Poker in the real world.

Interest in poker has never been so high. Part of this has been due to the explosion of online poker, making all forms of the game accessible to hundreds of millions of households. But this popularity was built on the propulsion of the offline game into mainstream attention in the 1970s. Firstly, the World Series of Poker brought more interest in tournament games in American casinos. Not only was this the starting point of today’s large tournaments, it also started the trend of celebrity professionals – names like Amarillo Slim, Doyle Brunson and Puggy Pearson becoming household names. The introduction to the more exciting community card poker in the 1980s and televised American poker in Britain has also contributed to its popularity. The introduction of the ‘hole card’ camera, allowing television viewers to see the private cards in each player’s hand, has further increased interest in televised poker.

The most well-known and prestigious tournaments in poker are the World Series of Poker (WSOP) held annually in Las Vegas, where the first prize is always a coveted WSOP bracelet and a lot of cash. From its foundation in the 1970’s, it has grown into a series of tournaments that attracts poker players from all around the globe in their thousands. The prize fund for the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event is now tens of millions of dollars. These tournaments have proved extremely popular with poker pros and amateur players aspire to one day compete and even win. Indeed, the past few winners of the WSOP Main Event were amateurs who became multi-millionaire celebrities overnight. The WSOP isn’t the only organisation that hosts real world tournaments. UK Poker is another that holds a wide range of tournaments around the world. The Irish Winter Festival (currently scheduled for this coming October) and the Asian Poker Tour are just a sample of the tournaments they organise, as well as numerous satellite qualifiers in-between these events.

What makes the fascination with poker so strong are the names behind the game. Professional poker players who are everyday, ordinary people, are now household names. Possibly the most well-known poker player in the world today is Phil Ivey, resident support member of Full-Tilt Poker and one of one of the most feared players in the game. He, however, isn’t unique in this aspect. Full-Tilt Poker has a whole host of celebrity professionals: Allen Cunningham, one of the most successful players in terms of money won; Gus Hansen, a three time World Poker Tour (WPT) winner and Chris ‘Jesus’ Ferguson, a Ph.D. in computer science and the winner of the Championship No-Limit Hold-em tournament at the WSOP in 2000. There are also celebrities from unrelated fields who make appearances at the poker table, an indication of just how popular the game has become. These have included the Spiderman actor Tobey Maguire, a participant of the WSOP Main Event for the past few years. The ‘Ante Up For Africa’ charity tournament on July 2nd 2009 had Hollywood actors Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Mekhi Phifer, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ actor Brad Garrett and professional poker player Phil Hellmuth, winner of the most WSOP bracelets in history, among the big names participating in the annual event.

By James Harrison
Online gambling expert and search engine marketeer.