August 11, 2009

Online Poker Tournaments

Playing at a live poker tournament is the dream of every player. The most celebrated tournament is the WSOP, which takes place in Las Vegas. In Australia, it is the Aussie Millions which draws the most attention and hands out the highest first place cash prize.

No longer relegated strictly to the live arena, there’s now no denying that online poker is huge,¬†and online poker tournaments are the main reason. Or perhaps it’s the other way around: poker tournaments are enjoying more success than ever because online poker has streamlined and improved the ease and scope of the process. Whatever the case, both fun and winnings are up by record amounts.

Once upon a time, poker was played between friends and acquaintances, or in more structured (and usually less legal) environments. Casinos tended to be lukewarm about poker; it was always a struggle for casinos to regulate and profit from poker because of the decentralized nature of the game.

Until the first years of the 21st century, this state of affairs was not seriously threatened by the internet — comparatively slow and primitive, not to mention teeming with security issues, networked poker games were most often exercises in frustration. The odds that you could ever run a serious poker tournament over a public network was, even at the most optimistic, extremely improbable.

Over the last decade, however, the diagnosis has gone from “improbable” all the way to “outstanding”.

Anyone who wasn’t paying attention may have believed that this had all happen overnight; one minute we were still watching Seinfeld and Friends, and the next minute we couldn’t get enough of the televised coverage of the World Series of Poker. One minute we were struggling to get Windows 95 to work for more than five minutes at a time, the next we were jumping into an online game with the likes of Phil Ivey and Chris Moneymaker.

The truth, however, usually spites the hype; tournament poker had been steadily gaining momentum since Vegas first started hosting it in the early 1970’s, and online poker (in more carefully moderated situations, of course) has been around since the early days of IRC (uh, which would be the early 1990’s.

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However, it is true that the current leaders in the online poker tournament business are more-or-less recent entities; the oldest (PokerStars.com and UltimateBet.com) trace their ancestry back to 2001, while the current champion FullTiltPoker.com came along in 2004. During the past few years, many lesser online casino websites attempted to steal their thunder, but the only real poker tournament contenders have been the technologically advanced CakePoker.com and CarbonPoker.com.

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