Another Day, Another Decade

by Lou on December 29, 2009

Seems like the Millennium was only yesterday, when we watched televised celebrations from one time zone to another before it reached California. The New Year’s Eve Party I attended turned into a poker game at the stroke of twelve—the first poker game of the new century.

Sometime after midnight we checked the computer to see if those dire Y2K warnings were true. But we were all still here, alive and well, and able to log on to the internet, and all seemed right with the world.

I never envisioned how poker would change in just one short decade. Online poker was in its infancy at the Millennium’s precipice, and most of the cyber games were fixed-limit hold’em cash games, just as you’d find in brick-and-mortar casinos. The World Series of Poker had crossed a threshold just three years before, when they cracked the 300-player barrier for the main event for the first time. From 1970, when the first WSOP was played, it took 27 years until 300 players entered the main event.

Who could have predicted that only a few short years later more than 25 times that number would enter the main event—most winning their way into the big dance via online satellites. And when Chris Moneymaker came from the ranks of the $40 entry fee online satellite winners to capture the WSOP’s main event, he changed the game forever.

It didn’t hurt the WSOP’s growth one iota when it migrated from Binions to the Rio, and grew from a funky, hip-pocket event to a managed, merchandised, and programmed affair the equal of any other big-time sporting event on TV.

The internet poker boom led directly to the growth of the WSOP, and the WSOP, in turn, fueled the growth of online poker. People played online so they could win entry into the WSOP’s main event, and then played the main event to gain a reputation and bankroll to use online. One fed the other in a continuous spiral that didn’t stop until the hubris of one failed presidential hopeful attached a bill to a must-pass piece of port security legislation that was passed with no debate and little understanding in the dead of night.

The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), pushed by Bill Frist to secure support from the religious right for his failed candidacy, ultimately wasn’t worth the effort. After Frist announced his presidential aspirations to the press and public, the inevitable scrutiny of his public record rendered his candidacy untenable, and all his efforts went for naught—except for making it very difficult to move money back and forth between players’ bank accounts and online gaming sites.

While it slowed the growth of the WSOP’s main event, online poker still thrived. By the decade’s midpoint, television changed the face of poker changed. All the action was no-limit, and no longer did players learn fixed-limit first. They played no-limit from the get-go, and younger players—some were too young to vote, buy a beer, or legally enter a casino—were winning big money and playing online for stakes far exceeding anything anyone ever imagined.

While I suppose incredibly wealthy folks occasionally won or lost a million bucks in an evening in years past, wins and losses in multi-million dollar amounts—by 20-something players, not uber-rich oil potentates—became fairly commonplace at the “nosebleed stakes” games on Full Tilt Poker.

It amounted to a world of change in a decade—change no one really saw coming. And while I’m looking at the second decade of this century as one where major land-based casinos like Harrah’s get in on the online poker action once UIGEA is scuttled, I also I expect to be shocked at all the unpredictable ways poker will have changed ten years hence when I look back at this decade too.

Happy New Year one and all…

{ 5 comments }

Anonymous December 29, 2009 at 5:46 am

Happy New Year 2 u 2, Lou!

Randall Bly January 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm

I have read alot of your articles before. You are good. I played in the 2002 10,000, I believe it was 600 Players. Anyway I only lasted about 8hrs. Killed my dream. I never thought holdem would come back as big as it is now.

Poker Businessman January 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Let's not forget that Chris Moneymaker deserves a bit of the credit. He may not have been Doyle Brunson but his overnight success story and super marketable name brought a lot of new players into the game.

In the next decade, I see internet poker tapering out a bit due to some saturation but it will never go down to its original pre 21st Century levels.

PokerLaz January 6, 2010 at 12:07 pm

It's been a remarkable decade in which the emergence and growth of the internet has unrecognisably changed the nature and image of poker, probably more than any other decade.

There is no possibility, in my mind of these growth levels continuing into the next decade… the bigger question for me is whether Poker will be able to maintain it's current level of interest

Batman January 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

I see your nefarious plot. You're teaching the noob poker players that a decade ends after nine years, so that when you play them heads up, they'll have a math crisis, and calculated the odds incorrectly. Well played, my friend. Well played.

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