Artificial Intelligence (or AI, as it’s more commonly known) has changed gaming significantly over the past 50 years, with engines becoming more and more powerful and advanced.
One, old-school game that has reaped the benefit of technological advances to drag itself from saloons and back rooms to the palm of billions of people around the plant, is poker. No longer is the game the reserve of ne’er do wells and gamblers sat shoulder to shoulder around card tables in bars or casinos, but it is played by people from all walks of life, of all ages and, more commonly than ever, online.
But how did poker evolve from a very analogue, local game to a digital, global one? Here we’ll take a look at how poker has developed as a digital game, from the 1970s onwards.
Draw 80 Poker, Arcade (1978)
Nowadays, players can “sit down” to a digital table with other players from anywhere and everywhere in the world, so it’s hard to believe that back in the late 1970s electronic poker was an altogether more solitary experience!
With poker sites now so abundant, it’s not uncommon for sites to offer incentives to attract paying customers. However, back in the 1980s, aside from playing a table game with friends at home or travelling to a land-based casino, easy access to poker was much harder to come by and an arcade game came to the rescue: Draw 80 Poker.
Created by IGT (International Game Technology – still a leading company in the slot machine world today) in 1978, Draw 80 remains the best-known variant of the company’s arcade gambling machines. Unlike its predecessors (such as one-arm bandits), Offering players the ability to hold or change cards, Draw 80 was one of the first slot machines that gave players some control over the game’s outcome instead of being based solely on chance.
Hollywood Poker, Amiga (1987)
Continuing into the 1980s, personal computers began to be more and more commonplace in the home of those who could afford such luxuries.
One of the early options was the Amiga, made by Commodore, which were available from 1985 and paled in technological comparison to today’s home computers – boasting just 256Kb of RAM.
Although the hardware was limited by today’s standards, it was cutting edge at the time and developers released multiple games on the platform. In 1987 Hollywood Poker was released by Diamond Software and this offered computerized, solo strip poker for adults in their own home.
Taking just a fortnight to make, the original C64 version was coded in days by developer Holger Gehrmann while his colleague, Dieter Eckhardt employed a photographer to snap four models. This rapid turnaround demonstrated just how quickly poker games could be made.
Vegas Stakes, SNES (1993)
Things became altogether more advanced, come the 1990s: Instead of focussing solely on poker, players of Vegas Stakes had $1,000 dollars with which to gamble on various casino-style games, including poker, roulette, blackjack, craps and virtual slot machines. The goal was to convert that original stake into $10m by playing at various casino locations within the game.
Many of the games did support multiplayer modes, but poker remained steadfastly solitary on the basis that there was no way of hiding two players’ cards from one another on a single screen.
Hard Rock Casino, PS2 (2006)
Still only offering a one-player experience (due to the one screen issue, described above), Hard Rock Casino did allow players to feel as though they were actually walking around a casino and, like Vegas Stakes, players had the option to play various casino games.
Hard Rock Casino offered players poker in the form of Texas Hold’Em, the most popular format of the game. Released during the poker boom of 2006, it gave players an opportunity to hone their skills without risking any real capital and then transfer their skills to online games and win real money.