Although little is known about the invention of Texas hold 'em, the Texas Legislature officially recognizes Robstown, Texas, as the game's birthplace, dating it to the early 1900s.

After the game spread throughout Texas, hold 'em was introduced to Las Vegas in 1967 by a group of Texan gamblers and card players, including Crandell Addington, Doyle Brunson, and Amarillo Slim. This is when "ace high" was changed from the original form in which aces were low. Addington said the first time he saw the game was in 1959. "They didn't call it Texas hold 'em at the time, they just called it hold 'em.… I thought then that if it were to catch on, it would become the game. Draw poker, you bet only twice; hold 'em, you bet four times. That meant you could play strategically. This was more of a thinking man's game."

Doyle Brunson's book ‘Super System’ was one of the first books to discuss Texas hold 'em, and is today cited as one of the most important books on this game

For several years the Golden Nugget Casino in Downtown Las Vegas was the only casino in Las Vegas to offer the game. At that time, the Golden Nugget's poker room was "truly a 'sawdust joint,' with…oiled sawdust covering the floors."Because of its location and decor, this poker room did not receive many rich drop-in clients, and as a result, professional players sought a more prominent location. In 1969, the Las Vegas professionals were invited to play Texas hold 'em at the entrance of the now-demolished Dunes Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. This prominent location, and the relative inexperience of poker players with Texas hold 'em, resulted in a very remunerative game for professional players.

After a failed attempt to establish a "Gambling Fraternity Convention", Tom Moore added the first ever poker tournament to the Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention held in 1969. This tournament featured several games including Texas hold 'em. In 1970, Benny and Jack Binion acquired the rights to this convention, renamed it the World Series of Poker, and moved it to their casino, Binion's Horseshoe, in Las Vegas. After its first year, a journalist, Tom Thackrey, suggested that the main event of this tournament should be no-limit Texas hold 'em. The Binions agreed and ever since no-limit Texas hold 'em has been played as the main event. Interest in the main event continued to grow steadily over the next two decades. After receiving only eight entrants in 1972, the numbers grew to over one hundred entrants in 1982, and over two hundred in 1991.

During this time, B & G Publishing Co., Inc. published Doyle Brunson's revolutionary poker strategy guide, Super/System. Despite being self-published and priced at $100 in 1978, the book revolutionized the way poker was played. It was one of the first books to discuss Texas hold 'em, and is today cited as one of the most important books on this game. In 1983, Al Alvarez published The Biggest Game in Town, a book detailing a 1981 World Series of Poker event. The first book of its kind, it described the world of professional poker players and the World Series of Poker. Alvarez's book is credited with beginning the genre of poker literature and with bringing Texas hold 'em (and poker generally) to a wider audience. Alvarez's book was not the first book about poker. The Education of a Poker Player by Herbert O. Yardley, a former U.S. government code breaker, was published in 1957.

Texas hold 'em's popularity surged in the 2000s due to exposure on television, the Internet and popular literature.

Interest in hold 'em outside of Nevada began to grow in the 1980s as well. Although California had legal card rooms offering draw poker, Texas hold 'em was deemed to be prohibited under a statute that made illegal the (now unheard of) game "stud-horse". But in 1988 Texas hold 'em was declared legally distinct from stud-horse in Tibbetts v. Van De Kamp.  Almost immediately card rooms across the state offered Texas hold 'em. (It is often presumed that this decision ruled that hold 'em was a game of skill, but the distinction between skill and chance has never entered into California jurisprudence regarding poker.) After a trip to Las Vegas, bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam Flood introduced the game to European card players in the early 1980s.

Texas hold 'em is now one of the most popular forms of poker. Texas hold 'em's popularity surged in the 2000s due to exposure on television, the Internet and popular literature. During this time hold 'em replaced seven-card stud as the most common game in U.S. casinos.[19] The no-limit betting form is used in the widely televised main event of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the World Poker Tour (WPT).

Hold 'em's simplicity and popularity have inspired a wide variety of strategy books which provide recommendations for proper play. Most of these books recommend a strategy that involves playing relatively few hands but betting and raising often with the hands one plays. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, Texas hold 'em experienced a surge in popularity worldwide. Many observers attribute this growth to the synergy of five factors: the invention of online poker, the game's appearance in film and on television, invention and usage of the "hole card cam" (which allowed viewers to see hole cards played in the hand as a means of determining strategy and decision-making during gameplay), the appearance of television commercials advertising online cardrooms, and the 2003 World Series of Poker championship victory by online qualifier Chris Moneymaker.

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