Who invented stud and hold ’em? Truth revealed

Note: A version of this entry first appeared in Card Player magazine.

Do some people think I’m an egotist? Maybe. I’m not sure that I am, though.

I never actually claimed that I single-handedly invented hold ’em and seven-card stud in the late ’60s. If you thumb through old magazines and see any quotes in which I specifically stated that I invented these games without any feedback from anyone else, I’d be surprised. You see, if someone says, “I developed the rules and procedures for hold ’em and stud,” that’s not the same as saying, “I am solely responsible for the invention of hold ’em and stud and nobody else contributed anything.”

A person can be extremely brilliant and still give credit to others for perhaps less-important thoughts that in some small way added to the development of poker games he invented. Yes, there were other forms of poker before 1967, and I do not claim to have invented those other forms.

But hold ’em and seven-card stud are well-known games that have been popular during the last 33 years. Isn’t that noteworthy in itself? Am I not entitled to remind the world about my accomplishments in poker and other things?

Poker History

The history of poker is not deeply understood by the majority of Americans. Most people think that seven-card stud predated hold ’em. But I can assure you, without even speaking as the inventor, that I wasn’t working on developing seven-card stud before 1967. And by that year, hold ’em was already being played. Sometimes people assume that things happened in a certain order when, in fact, they didn’t. Maybe history is simply mystifying to some folks.

Those readers who always assumed that hold ’em and seven-card stud were played earlier than 1967 – or who may doubt any claim about my being responsible for their invention – might want to study up on American history. There are probably many facts still to be uncovered.

Some of the most notable world champions have never publicly questioned statements that I invented these games. These champions – all of whom tend to know what they’re talking about in the poker world – include none other than world champions Puggy Pearson, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim. And there are at least 30 others. Even the previous publisher of Card Player, Linda Johnson, has never expressed doubt in public statements or in writing (or even privately to me) about my involvement in the development of either hold ’em or seven-card stud.

Hand After Hand

For those who are interested, the mid-’60s were creative years for me. I remember sitting alone at a kitchen table dealing out hand after hand of poker – and not just stud and hold ’em. I dealt hands of games that I didn’t invent, just out of curiosity.

But the bottom line is that even though the majority of players today don’t give me credit for inventing those two monumental poker games, I am not offended. I’m proud of many things that I’ve done, and I’ll continue to do things. You’ll see.

Pause and Reflect

OK, let’s talk about what you just read. Was it all just made up as a device to get the readers’ attention? No. It wasn’t made up at all. Everything I said is true. I want to teach you something about how to think critically at poker and in life. What you just read is exactly the kind of lesson I give to advanced students.

You’re right – I didn’t invent seven-card stud or hold ’em, but I didn’t claim to. Read every sentence again carefully. Can you find any statement that you really want to challenge? Think about it. How come the actual words, now that you examine them conscientiously, are all obviously true, but the impression you got while reading was much different?

Even very intelligent people clearly can be manipulated when they’re calmly reading a column and thinking about it. Since that’s true, isn’t it reasonable that people at the poker table who are making hectic decisions under pressure in mere seconds also can be manipulated?

That’s why I so often take time off from my computer simulations and statistical poker research to delve into the psychological aspects of the game. Your opponents can be manipulated – and there is much profit in successfully manipulating them. Never forget that.

Easy Manipulation

Your poker opponents are much easier to manipulate when they don’t think it’s likely to be happening, and they don’t think it’s likely to be happening most of the time. Sure, they understand that some players might try to manipulate them sometimes, but generally, they’re not on alert at the very moment they’re being manipulated. This is why, from time to time, you and I will discuss poker manipulation.

When you began reading today’s column, you had several reactions. (Yes, I can read your mind.) One was that it was strange. Another was that I was boasting big time, but you weren’t quite sure why, or whether I was serious or was lying. And, finally, if you’re a longtime player, you thought that I was making assertions that you were skeptical about or knew to be false. You knew that seven-card stud was played long before the ’60s. You also knew that stud came before hold ’em.

But what you didn’t know was that everything I was saying is absolutely true. That’s because you assumed that I was saying things that I wasn’t – and that’s manipulation. And once you think about our little experiment, you’ll be much more receptive to the idea that there are important secrets you can use to manipulate poker opponents when they’re under more pressure and are even more susceptible to being misled than you were.

Someday, we’ll get specific. Meanwhile, if anyone belittles the psychological side of poker, just ask them who invented hold ’em — and show them this. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. lol Someone told me you did and I been telling everyone you did. Sorry bout that. But you contributed oodles of good stuff to poker. We was talking about you the other day on one poker forum I hangout. (Grindabit poker forum) Theres a couple of pros there also and they had nothing but good things to say about you. Keep up the good articles. I’ve learned a lot.

    1. Not. However, if you trace history back to playing cards themselves, in a scholarly attempt to measure my contributions, you’ll potentially discover much that might surprise you. And, no, I don’t claim that the invention of a deck of cards was entirely my own — just so nobody gets the wrong idea.

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