Online poker is the solution for those of us whose significant others frown upon a weekly poker night with the boys or the gals. To enjoy a game of poker, you no longer need to hide in your basement with bowls of stale Fritos and a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Rather, the game has been delivered to your computer via the internet. However, this is a relatively recent phenomena, as online poker clubs have only been around for ten or twelve years, compared to the 200-year history of “traditional,” face-to-face poker.
Other kinds of internet gambling, such as sports betting in the early 1990s and online casinos in the mid 1990s, came before online poker. Planet Poker, a now-defunct company, launched the first online poker room in 1998, followed by Paradise Poker a year later. Their clever promotion, creative software, and global appeal propelled them to the top of online poker, where they remain one of the industry’s leaders. Poker Spot is the first online poker service to offer tournament play in 2000. However, due to technological difficulties, this site was forced to close.
Until 2003, when poker made its way onto mainstream television, Paradise Poker remained the industry leader in the early years of the twenty-first century. The Travel Channel introduced the World Poker Tour, which received the best ratings in the network’s history. This resulted in not only a tremendous increase in poker’s popularity, but also the creation of yet another online poker behemoth. During the World Poker Tour, a company called Party Poker began a well-planned advertising campaign. This smart marketing propelled them to the top of the business, where they now control nearly half of the online poker market.
Following the Travel Channel’s ratings success, other networks, such as ESPN, began broadcasting live poker as part of their regular programming. Celebrity Poker and other such shows are still quite popular. These shows not only improved poker’s prominence and popularity, but they also sparked a surge in internet gaming. The fact that contestants were qualifying for major tournaments through online play attracted many viewers. When Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, both online players through Poker Stars, won the World Series of Poker in 2003 and 2004, internet poker garnered a lot of attention. In 2005, 6,000 contestants for the World Series of Poker qualified through online play as a result of this free advertising.