The Last 10 Years of Online Poker
The past ten yearshave been truly momentous for the online poker industry; Here is some highlights and low lights.
2002– PokerStarslaunched officially with their play money poker on September11, 2001, however it wasn’t until a few days before the beginning of 2002 thatthey first facilitated real money wagers.
During 2002 PokerStarsalso launched the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) which wasintended to be the online equivalent of the WSOP. The total prize pool in the2002 event was just $730,000, which pales in comparison to the record onlinewinnings by Tyson 'POTTERPOKER' Marks of $2,278,097.50 at the 2010 event.
2003 - Online poker came of age in 2003, when WSOP worldchampionship was won for the first time by a person who qualified via an onlinetournament. The winner, Chris Moneymaker became a poster boy for theonline poker boom that followed over the next years.
It was also in 2003thatMicrogaming launched its online poker network on what was previouslyknown as Prima Poker.
2004– Full Tilt Poker opened in June with the backing of RayBitar and a host of professional poker players including Chris Ferguson, PhilIvey, Howard Lederer, Andy Bloch, Mike Matusow and Jennifer Harman. Over thefollowing years, FTP with its great software and exciting variety of games grewto become the second largest poker room globally.
Also in 2004, Maltabecame the first EU country to regulate online gaming, establishing its remoteonline gaming regulations.
2005 - In June 2005, PartyGaming, the company behind PartyPoker.com,the largest poker room globally prior to UIGEA, went public through an IPO thatvalued the company at $8.64 billion. 2005 was a game changing year for the pokerteam in Party as this also the year they ring-fenced their liquidity from thevarious skins such as Empire Poker, IntertopsPoker and MultiPoker.
The UK’s Gaming Actwas passed in April and heralded the start of the migration of many Britishoperators to offshore locations such as Gibraltar and Malta as a result of thehigh taxes imposed following the act.
In December, Bwinbought Ongame in an attempt to further expand into poker.
2006 – Playtech, the people behind the iPoker network,floated on the London Stock Exchange in early 2006 and PKR launched itsinnovative 3D poker platform around the same time.
However all otherevents in this year were overshadowed by the introduction by the US Governmentof the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The act,which outlawed online gaming, came as a surprise to operators since George W.Bush had previously stated that his administration would not finalise the actuntil November 2008.
2007 – Back in Europe, the move towards the dot.country licencingapproach commenced whenItaly became the first EU country to introduceregulation that established ring-fenced liquidity pools coupled with high taxeson operators. Many other states followed suit in the years since with varyingdegrees of success. The industry and players all hope for EU harmonisation torectify the current situation of a patchwork of smaller ring-fenced liquiditypools.
The Asia PacificPoker Tour (APPT) sponsored by PokerStars commenced in 2007 and thePokerStars.net APPT Macau: Asian Poker Open in November was the first everpoker tournament in Macau.
Finally, alittle-known company called Zynga launched a poker app on Facebook inJuly 2007. It was Zyga’s first game and remains its most popular with 7.3mdaily average use
2008 – While it was back in April 2007 that PokerStrategy.comwas founded by Oxford mathematician Domink “Korn” Kofert and chess grandmasterMatthias Wahls, it was in 2008 that the teaching materials first becameavailable in languages other than their native German. In that year the Russianand English communities were launched, starting the expansion of the pokereducation community that would quickly see it become the largest global pokeraffiliate.
2009 – In January William Hill launched on the iPoker networkfollowing a joint venture with Playtech. The move which was intended to savethe ailing online operations of Hills, in the end helped to firmly establishthem as a market leader in online gaming.
Around the same time, Thomas“durrrr” Dwan issued his infamous $1,000,000 challenge to play anyone"with the exception of Phil Galfond" online, heads up for 50,000hands 4-tabling $200/$400 or higher No-Limit Holdem or Pot-Limit Omaha. If hisopponent is ahead after 50,000 hands, Dwan agreed to give them $1,500,000 more,while if Dwan is ahead, he will get $500,000. Patrik Antonius and Daniel“junglemandan”Cates accepted the challenge, but no 50,000-hand challenge is yetcomplete.
2010 – Finally, after a series of delays, the UIGEA was finally putinto effect in 2010. Mastercard and Visa ceased processing payments fromUS companies or players that involved online gaming.
On July 01, the Frenchmarket regulated, with the introduction of heavy taxes on all cash gamepots and tournament buy-ins.
By the end of 2010 itwas estimated the global online poker market was worth $5.1 billion ofGross Gaming Yield (GGY), a 6.6% increase over 2009. The US market was asignificant part of that, generating $1.3 billion of global GGY yield in 2010.That was all soon to change.
2011 – On April 15, “Black Friday”, the US Department ofJustice finally moved to enforce the UIEGA. The owners of Full Tilt, PokerStarsand Absolute poker were indicted on multiple charges including conspiracy toviolate UIGEA, money laundering and the operation of illegal gamblingbusinesses. Full Tilt’s assets, including players funds, were seized andfrozen. A number of payment processors have begun jail sentences on the back ofthe Black Friday indictments.
In other news, Partyand Bwin merged in March hoping to leverage their distinct strengths todominate the global gaming market.
2012 – The Spanishmarket finally introduced its regulation inJune, with the cash-strapped government surprising all operators by insistingat the last moment on payment of back-taxes for the previous four years as acondition for receipt of licences.
Meanwhile GroupBernard Tapie was courting the DOJ to take over the assets of Full Tilt.However, in the end PokerStars stepped in finally announcing in July that adeal had been struck and that players would be able to withdraw or play withtheir funds within 90 days. The countdown is well and truly on!