen tables to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and million-dollar payouts.
What we haven’t touched on yet, is why the game got its chance in the first place. I don’t know if you know this or not, but casinos are built to make money, and poker has never been a big moneymaker (see what I did there?) for the house.
This was especially true in the old days of casino poker, as games like 7 Card Stud and Draw Poker were slow games, where the casino made very little off of the game. Back then, a casino offered poker as a way to attract high-limit gamblers to the property, hoping they would dump money in the pit or on a slot machine, not as a way to actually make money from the game.
Casual low-limit poker games were even harder to find, as those games were break-even at best for the casino, and depending on the game, they could actually lose money spreading poker. Casinos aren’t in the business of losing money, so they mostly focused on higher-limit games, which kept new players from giving the game a shot.
Anybody that understands supply and demand knows that eventually, the action is going to dry up if no new players are sitting down at the tables. That trend was playing out in casinos across the country, and right before the poker boom of the early 2000s, finding a poker game in a casino was getting increasingly hard to find.
Texas Hold’em To The Rescue
Texas Hold’em changed that trajectory, as the game solved for many of the issues that the casinos were having when it came to spreading other poker games. It was faster, easier to learn for new players, and took up less space on the casino floor with additional players per table.
All of the sudden:
Poker went from a game that no casino wanted to spread, to a game where they could actually make some money. Texas Hold’em is never going to be a huge money maker for a casino, but it justified its place on the casino floor and that was all that was needed for the casinos to be more open to re-opening all of the shuttered poker rooms.
Just as quickly as all of the poker rooms had disappeared on the Las Vegas Strip, they were popping back up, and before long, nearly every casino in the world was spreading poker again. Once the casinos had an ample demand to service and the economics worked themselves out, the path to Texas Hold’em taking over the poker world was paved with gold!
Texas Hold’em Is Fast
Unlike stud or draw poker, Texas Hold’em is a fast game. The casino makes their money from poker by taking a small percentage of each pot.
The faster the game is, the more the casino can make from the table.
Revenue per square foot is the way that all casino games are measured and Texas Hold’em can easily make twice as much per hour as other slower poker variants.
More Players At The Table
On top of the game getting many more hands out per hour, Texas Hold’em allows more players to sit at each table as well.
Most draw poker games are played 5 or 6-handed, whereas most 7 Card Stud tables are played 7 or 8-handed. Texas Hold’em is nearly always played 9 or 10-handed.
This allows the casinos to reduce the number of tables, dealers, and supervisors needed to run the games, which saves them a lot of money and makes the game much more profitable.
Texas Hold’em Is Easy To Learn
Unlike the other poker variants that can be tougher to learn and require a lot more paying attention, Texas Hold ‘em can be explained to new players very quickly. Being able to attract new players to the game is a key for all poker variants, and with Texas Hold’em being one of those games that takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master, new players flocked to the game in droves.
There are lots of reasons that Texas Hold’em is the world’s most popular poker game! The game enjoyed a couple of early booms in popularity that helped get the masses to the felt and the game was financially a much better bet for the casinos, making it a more viable option when compared to previous versions of casino poker.
Those factors led to the game’s massive popularity, but if you ask me, the reason that Texas Hold’em is the most popular poker game in the world can be summed up in just two words. It’s awesome! If you have been living under a rock for the last 20 years and haven’t given Texas Hold’em a try, there is no better time than now to get in on the action! Online poker continues to boom across the globe, and you aren’t going to want to miss out on any of the excitement!
If you are looking for a place to play online poker, make sure that you swing by TheSportsGeek’s online poker sites page, where we bring you exclusive offers from all of the top online card rooms. Thanks for reading and good luck playing the world’s most popular poker game, Texas Hold’em!
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