Online poker has become a global phenomenon over the recent decade, and has exploded into mainstream success over the last five years. Hundreds to thousands of new players join daily. Massive poker juggernauts like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Ultimate-Bet, and Absolute Poker have dominated the online landscape since the turn of the millennium. Millions of us are eyewitnesses to what online poker is today, but how many wonder how and when it all began?
IRC and Virtual Poker
Virtual poker first became a reality in the early 90s when Internet Relay Chat (IRC) was used to play poker. Former WSOP World Champions Chris Ferguson and Greg Raymer were among the educated and dedicated. In the beginning, games were slow and technologically primitive compared to today’s streamlined poker software. Commands had to be entered directly into the program, and then would receive a command back from the line in charge of the program.
As graphics vastly improved, so did the quantity and quality of the players. This was aided by the fact that IRC poker used virtual money so novice players could gain experience and learn without having to risk money.
The Birth of Online Poker
In 1998, real money poker on the Internet came to fruition with the creation of Planet Poker. Poker pro, writer, and alleged madman, “Crazy” Mike Caro founded the site and became a spokesman for the game. Beta testing began in late 1997 with a growing number of soon-to-be loyal customers testing the new software. Then on January 1, 1998, the first ever hand of real money, online poker, a $3-$6 Texas Hold’em game.
In the span of a couple of months, Planet Poker’s fan base spread, games ran throughout the night and over the course of a couple of days. For the rest of ‘98, Planet Poker enjoyed the success of being the world’s sole online poker provider until Paradise Poker spawned from the Costa Rica in 1999. Paradise Poker was the first site to offer Omaha and Seven Card Stud along with the traditional Texas Hold’em. Paradise Poker quickly rose to become the world’s premier online poker power, and dominated the market until late 2000 when Ultimate-Bet was founded.
Exploding Popularity of Online Poker
Even though online poker was growing in popularity daily, it didn’t really explode until the introduction of large, multi-table tournaments. In 2001, sites like Party Poker and PokerStars launched and capitalized on the tournament trend. By the end of the year, four major poker conglomerates dominated what was once unexplored or unimagined frontier three years earlier.
Online poker had expanded from a handful of players sitting at one rotating Limit Hold’em table to millions of players worldwide participating in grandiose tournaments with massive fields and guaranteed prize pools. It became evident to everyone involved and anyone wishing to be that this was the successful model for an online poker company.
Online Poker Today
PokerStars accurately boast themselves as “The World’s Largest Poker Site,” while Full Tilt, Ultimate-Bet, and Party Poker remain the other top players in the market. In the span of eleven years, online poker has gone from an underground revolution in its infancy to a revolutionary phenomenon in its prime.
High Stakes Online Poker Player Isildur1 Signs with PokerStars
Isildur1 has been a name of complete mystery in the world of online poker. The unknown Swede showed up on Full Tilt Poker late in 2009 and took the high stakes poker world by storm beginning one of the most dramatic swings in online poker history including losing the biggest pot in online poker history to Patrik Antonius. On December 7, 2010 Isildur1 officially became a Team PokerStars Pro along with superstar pros like Daniel Negreanu and Vanessa Rousso, but the player’s identity is still not known to the greater public.
What PokerStars Signing Isildur1 Means for High Stakes Poker
From 2006 to about 2008 UltimateBet was the place to find the highest poker action. After the very public cheating scandal at UltimateBet the biggest room for stratospheric poker cash game action became Full Tilt Poker, which happens to house some of the most notable poker pros in the game and had also been the preferred room of Isildur1. From Phil Ivey to Tom Dwan, Full Tilt has been the place for high stakes poker. This may be set to change with the signing of Isildur1 to PokerStars.
Accompanying Isildur1 will be new heads up high stakes action in the form of the Superstar Showdown. The Superstar Showdown will be a scheduled heads-up game between Isildur1 and any serious challengers in a 2,500 hand showdown. The winner of the match will be the player who is ahead after the 2,500 hands or busts the other player by winning the other player’s bankroll before the 2,500 hands are up. The stakes will be no lower than $50/$100 and can be played on either No Limit Hold’em or Pot Limit Omaha tables.
According to website Play Top Casino, creating scheduled high stakes games means that poker can become a true spectator sport. In the past high stakes railbirds were forced to wait around to see matches played on Full Tilt at the discretion of the players, now the games will be scheduled for the enjoyment of all. The matches will start December 19th.
To make it even more appealing to the average player who doesn’t have $15,000 to battle against Isildur1 the world’s largest online poker room is offering qualifying tournaments for players to use to reach the Superstar Showdown matches.
Who is Isildur1?
What makes Isildur1 so interesting isn’t just that he/she has taken part in all 10 of the largest online poker pots in history, the player has also remained completely unknown. The only thing the poker community knows is that Isildur1 is from Sweden. There has been great speculation that the mysterious PokerStars pro is in fact known pro Viktor Blom, but there is no verification of this. Poker players will have to continue to wait to find out who the Swede is, but in 2011 Isildur1 is reportedly going to play in several live tournaments.
In the press release announcing the signing of Isildur1 the pro said he/she will “improve my live game for some upcoming events” in addition to improving on “Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em, but also try to develop my Pot Limit Omaha game.” Clearly the pro plans on making a grand appearance at some of the most notable live tournaments to represent PokerStars. The acquiring of Isildur1 has given PokerStars a pro that brings with it positive controversy and media buzz to the felt on and offline.
No matter the Swedish pros cloud of mystery he is being adopted wholeheartedly by the PokerStars stable of pros. Daniel Negreanu has stated, “It’s not every day that a player like Isildur1 comes along.” Negreanu and the PokerStars community are excited as is the entire online poker industry, as the most dramatic and unpredictable player in high stakes history now has a room to call home.