Without a doubt, the biggest boom in Poker’s recent history has been the explosion of Online Poker Rooms. From simple low-limit games, Online Poker has grown into a billion dollar industry over the past five years.
The first online room to go live was Planet Poker in 1998; while this pioneer site has since been pushed into near obscurity by the current big dogs, Planet Poker broke the ground for online rooms, and set up practices that are still in current use, such as rake structure.
The next player to join in the online scene was Paradise Poker in 1999, a site that would soon grab the industry’s reins and become the online leader. Shortly after the introduction of Paradise Poker, Dutch Boyd of Professional Poker fame would start up his Poker Spot operation; Poker Spot would unfortunately prove disastrous, as payment processing difficulties arose, and the firm ultimately folded. This would prove to be a major setback to the credibility of online play.
Evidently the troubles emerged from an unreliable payment processing system, and with the online bank void of players’ deposits, payment of winnings quickly proved impossible. While this was certainly an obstacle towards Online Poker’s rise to prominence, it would bring innovations in payment processing, as it parallels the development of “e-cash” such as PayPal. Fortunately for the online poker industry, this blow wouldn’t cripple it. With the advances made in online banking and e-fund transfers, reliable and secure payment would soon become the standard among online poker rooms.
With the fast growth of the World Poker Tour, and Poker in general gaining momentum, 2001 saw the launch of two big time players- Poker Stars and Party Poker. Both entered with grand visions of what online poker could become, and in 2003, Party Poker would take the lead of the industry from Paradise Poker, on the strength of it’s aggressive television marketing. First aired during the 2003 during the World Poker Tour, Party Poker’s big budget advertising and “Party Million” promotions thrust it to the top of the online marketplace, a position it currently maintains.
With Party Poker reaping the rewards of paid advertising, Poker Stars flopped an ace with Chris Moneymaker’s inspirational rise to the top. From a $40 satellite, Moneymaker took the poker world by storm and won the 2003 World Series of Poker, bringing the entire online industry to the forefront. This historic victory catalyzed an explosion in the number of online poker sites.