Happy Birthday, Online Poker!

Online poker turned 20 years old just recently, as the very first real money hand was played on January 1, 1998.

The legendary Planet Poker

Planet Poker was the place, where the first real money poker games were played, starting just over twenty years ago. After they opened their doors for the player's many other sites followed them.

2003 was the year when the poker industry experienced the first explosive growth, after Chris Moneymaker won a seat to the WSOP Main Event, playing a $86 satellite online and taking down the whole thing for $2.5 million. Things started to escalate rapidly in the following years.
In 2004 then biggest online gambling company, Sportingbet bought Paradise Poker for $340 million. The parent company of Partypoker, PartyGaming went public on the London Stock Exchange. The market value of the company was $8 billion back then, which clearly shows how big the industry became in the first few years of its existence.

In the following years, poker got even bigger. By 2009 PokerStars became the market leader, followed by FullTilt Poker and others. The rise seemed unstoppable until 2011 when infamous Black Friday happened. The US government decided to shut down the biggest poker sites, which meant the most important market of online poker disappeared in a blink of an eye. Since then, the poker environment recovered but today's numbers are still far from the Golden Age.

IRC Poker would probably not meet today's standards

Even though Planet Poker was the first to offer real money games the first play money poker hands were dealt much earlier, on IRC Poker. IRC was free to play and looked similar to written hand histories since players had to type their actions instead of clicking buttons. Multi-table tournaments were not supported either, meaning that sometimes as many as 23 players could participate in the same hand.

Although IRC Poker was extremely rudimentary, it inspired the founders of the first real poker sites, so it eventually helped online poker become what it is today.

What was your first experience playing online poker? Let us know in the comments.