Poker History: What Was the Poker Boom?

Poker is one of the most popular games in the world for several reasons. First, it is a social game that players of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy. Second, it requires more strategy than luck, making it a challenging and rewarding game. Finally, poker has a rich history dating back several centuries. Today, poker is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide and is one of the most popular games in the world. Thanks to its popularity, poker has spawned several variations, including Texas Holdem and Omaha. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, poker is a great game to enjoy with friends and family.Poker’s rich history and strategic depth combine to give it a fantastic competitive scene. Million-dollar poker tournaments like the {{World Series of Poker}} (WSOP) have been held since 1970, and competitive poker is a core part of the game. Various legends have left their mark on the game and spawned some of poker’s most remarkable stories, like Doyle Brunson’s back-to-back WSOP wins and Johnny Moss’ poker marathon against Nick Dandolos. While poker’s history is enthralling from its beginning to the present, one period stands out: The poker boom of 2003 – 2006. This article will examine what makes this three-year era so unique. It will explain what the poker boom was and cover the three driving forces behind it. ย  ย 

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What was the poker boom?

The poker boom was from 2003 to 2006, when poker exploded in popularity. There were several reasons for this, including the rise of online poker, the televising of tournaments, and the story of Chris Moneymaker. This newfound popularity led to a dramatic increase in the number of people playing poker, both online and offline. The number of online poker players increased exponentially, at least doubling every year. In addition, it also resulted in a significant amount of money being generated by the industry. At its peak, the poker boom saw billions of dollars being wagered on the game each year. However, it eventually ended due to several factors, including government regulation and the onset of the financial crisis. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most significant moments in the history of poker.

Poker before the boom

Before the poker boom, poker wasn’t the giant we know today. While it was far from the wild west era of being a game played exclusively by criminals and hustlers, it was not really in the eye of the general public. The World Series of Poker was the only big poker tournament then, with the main events being recorded and broadcast around the country. The seeds of the poker boom were planted in 1998 with the release of the famous poker movie Rounders starring Matt Damon. That made poker known to the public, but two other advancements in poker technology took things to another level.

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The invention of hole card cameras

Hole card cameras revolutionized competitive poker, becoming popular thanks to their use on British Channel 4 in 1999. They turned competitive poker from a niche part of the game to a full-blown spectator sport. For the first time in history, fans could look at the pros’ {{poker hands}} throughout the game. Before, it was impossible to tell what the pros held until the showdown, and it wasn’t even guaranteed since pros would often fold before making it to the final round. Even if you did see the pros’ cards, you would often have to rewatch the previous rounds to understand the pros’ thinking every step of the way. Hole card cameras brought a new depth to game analysis, as viewers could now attempt to understand the pros’ thought processes given the state of their hands. They also made the game more enthralling, as fans could imagine themselves in the pros’ positions, thinking about what they would have done differently. Finally, hole card cameras made professional poker thrilling and exciting to watch. Knowing the high stakes of the game, it can get tense watching the pros attempt to bluff or successfully trick their opponents. 

The advent of online poker 

The biggest reason for poker’s meteoric rise in popularity was online poker. It made poker accessible to everyone, everywhere, and at any time. You no longer need to go to a casino or poker room; you only need a device and an internet connection. Because of online poker’s unparalleled convenience, more and more casual players started getting into it. Online poker also led to the creation of satellite tournaments, which acted as qualifiers for more significant events. These satellite tournaments sparked the final driving force behind the poker boom, which is the story of Chris Moneymaker.

Chris Moneymaker: From $39 to WSOP champion

Christopher Bryan Moneymaker was born on November 21, 1975. He wasn’t a big-time professional player before entering the 2003 WSOP, far from it. He was a total novice, working as an accountant. He had never even played in a live tournament before the WSOP, sticking to online poker. And yet, against all odds, this man turned $39 into a $2.5 million WSOP main event win. Here’s how he did it. 

Moneymaker made his way to the WSOP on the backs of the aforementioned satellite tournaments. After winning a $39 online satellite tournament, he qualified for a $600 satellite. Winning that tournament gave him a seat at the $10,000 WSOP main event in 2003. Throughout the tournament, Moneymaker displayed his incredible mental fortitude, compensating for his lack of experience. After a lucky draw against Phil Ivey, he made it to the final table. He was up against Sammy Farha, an experienced pro. After an hour, Farha nearly managed to even the game despite starting with half of Moneymaker’s stack. Then, Moneymaker pulled off one of the most daring bluffs in poker history. Both players had flopped a flush draw. Moneymaker had a stronger kicker of K7, but the flop gave Farha the top pair. The turn gave Moneymaker an additional open-ended straight draw, so he re-raised to 800,000. Farha called, and the river was a three. This didn’t help either player, but Moneymaker went all-in and caused Farha to fold. It’s very rare to fold the top pair that late into a tournament, but Moneymaker’s confidence was unprecedented. An amateur risking their tournament life on a bluff like that was simply unheard of. The bluff gave him 6.6M to Farha’s 1.8M and cemented his tournament win.

Moneymaker’s story opened the floodgates for interested players to join the competitive poker scene. More people were getting into poker than ever, and his win stunned everybody. He showed how an amateur can win even against the best of the best and how useful satellite tournaments are to aspiring online poker players. In 2003, the WSOP had 839 entrants. In 2006, it had 8773, nearly ten times as much. This popularity spike was termed the “Moneymaker effect,” and it remains one of the most notable events in poker history. 

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