In 1998, the first online poker room, Planet Poker, was inaugurated. Though the first of its kind, this online novelty was soon overtaken by a huge number of other online poker sites. Though it had been around for several years beforehand, online poker really came to the attention of the masses in 2003, when an amateur online poker player won the World Series of Poker tournament. By beating live poker professional, Sammy Farha, Chris Moneymaker, who had earned his place in the tournament through one of the largest online poker site in the world, Pokerstars, had truly pushed online poker into the limelight.
Following Moneymaker’s victory in 2003, online poker went through a period of exponential growth with sites like the aforementioned Pokerstars and PartyPoker growing rapidly in popularity across the globe. By 2004, online poker had become a multi-billion dollar industry, with live games also seeing an increase in popularity as a result. Indeed, from a figure of 800 in 2003, the number of players competing in the World Series No Limit Hold’em event reached 2,600 in 2004 and an astonishing 6,000 in 2005.
Between 2004 and 2005, it has been estimated that the online poker industry grew by a rate of around 600%, with the great levels of expansion occurring not only in the US, but also in Europe. As time wore on, online poker gradually became accepted and endorsed by professional poker players and was thus seen as a legitimate form of the game. This led to launch of many reputable poker sites, including Pokermira.com, which is a rather popular online poker room in the UK.
But all was not well in the world of online poker. In 2006, the FBI launched its fight against online poker, indicting the founders of the online payment processor, Neteller, for conspiracy and money laundering. The subsequent withdrawal of Neteller from the US market rendered online poker increasingly hard to come by in the US, a fact that was made worse by PartyPoker’s decision not to allow American players access to the site. As the US represented the largest market in the online poker industry, these governmental actions inevitably led to a steady decline in growth.
The state-endorsed fight against online poker finally reached its climax in 2011, when the founders of the four largest online poker sites in the US market were indicted by the US Attorney in New York. Known as Black Friday among online poker enthusiasts, this pivotal moment for the industry signified the effective disappearance of two of the largest online poker sites in the US.
Though rendered illegal in the US in 2011, online poker has been making a slow but legal comeback in recent years. With an increasing number of states legalizing online gambling since 2011, there may yet still be hope for this formerly prolific and globally popular online activity.