Huge tournaments, steady, secure action, and a chance to learn for free have established online poker as a worldwide pastime.
Online poker has become a global phenomenon over the recent decade and has exploded into mainstream success over the last five years. Hundreds to thousands of new players joining daily. Massive poker juggernauts like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate-Bet, and Absolute Poker have dominated the online landscape since the turn of the millennium. Millions of us are eyewitnesses to what online poker is today, but how many wonder how and when it all began?
IRC and Virtual Poker
Video poker first became a reality in the early 90s when Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was used to play poker. Former WSOP World Champions Chris Ferguson and Greg Raymer were among the educated and dedicated. In the beginning, games were slow and technologically primitive compared to today’s streamlined poker software. Commands had to be entered directly into the program, and then would receive a command back from the line in charge of the program.
As graphics vastly improved, so did the quantity and quality of the players. This was aided by the fact that IRC poker used virtual money so novice players could gain experience and learn without having to risk money. Perhaps this was the early primer to today’s free money training sites, but before these countless .NET sites came to be, there came Planet Poker.
The Birth of Online Poker
In 1998, real money poker on the Internet came to fruition with the creation of Planet Poker. Poker pro, writer, and alleged madman, “Crazy” Mike Caro founded the site and became a spokesman for the game. Beta testing began in late 1997 with a growing number of soon-to-be loyal customers testing the new software. Then on January 1, 1998, the first ever hand of real money, online poker, a $3-$6 Texas Hold’em game.
In the span of a couple of months, Planet Poker’s fan base spread, games ran throughout the night and over the course of a couple of days. For the rest of ’98, Planet Poker enjoyed the success of being the world’s sole online poker provider until Paradise Poker spawned from the Costa Rica in 1999. Paradise Poker was the first site to offer Omaha and Seven Card Stud along with the traditional Texas Hold’em. Paradise Poker quickly rose to become the world’s premier online poker power, and dominated the market until late 2000 when Ultimate-Bet was founded.
Exploding Popularity of Online Poker
Even though online poker was growing in popularity daily, it didn’t really explode until the introduction of large, multi-table tournaments. In 2001, sites like Party Poker and PokerStars launched and capitalized on the tournament trend. By the end of the year, four major poker conglomerates dominated what was once unexplored or unimagined frontier three years earlier.
Online poker had expanded from a handful of players sitting at one rotating Limit Hold’em table to millions of players worldwide participating in grandiose tournaments with massive fields and guaranteed prize pools. It became evident to everyone involved and anyone wishing to be that this was the successful model for an online poker company.
Existing sites introduced tournaments and new sites continued to launch, Ladbrokes in Europe in 2002 and the newest big player in the game, Full Tilt Poker in 2004. Full Tilt televised ads with several top poker pros, also founders of the site, as spokesmen paving the way for today’s poker advertising.
Online Poker Today
PokerStars accurately boast themselves as “The World’s Largest Poker Site,” while Full Tilt, Ultimate-Bet, and Party Poker remain the other top players in the market. In the span of eleven years, online poker has gone from an underground revolution in its infancy to a revolutionary phenomenon in its prime.