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The Rich History of Poker – From Cowboy Card Games to the Best Online Casinos and Mobile Poker Apps

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Long gone are the days of cowboys playing some cards in the fields, smoking and enjoying whiskey. Card games remained a favorite pastime for centuries, which were invented in China before AD1000, and made their way into Europe in 1360. With the inception of the 52-card deck, games like Solitaire, Blackjack, Teenpatti and Poker became common, and Poker become champion in terms of popularity. It was started in 1829 in New Orleans by the French Settlers, when four players betted on the most valuable hand. 

Bringing poker to the internet fired up a nearly-empty arena of online gaming with music, and suddenly, everyone wanted to join the fun. Online poker has a humble beginning. The first poker game between humans was the text-based Internet Relay Chat (IRC) poker, which was played in 1994.

The first real-money games

The first real-money games with dedicated software were introduced by Planet Poker in 1998. [3] The first online hands of poker were $3/$6 Limit Hold’em games. Planet Poker set the industry norm in rake for crash games at 5%, and max $3 rake cap.  

Software crashes and issues were common during the first few years, but the player base continued for Planet Poker as it was the only game in the town! Paradise Poker was launched in 1999 with more stable software and great graphics, and quickly overtook Planet Poker. Paradise Poker set up its operations out of Costa Rica, offering Seven Card Stud and Omaha, besides Hold’em. It was later sold to SportingBet Plc. 

Important things happened in online poker history and online casino games in the early 2000’s with the launch of the third major poker room UltimateBet that started to take real money play in 2000. Another milestone of 2000 which is often forgotten is Poker Spot, which offered the first poker room for online tournament play. Started by the poker pro Dutch Boyd, it was the first of online poker rooms to offer tournaments. The reason for Poker Spot being forgotten is that it lasted only for a year or so, due to stopping to pay players.

Party time for the operators and players 

There was healthy competition and choices for players in early 2000, with governments largely leaving things alone. Celebrities saw the opportunity to become ambassadors on online poker sites, setting a storm in the industry. The next year, 2001, saw the launch of PartyPoker and PokerStars with Party Poker having the largest online poker room in 2002. PartyPoker adopted aggressive advertising on the televised World Poker Tour, and offered the first million-dollar guaranteed online poker tournament in 2002. PartyPoker held its leading position in the market until 2006. 

The turning point in the history of online poker 

2003 was the turning point in online poker history when PokerStars started offering satellite tournaments wherein the players could win their way into the World Series of Poker (WSOP) $10,000 Main Event (ME). One of the 37 participating players, Chris Moneymaker, was lucky enough to win the WSOP tournament’s ME for his entry from a $40 buy-in. He walked home with $2.5 million in prize money, and internet poker boomed in a big way. To date, the biggest ever poker win has been made by Antonia Esfandiari, who entered 2012 WSOP Big One for One Drop $1 buy-in, and walked away with a record-breaking $18.3 million. 

Never before had an amateur player won the competition, let alone through an online poker event. The Main Event was aired live on ESPN with millions seeing Moneymaker fight his way to win against several professional poker players. In 2004, another amateur player, Greg Raymer, took the WSOP home after winning the satellite tournament. 

Golden Age of online poker history

2003 to 2006 is considered the Golden Age of online poker history with thousands and thousands of players trying their luck at the tables. New poker rooms opened, and billions of dollars were earned. Pro poker players like Bobby Baldwin, Venessa Selbst, Doyle Brunson and Billy Baxter became rock stars and household names. The period saw a massive flood of new players, and the first poker networks like Microgaming Poker Network, Ongame, and Cryptologic were founded. 

Party is crashed

The first big blow to the online poker industry came in October 2006 with the enactment of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that crashed the party. UIGEA made it illegal for banks, financial institutions, and payment processors, to process payments dealing with online gambling. NETeller stopped the US customers from using its service in 2007. Websites like PartyPoker, PokerStars, and ParadisePoker lost stock value, but continued to operate outside the US, including Ireland and England. Nearly 150 thousand participants paid US$1 in 2009 on PokerStars, setting the world record for the largest online competition. Norway, Poland and Albania are the only nations in Europe that have prohibited live poker. 

Big scandals and Black Friday of online poker history 

2007-2008 saw big scandals in online poker history when the Super User POTRIPPER was able to see the cards of other players on Absolute Poker, making the perfect play one after another. In 2008, screen names with unnaturally high win rates were detected onUltimate Poker, while tens of millions were cheated on the Ultimate Bet. Black Friday events occurred in 2011 when domains of Absolute Poker, PokerStars, and Full Tilt Poker were seized by DOJ (US Department of Justice) before the weekend on Friday, April 15, 2011. 

The first bitcoin poker site opens 

PokerStars became the largest publicly traded company in 2014 with a takeover bid of $4.9 billion. Seals with Clubs (SwC) opened their first Bitcoin poker site in August 2011 with none of the traditional payment processes, providing increased anonymity to the players. Now, we have many cryptocurrency poker sites that accept payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which include CoinPoker, GGPoker, Natural18, Bovada, and more. 

The most secretive and legendary player in online poker history

Isildur1 is the most secretive and legendary player to date who beat Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Patric Antonious, and many other poker stars in 2009. We now know that Isildur1 is Viktor Blom, who was able to create a sense of excitement in the world of poker like never before. His aggressive play style won him $2 million from just $2000 in a short period. Viktor is believed to have made in excess of $6 million till date. 

Online poker is played by over 100 million people worldwide 

Mobile poker apps became popular during 2017-2021, and online gaming shifted to smaller, private poker clubs. Today, online poker represents a significant portion of the iGaming industry. From web-based clients to mobile apps, operators like Bet365 and PokerStars are letting the players enjoy the best of poker action from the comfort and security of their homes. Players are now using dedicated software like Solvers and Trackers to maximise their odds. Poker is called the National Card Game of the US, and its play and jargon permeate the American culture. According to the World Series of Poker, over 100 million people are playing online poker worldwide now.