The Video Games That Really Propelled Poker into the Mainstream

It has been a full six years since Telltale Games raised the stakes with Poker Night 2, the follow-up to 2010’s Poker Night at the Inventory. It was a decent game. Yet it was nothing special, which likely explains the lack of another follow-up. But that’s okay. Poker will do just fine because these five video games have already helped propel it into the mainstream:


Vegas Stakes

Vegas Stakes was released in 1995 by Nintendo for the SNES and Game Boy. It was not entirely a poker game, as players could also play blackjack, craps, roulette, and slots. But poker was a popular choice. It was easy to play, and a surprisingly fun game — one retro gaming fans can enjoy even to this day.

IRC Poker

IRC Poker in the 1990s was played over Internet Relay Chat and was the precursor to online poker. A computer program dealt and managed the games, which ranged from Texas Hold’em to Hi-Lo. Despite its simplicity IRC Poker became a cult poker game, even though players only used imaginary money.


World Series of Poker

In 2005, Activision released World Series of Poker for GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, PlayStation Portable, and PC. It was based on the World Series of Poker (WSOP), which had been around since the 1970s. So it was just a matter of time before a video game version was made. World Series of Poker gave console players a taste of what would be like to be a professional poker player. The game spawned two sequels: World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions and World Series of Poker 2008: Battle for the Bracelets.

High Stakes on the Vegas Strip: Poker Edition

High Stakes on the Vegas Strip: Poker Edition was released in 2007. It was met with positive reviews, largely due to its innovative gameplay options. Among other things players were able to make and customize their own avatars and play multiplayer games online. It also featured five poker variants: Billabong, Shanghai, Tahoe, Super Hold’em, and Texas Hold’em.

Full House Poker

In 2011, Microsoft’s Full House Poker pushed the game even further into the mainstream. It is considered the spiritual successor of 1 vs. 100, but was purely focused on Texas Hold’em. It loosely followed the made-for-TV format popularized by the WSOP, and offered multiplayer tournaments.

Poker is as popular as ever, thanks largely to multimedia platforms pushing it into the mainstream. The video games on this list have helped in that regard, along with the release of poker-centric films like Rounders and the rise of poker personalities such as Chris Ferguson and Chris Moneymaker. An account of the poker boom in the 2000s published by Medium also notes how poker’s soaring popularity inevitably “swelled the ranks of online poker sites,” as “every schnook with internet access” longed to play cards. Fast-forward to 2019, and online poker sites, along with physical poker rooms, continue to be very popular.

A good number of players, in fact, are even learning the game online, just like the aforementioned Ferguson. Winner of six WSOP bracelets Ferguson admits to having learned poker by playing IRC Poker back in the day. Today there are budding Chris Fergusons all around the world — young poker players mastering the game through online resources. Even those who don’t know anything about poker can easily pick it up. The beginners guide to the game on partypoker covers everything from starting hands to understanding the correct terminology. This inside knowledge is why online resources have become so valuable to the ever-expanding number of poker players. But that would not have happened if this card game didn’t enter into the mainstream, helped by the videogames on this list.

Now given the popularity of poker, it wouldn’t be a surprise if more poker video games get released in the near future. This time, though, they won’t be pushing poker into the mainstream anymore. Instead they will be riding on the popularity of this exciting card game.