The idea of playing poker over the computer all started with IRC poker. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. Internet Relay Chat was a way that computer and technology aficionados communicated online before things like instant messenger or social networking were commercially viable. IRC games were not graphics-heavy - actually they were completely devoid of graphics. It wasn't that user friendly either, but it worked. It became a way for poker players to compete remotely for the first time ever. Some early IRC poker players included Chris Ferguson and Andy Bloch.
Early Online Poker Sites
When the technology for convincing graphics and smooth game play over the Internet was available, companies were ready. In 1998, the first online poker site appeared, through Planet Poker. Planet Poker was the first site to offer real poker over the Internet, and other sites like Paradise Poker and Pacific Poker quickly followed. Shortly afterward, Party Poker and PokerStars joined the fray. The sites caught on fast, and before long, there were an abundance of online poker sites.
One of the things PokerStars was known for was offering satellite tournaments or tournaments for which the prize was entry to a bigger tournament, possibly even a big live event like the World Series of Poker. This feature allowed online poker to really take hold.
In 2003, an accountant from Tennessee named Chris Moneymaker won an entry into a WSOP main event satellite. While initially just hoping to make some money in the deal, he ended up winning the seat and decided to play. It was the most important decision of his life, and possibly for the history of online poker. Moneymaker won the event on national television, and showed the world what online poker could offer. This was huge, as it drew millions of new amateurs to the game looking to become the next world champion.
The Poker Boom
After Moneymakers thrilling victory, online poker exploded. Overnight, people who would never have even considered playing poker before (such as teenagers and people from foreign countries that did not feature poker), became poker experts and superstars. Countless more poker sites were launched, and while many failed, many still exist today, doing millions of dollars in business every week, just look at our poker site reviews for comparison.
Online Poker Today
In 2006, everything changed. The United States government, led by a handful of moralists in the Republican controlled congress, attached anti-Internet gambling legislation to a bill designed to protect U.S. ports from terrorism. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act made it illegal for U.S. banks to deal directly with online poker sites. As a result, many sites withdrew from the U.S. market.
Fortunately for freedom-loving Americans everywhere, sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt poker stood firm against this attempt to obstruct international commerce, and as a result, gained a tremendous amount of traffic flowing from sites like Party Poker who had banned U.S. players. Although the UIGEA slowed poker down a little bit, it couldn't stop it, and poker is still growing in popularity all over the world. Although the U.S. passed the UIGEA act that limited some access to poker sites, American players have found ways to stay connected, and online poker in the U.S. is still going strong.