France - the True Birthplace of Poker?
Nobody truly knows where poker was invented. Some believe that it originated in China, in a game played with tiles (a bit like dominoes). Some believe it began life as a German game called 'Pochspiel', whilst others think it's a simplified version of an Indian game called 'Ganjifa' which was played with a 96-card deck!
Despite all these theories, the most commonly-held belief is that poker was born in France. A game known as 'Pogue' has been played in France as long ago as the 1400s, using a 52-card deck split into four suits. Pogue was a game that involved both betting and bluffing.
As French settlers moved to the New World in the 1500s and 1600s and helped to settle Canada, they took Pogue with them. A game developed where only the TJQKA of each suit were used, and players would bet on whomever had the best hand. There were no flushes or straights, only pairs, two pair, sets, four-of-a-kind and full houses. A group of French-Canadians later settled New Orleans, and from there the revised game called 'poker' began to spread up the Mississippi river. The rest is, as they say, poker history.
Back to the modern day, playing poker online in France is quite restricted, as the country has quite stringent gambling laws, and only allows play on sites that are officially licensed. Here is a list of the sites where currently, you can legally play poker if you are based in France:
Despite restrictions, France has had its fair share of successful poker players, many of whom have had success in international tournaments. The most successful French player - and by some degree - is Bertrand Grospellier, whose poker career-earnings are close to $10million, almost double that of the next most succesful French-born poker player. Grospellier was born in Melun, in France in 1981 and is now a member of Team PokerStars. He won the European Poker Tour's PokerStars Caribbean Poker Adventure in January 2008, netting a welcome $2million in the process. He has also won a bracelet at the World Series Of Poker, finishing in the money on twenty occasions and reaching the final table in five separate events.
Other top French poker players include Fabrice Soulier, Antoine Saout, Roger Hairabedian and Ludovic Lacay.
Trying to play online poker if you are based in France can be a frustrating process - even though poker in France is much-loved and there is always a Paris-based leg of the European Poker Tour - thanks to changes made in 2010 to France's gambling laws. It is still possible though, as there are just over a dozen online gambling operators in France who are licensed to offer online poker. Just use my guide above to see which sites you - as a France-based online poker player - can legally enjoy your poker at.