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Online Poker Industry - A Brief History

Online Poker Industry - A Brief History

Online poker has been the fastest growing segment of the online gambling industry over the last year and a half (middle of 2003 to 2005). The internet/online poker boom has been phenomenal, and all trends point to further growth. According to some sources, the online poker industry has grown by a rate of 600% in the last year! Online poker has seen its greatest expansion coming from the United States, but there is huge potential for further online poker growth in Europe and the rest of the world.

Online poker is still relatively new, starting in 1998 but really hitting the online industry big in 2002. The first online poker room was Planet Poker, launched in 1998. Paradise Poker, was the next major player, launched in 1999 and is still one of the leading online poker rooms. Paradise Poker, with their ad campaigns, excellent software, and international audience, really took online poker to the next level. Paradise Poker was the first online poker room I played at, and I still frequent the room. In 2001, the other major online poker rooms appeared - Party Poker, PokerStars, and UB.

Online poker exploded in 2003 when poker hit mainstream television in the US. The World Poker Tour debuted on the Travel Channel in March of 2003, and became the highest rating show in Travel Channel's history. The World Series of Poker also received a lot of coverage from ESPN. In 2003, over 800 players participated in the No Limit Hold'em main event at the World Series of Poker, the largest turn out ever, and internet play contributed to this record. That record would soon be broken with the World Series of Poker in 2004, when 2,600 players competed for the grand prize of $5 million. It is estimated that almost half of the entrants qualified to the tournament via online poker satellite tournaments! In 2005, this record would again get demolished with almost 6,000 entrants into the WSOP! Both the 2003 and 2004 World Series of Poker champions were online poker players from PokerStars - Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer. These results helped boost and legitimize online poker and online poker players.

Hollywood became enamored with poker and poker's popularity sky-rocketed, and so did online poker. In addition to the World Series of Poker coverage expanding in 2003 and 2004, and the World Poker Tour turning poker into a new national pastime, Celebrity Poker on Bravo, Late Night Poker, Poker SuperStars Tournament, Heads-Up Challenge, and a slew of aired tournaments all hit the airwaves in 2004 and 2005.

Most of the major poker professionals have accepted and adopted the online poker medium. These top professionals now endorse online poker rooms and actually play in the online poker rooms. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel, John Juanda, Phil Gordon, Andy Bloch, and Erick Lindgren endorse Full Tilt, Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke endorse UB, Mike Sexton and Shana Hiatt are spokespeople for Party Poker, Doyle Brunson opened up his own online poker room franchise with Doyle's Room, and the list goes on. HollywoodPoker.com and CelebPoker.com both entered the online poker industry cementing the ties between Hollywood and poker.

In 2005, driven largely by the US, online poker is close to a $2 billion industry. Today, the online poker leader is PokerStars which is twice as large as the next largest poker room (Full Tilt). However, there is plenty of action to be had at many of the online poker rooms, since the influx of new online poker players continues to increase. The number of real money online poker players is increasing by as much as 100,000 each month.

Online poker is real, honest, and a lot of fun. The poker rooms are audited by major international accounting firms (like Price Waterhouse Coopers, for example), they are becoming publicly traded billion dollar companies (PartyGaming), and the industry does not appear to be slowing down, with more online poker rooms entering the industry and more online poker rooms planning on initial public offerings.

One of the concerns regarding online poker is its legality. In the United States, the legality of online poker is still very unclear. I, personally, was playing with friends at a Starbucks by the beach. Police officers walked in and watched us play. I asked them point blank if what I was doing was legal. The police officers responded with - "Of course it's legal, poker is legal in California." Then, I heard the President of the United States announce that online poker was illegal throughout the entire United States. And then, the World Trade Organization overruled President Bush's declaration...

What I do know is that MOST online poker players are living in the United States. I know the last two World Series of Champions were online poker players. So, I'm not worrying about it. Online poker is a great way to practice your poker skills, whether for play money or real money, and gain valuable poker experience. You can play single table tournaments, huge, multi-table tournaments, and ring/cash games at all different stakes. The experience is invaluable, and a lot of fun!

Today, there are numerous online poker rooms out on the internet, with more entering the market all the time. We are constantly expanding our Online Poker Guide and Reviews section to help provide you, the potential online poker player, all the relevant information for a given online poker room, so you can make an informed decision on where you'd like to play. And in addition to our thoughts on a particular online poker room, we also gladly welcome our users' thoughts and opinions, so you can read multiple unbiased perspectives on an online poker room. We hope this information will help you choose the best fitting online poker room, and also give some guidance and information on the other options out there. We will be adding more online poker rooms to this list as we gain knowledge and experience of those sites. We also separately list out no deposit bonus poker rooms, so you can take advantage of the free money they offer! Have fun and good luck!

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