20 Years of Online Poker: Tales of Fast Money, Wicked Beats, and Broken Mice
INTRODUCTION (A NEW POKER SERIES)
Twenty years ago, the first online poker cash game was dealt.
January 1st, 1998 marked the roll-out of the first real money poker site, at PlanetPoker.com.
The story takes off from there.
For those who are still connected to the game two decades later, most of us remember those good old days and bad-ass nights of fast money, wicked beats, and broken mice.
Online poker has toasted booms and weathered busts. It has spearheaded soaring highs and withstood devastating scandals. It has busted an untold number of player bankrolls. It has broken up marriages. It has created millionaires and even spawned a few billionaires. It has hatched a quirky subculture of heroes, villains, and scoundrels. It has attracted celebrities, forged criminals, and made fugitives out of heroes. It has been played in more than 150 countries around the world, some places legal, more often not. It has thrived. It has defrauded. It has survived.
If “poker exemplifies the worst aspects of capitalism that have made our country so great,” as American playwright Neil Simon once penned, then online poker is the witches brew of economic and social Darwinism. Indeed, online poker isn’t just the manifestation of the laws of natural selection. It has been the 52-card test tube that confirms survival of the fittest. And yet sometimes, even the very fittest ended up being cheated and were ultimately destroyed. Online poker has often been as cruel as invigorating.
The upcoming multi-part narrative to be posted this week encompasses a reminiscence of my online poker experiences from 1998 to the present. The next several chapters, yet unnumbered because I”m writing them now, will relay (at least some) of the details of my marginal role in the game and global phenomenon — as a low-stakes player, a grinder, a political advocate for its legalization, and insider-executive.
Enough with my introduction. It’s time to log in, shuffle up the memories, and deal out the stories.
Photo Credit: The photo above was taken about 20 years ago in a cash game at about the time online poker began. It’s the only photo I have of Marieta sweating me at the table.