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The True History of Online Poker

The history of poker is not as straight forward as you might think. In fact there are so many differing accounts, it can be difficult to know what's fact from fiction. However, when it comes to online poker, the facts are a little clearer, possibly as it took a long time for the game to take stage on the World Wide Web.


There are many varieties of online poker games which enthusiasts and amateurs enjoy playing, including the most popular of the lot, Texas Hold'em. One of the most popular ways to play poker online is through a variety of mainstream online poker sites. Online poker became popular in the middle of the 1990's and it wasn't long before it became very popular. Real money online games were first launched in 1998 by Planet Poker. In fact the first hand ever dealt online was dealt on 1st January 1998. Needless to say, Planet Poker failed to tap into the massive market in the waiting. In the vary same year, there was an attempt by US Senator Jon Kyl who tried to get the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (IGPA) passed by congress, which would have made it illegal for online websites to offer gambling services to any US citizen. Fortunately for many, this Act did not gain the support it needed.


A year later in 1999, a group of Canadians launched Paradise Poker which stepped in to become the king pin of the online game. Their rise to top dog was helped by their innovative approach and the fact that players could play Texas Hold'em, Omaha and Seven Card Stud - this was a big deal and boosted numbers. It also helped Paradise Poker to tap into a US gambling market estimated to be worth some $950 Million annually.

During the initial phases, dial-up internet and geographic power outages created problems for people who tried to play continually however people took this as the norm and managed to live with these disruptions. Software improvements took place from third party companies which helped to ease the technical glitches. 1999 was also the year that the hole camera came into existence which further fueled the interest in poker. This transformation into a spectator sport as instrumental in the success that the game has seen..


The next 10 years saw hundreds more sites launching, the most noticeable sites being and, both which launched in 2001. The fact that Paradise Poker still didn't offer multi-table tournaments by 2002 didn't help their chances of staying on top. Into 2003 and Chris Moneymaker wins a seat at the 2003 WSOP on PokerStars (from a $40 satellite) and takes down the WSOP main event. This had a massive boost in numbers registering with PokerStars trying to emulate what Moneymaker had achieved.

From there, there have been ups and downs. Here are a highlight of the key events from 2004 to present:


2004 - The Search Engines are seen to be in breach of the 1961 Wire Wager Act and make a move to remove all gambling advertising.


2005 - An estimated 60 Million US players were now playing online poker and Party Gaming is listed on the London Stock Exchange, worth just under $5 Billion!


2006 - President Bush pushes through the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) as an attachment to the Safe Ports Act which prevents financial institutions from making transactions to gambling institutions for US citizens. 2006 also saw Party Poker close it's doors to US players, along with a host of other big names. In October, a number of high profile poker sites announce they are no longer accepting US players. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker continue to serve US players - something that they would later regret.


2007 - There is more fall out from the UIGEA as co-founders Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre being charged with money laundering. Neteller pulls out of the US market and stops any gambling related transactions from being made to and from US player accounts. This year also saw the Absolute Poker cheating scandal in which an employee had found a loophole which gave him sight of everyone's hole cards!


2008 - Another cheating scandal at Ultimate bet in which a number of players, who were never caught, were able to see hole cards. It is thought these players swindled millions of dollars over the space of a few years.


2011 - A date that is etched into many minds, 15th April 2011, also known as Black Friday. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker are seized for processing illegal transactions. Absolute Poker folds and Full Tilt Poker is bought up by PokerStars. It is estimated that players were, at the time of writing this, still owed some $160 Million.


2012 - November 6th saw the re launch of Full Tilt Poker under the ownership of PokerStars. Caesars Entertainment also receive a licence from the State of Nevada to operate an online poker site within the state of Nevada. New Jersey were also to follow suit. Largely seen by enthusiasts as a move in the right direction.


2014 - Governors in Delaware and Nevada strike a deal to allow Nevada players to play real money online poker against players in Delaware. The agreement is only for online poker play.


2015 - The first ($1,000) online WSOP event is held and won by Anthony Spinella.


2016 - on 17th May PokerStars completes a migration of Full Tilt Poker onto PokerStars. The new Full Tilt client is now basically a re brand of the PokerStars client. All the old FTP games are no more and instead, the site is a re skin of PokerStars.


2018 - the impact of COVID-19 has a massive boost in the number of players playing online poker. It is thought that this is driven in large part by the players who prefer the live arena turning to the only lock down option.


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