When Did Online Poker Start

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PokerStars was founded by an Israeli senior programmer for IBM Canada, Isai Scheinberg. He began to write the software that would form the basis for PokerStars in the late 1990s and formed Rational Enterprises, originally based in Costa Rica, to operate his new poker site.

On September 11, 2001, the site was launched in beta version for play money only. A few months later, in December, the real money version was opened.

After a few years operating in Costa Rica, PokerStars announced a move to the Isle of Man, a British Crown dependency, in 2005. Scheinberg’s decision to shift to this location was influenced by the 0% corporate tax rate and the island’s policy to remove all bans on companies that were accepting poker bets from US players.

The site was granted an eGaming License by the Isle of Man Department of Home Affairs under its Gambling Regulation Act of 2001.

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“The decision to relocate to the Isle of Man was unanimous,” said the Director of Communications for the site, Nola Dolla.

How I Started Playing Poker Ask Alec Conscious Poker by Alec Torelli. How did you start playing poker like a pro? Did you start playing poker with your friends or playing poker online?

“The infrastructure on the Island meets all of our current business needs and strategies and the regulatory structure permits PokerStars to operate to its full potential. We are grateful to the Government for their support and guidance in acquiring our e-Gaming License and look forward to developing our future plans on the Island.”

Online poker experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in the mid-2000s, and this can largely be pinpointed to one single event: Chris Moneymaker’s victory in the World Series of Poker (WSOP) event in 2003.

Moneymaker was a full time accountant and part time poker player who enjoyed dabbling with the game in his spare time. Moneymaker entered a $39 satellite tournament at PokerStars and won himself a seat into a larger satellite. He went on to win that one too, earning entry into the WSOP.

What happened after that was nothing short of miraculous.

Moneymaker, in his first ever live tournament, beat player after player to make it through to the final table. He went on to claim the first prize worth $2.5 million.

Amateur poker players were suddenly flocking to online poker sites around the world, trying to emulate the rags to riches story of their new poker hero. PokerStars in particular benefitted enormously from what became known as the “Moneymaker Effect”.

After Moneymaker’s victory in 2003, PokerStars was on a roll in terms of WSOP qualifiers. A year later, the site qualified 315 players for the $100K championship event, 15% of the total tournament players.

When Did Online Poker Start

At the time, the Vice President for Marketing of PokerStars, Dan Goldman said:

“Our players continue to prove that their online tournament poker experience has tremendous value in a live tournament environment. The ease and convenience of playing poker online provides millions of people with tournament poker experience before they ever set foot in a casino or card room.”

In January 2006 the Scheinberg family enlisted NM Rothschild, a large merchant bank in London, to explore options for floating or selling the company. At the time PokerStars was valued at around $2 billion.


Potential buyers included the Rank Group and William Hill and there was also speculation that a merger could take place. It was widely believed that PokerStars would choose to float on the London Stock Exchange, following in the footsteps of some of its rivals such as PartyPoker.

Later in 2006, the UIGEA was introduced in the United States, making it illegal for financial institutions to process transactions from US residents that were related to online gambling. As a result, many gambling sites made the decision to pull out of the lucrative America market.

When Did Online Poker Start

Those that were publically traded had no choice as they were answerable to their shareholders. As a privately owned company though, PokerStars could make its own decisions.

PokerStars declared that it would not be seeking its previously planned IPO in the near future. The flotation that had been planned for the spring of 2007 was delayed indefinitely.

When Did Online Poker Start

The company made a strategic decision to continue serving North American players, filling the niche left in the US market by so many poker sites leaving.

As a result, PokerStars established itself as the biggest poker site around.

It would face consequences for remaining active in the US in later years though.

No history of PokerStars would be complete without a mention of the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). This was launched by PokerStars in 2002 and has grown to be the biggest online tournament series in the world.

Below is a brief timeline of how this competition has evolved over time.

  • 2002 – The first WCOOP began offering nine events and $730,000 in prize money.
  • 2003 – Eleven events were offered, drawing the crowds who wanted to see WSOP winner Chris Moneymaker in action. A total of $2.7 million in combined prize money was up for grabs.
  • 2004 – An extra event was added to this WCOOP, and prize money reached $6 million.
  • 2005 – Prize money during 2005 was doubled to $12 million, and 15 events were scheduled. Nearly 20,000 took part.
  • 2006 – Eighteen events ran during WCOOP 2006, with $18,700,000 in prize money.
  • 2007 – This year saw the introduction of short-handed tournaments for the first time. $24 million in prize money was available to more than 40,000 players who took part in the 23 events.
  • 2008 – Just under $40 million in prize money was offered over 33 events.
  • 2009 – This year’s event broke the record as the biggest online tournament series staged. Players from 140 countries took part in 45 events over the course of 18 days to compete for the prize pool of over $50 million.
  • 2010 – More records are beaten and over $63 million in prize money was paid out in 62 events taking place over 23 days.
  • 2011 – The Main Event featured over 1,600 players and a first prize of $1,260,018.
  • 2012 – The number of events was up to 65 and over $55 million in prize money was awarded.
  • 2013 – Prize money was back up to over $60 million and a total of 66 events took place.

On April 15, 2011, the PokerStars website was shut down by the US government, along with other poker sites still serving the US market. PokerStars had no choice but to suspend its poker services for US customers, although it remained open in other regions.

This day became known as Black Friday in the online poker industry. On April 20, PokerStars reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to regain use of their website in order to distribute account funds to there US customers.

PokerStars began to pay out funds to US customers almost immediately and, the following year, the company reached an agreement with the American government.

They admitted no wrongdoing for its past activities in accepting US customers and it was acknowledged that they would be able to apply for licenses to operate in the US once the necessary legal framework was in place. As part of the agreement PokerStars purchased the assets of its previous competitor:Full Tilt Poker.

Today, despite no longer operating in the United States, PokerStars remains the largest poker website in the world. It’s already active in attempts to legally return to the US as the nation begins to regulate online poker.

Be honest, how many of you reading this article have wanted to be an online poker pro at some point since discovering such a thing was possible? I know I have — and on more than one occasion.

Being able to play poker for a living seems like the perfect job — for someone who loves poker at least. But it’s harder than you would like to believe. How to be an online poker pro? We have six quick poker tips for you to set you on your way to your dream job.

How to become a professional online poker player in one easy step would be to quit your job and use poker as your sole source of income. While this instantly makes you a poker pro, it is not advised, not even a tiny amount, for reasons that we’ll cover shortly.

1. Study all aspects of the game

Studying the game of poker is crucial if you want to learn how to succeed as a professional online poker player. When you think you have learned all there is to learn about poker, you need to study and research even more. In fact, you should never stop learning because standing still in this game means you’re going to be left behind.

Read articles on PokerNews, check out the 10 most important poker strategy books ever written, join a training site, or hire a coach. Any edge you can create for yourself will eventually lead to profits.

You can also practice playing no limit hold'em and pot limit Omaha cash games and tournaments for free at WSOP Social Poker. The games are completely free to play, meaning you can play poker for fun, try new things and never risk any of your bankroll.

2. Prove you’re a winning player

Remember how we said that handing in your notice and jumping straight into being a professional poker player isn’t a good idea? This is one of the main reasons why: you need to prove to yourself you know how to be a profitable online poker player first.

Many people bag a big score in a tournament, or win the equivalent of two months’ wages at the cash tables and start thinking that this game is an easy way to make a living. Wrong!

You need tens of thousands of cash game hands and tournaments (if not hundreds of thousands) to prove you’re a winning player. If you’re not a winning poker player over the long term, you’ll soon be heading back to your old boss cap-in-hand hoping to be reemployed.

Is This Your First Step To Becoming a Poker Pro?

They say practise makes perfect and what better way to improve your online poker skills than by doing so without any risk at all to your poker bankroll? This is possible at WSOP Social Poker because it is a free-to-play online poker site that has cash games and tournaments running around the clock.

Try out new strategies completely free at WSOP Social Poker and set yourself on the way to becoming a professional poker player.

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3. Be realistic

Once you’ve ascertained that you’re a winning poker player, it’s time to begin trying to figure out how many hands or tournament you’ll need to play in order at least to match your previous salary. Here’s where many people fail.

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When you have a salaried job, you are usually paid on the same date every month regardless of how productive your week or month is (within reason). You’re almost certainly paid while on vacation, or if you’re sick.

Are you really going to sit grinding for 60 hours every week?

The fact you have to go to work five days per week is probably enough to make you get out of bed and go to your job. But what if none of that was true?

You may have aspirations of making $150,000 a year

, and that may be possible. But make sure you factor in at least three full weeks “holiday.” You should also plan for being sick and unable to play for a couple of weeks per year. Also, ask yourself — are you

When Did Online Poker Start

really going to sit grinding for 60 hours every week? Do you think you can make enough money at $0.25/$0.50 to warrant giving up your job?

How many online poker pros are there who wake up at 12:00 p.m., play online poker for two hours, and then swan off enjoying life to the max. The answer is not many, and those who do generally don’t succeed as professional online poker players for any meaningful length of time.

4. Give playing poker professionally a trial run

Even if you have done all of the above, you should at least give playing for a living a trial run, so you have experience of how to play online poker professionally.

Take a week’s holiday from your job and spend the next five working days doing nothing but playing poker (at least you’ll be getting paid even if you have a bad week!). You may surprise yourself at how difficult it is to motivate yourself to play poker non-stop for a week. Or how after four hours grinding you suddenly lose all concentration. Or how after losing 15 buy-ins during the first three days you no longer want to get out of bed at 7:00 a.m.

It’s best to find out you’re not cut out for the life of a poker pro before you take the plunge into playing for a living.

5. Build a big bankroll and liferoll

You haven’t gone through all the previous steps but still think you know how to be an online poker pro. That’s fine, but do you have a bankroll and your other finances in order?

Most poker pros like to have at least six months’ worth of life expenses tucked away in a separate bank account in case things go pear-shaped. Dipping into your poker bankroll to cover your bills is a big no-no.

Your bankroll should be larger than a recreational player would have because you never want to drop down in stakes. Doing so, dropping down that is, makes it harder to reach your monetary goals — much harder. It’s better to be a bankroll nit than it is going broke.

6. Act professionally

Professional poker players often cite the freedom it gives them for playing for a living, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t have a professional attitude towards the job. Some of the best poker players in the world are extremely disciplined and in their approach every single day.

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You wouldn’t rock up to work and put your feet on the desk or lounge around on the sofa with your laptop, so don’t do it as a poker pro. How to become a professional poker player? Starting acting like one, a professional that is.

This article was originally published on Jul. 5, 2017. Last update: Jun. 20, 2019.

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