When you think of poker, an image of a table surrounded by men and cigar smoke probably comes to mind. Yet these days poker is played mainly online on smartphones or tablets, but when did online poker become so popular? Well you can see a complete timeline of the history of poker here, but here is a small introduction to the history of online poker:
The First Games in Online Poker
Surprisingly, online poker has been around now for nearly 20 years, with the first online poker matches taking place during the mid-1990s, although the exact date is unknown. Some claim it was in 1994 after Todd Mummert wrote the code for an online poker game using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) while others believe the first official match was on January 1 st 1998 on Planet Poker, the first poker-dedicated website. Of course, these early games would be totally unrecognisable to the games played today as technology has advanced so much in the last two decades, yet these were real poker games with real people playing against each other online.
There Was No Money in Early Online Poker
When poker was first played online, before 1998, there was no money, rather players would be given imaginary chips to play with at around $1000 fake chips a day. Of course, big players would attempt to overthrow this imaginary chip limit by creating multiple online accounts. Rumours at the time also suggested that people were actually playing for money, which would be settled in person. These imaginary chips would just be used to represent the money people had at home.
The First Dedicated Website
Planet Poker were the first truly dedicated poker website, and it was on their site on the 1 st January 1998 that the players were officially playing for money. The website was hugely popular, despite numerous software crashes as there were no competitors back then. The site was even endorsed by professional poker player Mike Caro.
Planet Poker still exists today as a subscription only poker site and, surprisingly, most modern poker sites still use Planet Poker’s original game format.
It wasn’t until 1999 that a new poker site was launched – Paradise Poker – which quickly overtook Planet Poker in popularity due to less crashes and a greater variety of available poker games.
Online Poker Tournaments
The early 2000s saw the introduction of online poker tournaments to the internet. Poker Spot were the first site to offer tournament play, however, it was Party Poker that offered the first $1million guaranteed online poker tournament in 2002.
Before online poker exploded in popularity from 2003, people were actually paid to play at an online poker table in order to fill a table. Called props, these players would leave once a table became busy.
The Golden Age of Online Poker
From 2003-2006 poker was becoming incredibly popular both online and on television with various stories of players making themselves millions of dollars out of nothing. Thousands of people were signing up for online poker trying to repeat other’s successes. Perhaps one of the greatest successes was the rags to riches story of Chris Moneymaker, who after entering the WSOP Main Event via a $39 satellite, went on to outlast 838 other players to win $2.5million and the title of poker champion.
What came next was known as the “Moneymaker” effect as people were inspired by Moneymaker winning vastly more money sitting in front of his computer than they did working all day, began signing up to poker websites to become amateur poker players.
Online Poker Now
These days it’s estimated that there are over 600 online poker sites and over 100 million online poker players worldwide, making online poker as popular as ever, and has even become a hobby for many celebrity names including Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire. This popularity has increased ever more with the introduction of mobile poker apps that allows players to play anywhere and at any time without the need for a PC.