Poker Club

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The Poker Club, founded in 1762, was one of several clubs in Edinburgh that were the focus of intellectual exchange during the Scottish Enlightenment. In its early days, the Club met in "Thomas Nicholson's tavern, near the Mercat cross, where over a shilling dinner and modest quantities of sherry and claret, lively discussions ensued on political topics and members were freely 'roasted' for their views."[1].

The Poker Club arose by a renaming of the "Militia Club" which had been formed to promote the cause of establishing a militia in Scotland. This aim was controversial, and, at Adam Smith's suggestion, the name was changed: the Poker was to "stir up" the militia question.[2]

The club was said to consist of all the literati of Edinburgh and its surroundings. The establishment was frugal and moderate, "as that for all clubs for a public purpose should be. The dinner was set soon after two o'clock, at one shilling a head, the wine to be confined to sherry and claret, and the reckoning to be called at six o’clock".

The first fifteen members were chosen by nomination, the rest by ballot, "two black balls to exclude the candidate". A new "preses" (chairman) was chosen at each meeting. There were three office bearers: the Secretary, Sir William Pulteney, the Assassin, Andrew Crosbie and the Assassin’s Assessor, David Hume "without whose assent nothing could be done, so that between "plus" and "minus" there was likely to be no bloodshed".

The minute book of 1776 names forty three members, including Joseph Black, "Jupiter" Carlyle, Sir John Clerk of Eldin, Henry Dundas, Adam Ferguson, Lord Elibank, Sir John Dalrymple, John Home, David Hume and his brother John, William Robertson, Hugh Blair, the Duke of Buccleugh, Lord Elibank, the Earl of Glasgow and Adam Smith. [3]

The club continued to meet until the early 1780's.


  1. Ross, Ian Simpson. (1995). The Life of Adam Smith. Oxford Scholarship Online ISBN 978-0-19-828821-3
  2. The Poker Club James
  3. Tytler, Alexander Fraser (1807) Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Honourable Henry Home of Kames Appendix VIII (Tytler reproduces an original list from the manuscript of the Memoirs of the Reverend Dr. Alexander Carlyle)