The rise of online poker mirrors the heyday of the land-based version of the game. After being shown on television, poker went from a slow start to an explosion.
The Origins of Online Poker
Since the Internet is still in its infancy, it stands to reason that online poker is in its infancy compared to its land-based counterpart. The initial online poker room didn’t open for business until 1988, well into the late 1990s, even though internet casinos had been around since the mid-1990s.
Even though the first poker rooms didn’t pop up for another two or three years, computer nerds could play poker online with low-resolution graphics. In the beginning, people played poker online in text-only IRC (Internet Relay Chat) rooms.
Planet Poker, the Original Online Poker Room
Plant Poker’s virtual poker card tables eventually attracted a respectable number of poker fans, while the initial online poker room failed to attract many participants when it launched in 1998. Slowly, new poker rooms opened, and more players began to sign up.
TV Revived Up Online Poker
Even though there were a lot of poker fans playing online, the online poker craze hadn’t hit quite yet. When poker tournaments were first shown on television in 2001, the game’s popularity surged once more. The World Series of Poker and similar events have increased the popularity of playing poker online. With the advent of the “hole camera,” the lay poker player could now view the hands of all the players in the game. The best part was that nobody’s game was jeopardized because it was broadcasted on television.
As the game’s popularity skyrocketed, a plethora of new online poker sites mushroomed. As time passed, the better poker sites thrived and remained in business, while the less reliable ones faded away.
Virtual Gambling Prone to Serious Impact from the UIGEA
Although online poker had already achieved unprecedented levels of popularity, 2006 threw a major wrench into its virtual machinery, at least for residents of the United States. In an effort to win over the more conservative Christian constituents, Republican lawmakers had been attempting to outlaw internet gambling for some time. However, they met with widespread resistance and were ultimately unsuccessful. Although there were more pressing matters that required consideration, Congress did manage to enact the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act by attaching it to a port security bill. Since the bill’s primary focus was on counterterrorism measures, nobody was willing to oppose it at the time.
After the UIGEA was passed, it became illegal for US banks to process or disburse any money associated with online gambling operations. In an effort to safeguard the interests of their shareholders, some poker companies that had gone public on foreign stock markets had to exclude US players from accessing their poker rooms.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has handled online poker rooms and games of skill similarly to online casinos, despite the fact that poker is a game of skill and so does not belong in the gambling category. There are several ongoing initiatives aimed at repealing the UIGEA; nevertheless, a lot of steps must be taken before this can be accomplished.