Poker has been around for hundreds of years, frequently shown as being played in saloon backrooms in Western Cowboy films. The romantic perceptions of these card sharks moving from town to town ‘Maverick’ style and cleaning up at the poker table occurs in so many famous films. Coincidentally these guys also happened to be the fastest gun in town and always got the Lady. The game has in the past had a reputation for being played by hustlers in the back rooms of pool halls and other similar places of ill repute. Most people have played poker in one form or another from the kitchen table games on a Friday night with the family to the regular ‘boys’ nights and those college funding games at School or University.
2003 was the year that Poker started its growth to worldwide fame as the most popular game of the decade. Internet poker and Television became the driving factor for the fastest growth of a sport since the Snooker explosion in the 80’s. The advent of televised poker such as Poker Million on Sky Sports and the WPT tour on Challenge started growing a cult audience. Under table cameras and pinhole cameras allowed the viewers to see the players cards. Therefore, we could now see how the pros played and how they bluffed. John Duthie, a TV producer was the first player to win a million pound on Television in the Poker Million event.
Internet poker exploded as it now allowed people from all over the world to play against each other night and day and fed the demand of TV poker. Players can now find a game at any level 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Games start as small as 5cent/10cent games where the minimum buy in is $1 or $2 and go up to $100/$200 games where you need a minimum of $1,000 to sit down. Online poker also allowed these players the opportunity to qualify for the big TV tournaments through online satellite tournaments. There was now the opportunity for players to win millions of dollars on TV tournaments via satellites for as little as $10. 2003 saw Chris Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and $2,500,000 from a $40 satellite.
Poker tournaments online went wild with hundreds of players entering tournaments and creating huge prize pools. This now meant that you could sit at home and play in big tournaments and win thousands of dollars. In 2004 the WSOP saw the impact of online poker players as 2,500 players entered a $10,000 entry tournament. 50% of these players were from poker sites. The winner, Greg Raymer, took home $5 million dollars.
All of these factors resulted in a new breed of poker player, young aggressive and with lots of money. 24 year old kids were winning over a million dollars a year by playing high stakes poker online. The experienced poker players now had a place where they could earn a living without leaving home. The online poker professionals flourished and the new players grew and learned the game. Now it is common place to see games online where the players have $10,000 each in front of them and the average pot is $2,000. Tournaments online regularly have guaranteed prize pools in the hundreds of thousands of dollars with the winners taking home $25,000 to $50,000 in a night. This boom in online tournaments and cash games has meant that the land based tournaments have been flooded with entries. The 2005 WSOP had a record 5,600 players generating a record prize pool of $56 million. The winner Joe Hachem, took home a massive $7.5 million dollars. This was one of the biggest payouts in any sporting event ever. Now million dollar, or million pound tournaments are becoming commonplace all around the world. Poker on television is available 24 hours a day, with a plethora of poker books hitting the market giving everyone expert advice on how to become a successful player.
New players joining a poker site can sit down on practice tables and play for fun with free chips whilst they learn how to play the game. The International Poker Network employ Professional poker teachers who sit down for 3 hours a day on the practice tables to answer players queries and advise them on strategies.
Poker is now the “in” game and as such has attracted a lot of media attention. Celebrities are now commonplace both online and in live tournaments. Ben Affleck recently won a major poker tournament in LA taking on the best in the poker world.
Online you can regularly see celebrities such as Lou Diamond Philips, Delta Goodrum and Brian McFadden playing in normal poker games (quite often for high stakes). Celebrity TV poker tournaments are commonplace and sportsmen and TV stars are all competing for the prize of beating their peers in the ultimate game of skill and strategy. Sportsmen have utilised their competitive edge and ability to handle pressure and are thriving in poker games with Steve Davis, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens and Phil Taylor some of the notable successes in the poker field.
Not only have celebrities and sportsmen been attracted to this new pastime but also women haven taken to online poker in their thousands. Now they have a game where they don’t have to go to a male dominated card room alone, they can now sit in the comfort and security of their own home and pit their skills against all other players regardless of their sex. And they are getting good, maybe they are natural risk takers. Current estimates put the number of women players online at 25-30% of the total players, and it is estimated that 2 million players are online each year.
The high stakes games have now gone even bigger with the corporation, a group of 16 of the best poker players in the world taking on Billionaire banker, Andy Beal. Andy Beal is a maths wizard, a billionaire and a very good poker player. He challenged the best players in the world to play him heads up (one on one) for the $10 million dollars he brings with him to Vegas. This game runs with blinds of $30,000/$60,000 or $50,000/$100,000. The “game” is becoming a regular event in Las Vegas. Last time Beal left with $10 million dollars of the corporation’s money. Now they are back playing again. The talks are now about increasing the sit down money from $10 million to $40 million.
So if you want to take part in this phenomenon, take a look at http://www.ipnpoker.com the home of The International Poker Network. It is an aggregated room comprising some of the biggest sportsbooks and media brands. Games and tournaments are played in a choice of currencies – dollars, pounds, euros and there is a large choice of languages available including English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Greek.
Every day you will find over 30,000 players across all different types of games giving you plenty of choice as to when and what to play. At peak times there will be over 7,000 players across all the different games.
Do you fancy playing in the ultimate game of skill for high stakes? As the quote from the movie ‘The Color of Money goes, “Money won is twice as sweet as money earned” and it is especially true in poker.
By Morgan Collins
Living and working in Spain