The Laconic Tale of Video Poker History

Compendious history of video poker games, 1891 to present.


History of Video Poker GamesEvery adult from any modern country knows what a video poker machine is. Heck, most of us knew long before we were of legal age to play them. They are one of the most elementary and self-explanatory gambling amusements in the world.

Every video poker game is based on one simple concept – poker. Most of today’s games revolve around 5-card poker games, especially 5-Card Draw. The idea is to develop a hand of high enough rank to instigate a payout from the pay table provided. After more than a century of video poker history, the games have changed an awful lot.

Compendious History of Video Poker

1891 First Poker Machine by Sittman and Pittman CoThe very first poker machine (left) was introduced in 1891 by the Sittman and Pitt Company, based in Brooklyn, New York. This earliest version had five drums, with 10 playing cards on each. A coin could be inserted to play, but if a winning poker hand came up, it was up to the proprietor of the establishment where it was installed to pay the prize.

In 1898, an auto mechanic from San Francisco, Charles Fey – also the inventor of the first slot machine – built the Card Bell. Similar to Sittman and Pitt’s design, this was the first poker machine capable of paying out an automatic cash prize. It would deliver up to 20 coins for a Royal Flush. Those weren’t easy to come by since the machine had just 50 cards, not 52, making it twice as hard to land a royal.

Fey perfected his creation in 1901 with the release of the Skill Draw poker machine. This was the first version to present a ‘Hold‘ feature, making is possible to play 5 Card Draw, rather than accepting the first 5 cards as the final hand.

The draw feature made these games much more popular. Now, instead of playing on blind luck, players could actually participate and use skill. Chances are, anyone who realized the 10 and J♠ were missing, wasn’t nearly so keen on the idea. But few bothered to do the math. 5 drums, 10 cards each – only 50 cards would fit.

First Real Video Poker Games

In 1970, the first genuine video poker game was released by Dale Electronics, known as the Poker-Matic. Many Las Vegas casinos installed them, only to find players showing very little interest. That was a bust.

Later that year, though, Si Redd, an employ at Bally’s Gaming, pitched the idea of a “Video Poker” machine to the company’s big-wigs in Chicago. With no desire to make anything but slot machines, they turned him down.

SIRCOMA makes Video Poker HistoryMr. Redd was smart, though. He requested permission to pitch the idea elsewhere, and they agreed. Worst mistake in the history of casino games, ever!

Redd immediately went to the Fortune Coin Company in Reno where he found their executives much more receptive. Together, they formed SIRCOMA (aka Si Redd’s Coin Machines) and began manufacturing branded “video poker” machines (right). It still took a few years to catch on, but by 1981, video poker games were the bell of the ball at North American casinos.

On a side note, if the name SIRCOMA doesn’t ring a bell, how about International Game Technology, or IGT for short? That’s what Si Redd changed the company name to in the mid 1980s, and it’s now one of the largest global manufacturers of video poker games, slot machines, and every other gambling device you can think of, both online and on land.

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