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If you are among the “old timers” of Las Vegas and you had the fortune to visit the capital of gambling back in the 70s, then you probably remember one of the main establishments of the Strip, the Circus Circus. This monumental tent playing to role of both hotel and casino that was opened to the public in ’68 was the favorite venue for family gamblers, because it also offered children’s entertainment in the arcade section as well as live circus performances. To put it simply, because parents didn’t want to feel too guilty or have their gambling activities interrupted by over-bored children, the solution presented by the pink striped Circus Circus was excellent. But you may be wondering what this establishment has to do with the history of poker.
The poker tables of the Circus Circus
Back in the 70s, poker variants like the Texas Hold’em or Omaha were practically unknown to the general public. As you walked into the Circus Circus via the entrance facing the Strip, you could immediately lay your eyes on the overcrowded craps, blackjack and roulette tables that were positioned directly ahead.
However, if you were to turn your head to left and right, then you would have noticed that the venue was also affixed with Texas Hold’em and Omaha designated tables, except those were empty almost all the time. In other words, the Poker specialties that were immensely popular in the old west – at least if you believe the westerns – presented no interest to the tourist clientele of the Circus Circus or any other gambling venue at the time, for that matter. The stereotype that poker is exclusively a card game for the older gents or professional players for whom it constituted the primary source of income was perpetuated until 2002.
What happened in 2002?
Essentially, what really brought the game of Poker – and particularly the Texas Hold’em variant – out of obscurity was the broadcasting of the WPT (World Poker Tour) on the popular Travel Channel. Vince Van Paton and Mike Sexton became famous over night and the game of Texas Hold’em along with them, particularly because the TV show also included instructional videos that were teaching viewers the rules and basics of the Poker variant. In addition, the final head-to-head showdown involving large sums of cash “thrown” on the table helped a lot.
The second factor that contributed to the comeback of the card game was the success of Chris Moneymaker, a gambler who managed to win the WPS series with a minimal entry fee of 39 bucks that he paid to gain entry to the PokerStars satellite. This feat made the game seem accessible to players with lower budgets as well.