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Top 10 moments in poker history

3 August 2020

While there is speculation on exactly how poker gained the popularity it enjoys today, it is quite clear that poker history goes a long way back to the 18th century when the game was first played around the Mississippi River.

Before the 20th century poker was seen as an outlaw game and was not available to the general public for the most part

Before the 20th century poker was seen as an outlaw game and was not available to the general public for the most part (photo by Pikist)

Continuing to spread throughout the U.S. during The Gold Rush of 1849 and even Civil War, poker offered a chance to compete without firing guns at your opponents and win some money as a result. Appealing to gamblers, it became a very popular game in saloons, and the rest is history.

That being said, it took many years and significant events for poker to really explode, and today I will break down a timeline of the 10 of the most interesting facts that you should know about if you love the game.

10. Poker goes mainstream in the US
Before the 20th century, poker was seen as an outlaw game and was not available to the general public for the most part, nor did it have a lot of recognition.

However, that started changing when more and more different formats were introduced, and even some forms of pure entertainment like strip poker began to become available.

That being said, the breaking point was legalizing Texas Hold'em, which offered much more excitement to the players compared to other commonly played games like 5-card draw.

9. The first WSOP in 1970
While it might not have been the format that we know today for World Series of Poker, 1970 was a special year as it marked the birth of the what is known today as the most prestigious tournament in the world.

Instead of a tournament format, the first WSOP was actually an invitational cash game featuring just seven players at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas. At the end of the session, they voted on who would be the first champion and Johnny Moss prevailed.

8. First televised poker event in 1973
Soon after that, the next milestone came in 1973 with the first televised poker event, which also happened to be the WSOP in Las Vegas.
No WSOP champions influenced the game more than Chris Moneymaker

No WSOP champions influenced the game more than Chris Moneymaker (photo by Wikimedia Commons)



This opened the doors for the general public to see how the game is played and learn more about it. That eventually boosted the interest and invited even female poker players to join the action, which was not very common back in the days.

7. First online poker room in 1998
With more and more people coming into the game, it was only natural that the first online poker room opened, which was the beginning of a new chapter in the whole poker industry.

While Planed Poker, which opened in 1998, never reached huge success in terms of traffic or revenue, it opened the doors for other poker operators who followed shortly after and had much more success in this field.

With limited internet access, slow loading times, and disconnections, it was hard to imagine the rapid growth of this industry, but as soon as that was fixed, poker took off and never looked back.

6. Chris Moneymaker wins the 2003 WSOP
While there are many World Series of Poker champions, no one influenced the game more than Chris Moneymaker, a 27-year-old accountant from Tennessee, taking it down back in 2003.

An amateur player who qualified through an $86 internet satellite on PokerStars took down the most important poker tournament in the world by beating hundreds of professional players taking out Sammy Farha in a memorable the heads-up battle.



An unknown player conquered it all and won $2.5 million, so the poker dream was born. Soon after that, many players dove into the game with the hope of replicating this success, so tournament fields and poker popularity skyrocketed from that moment.

Moneymaker beat a field of 839 players, but in 2004 the field ballooned to a record 2,576 in 2004, 5,619 in 2005 and 8,773 in 2006.

5. Isildur1 took the poker world by storm in 2009
There are very few players in poker history who created more buzz than Isildur1 when he appeared on the FullTilt poker room.

At the time, this unknown player battled all of the best in the game and came on top of the pros, winning millions form their pockets, so naturally, everyone was looking to see how he plays. People where launching FullTilt poker just to see what is going on the highest stakes and if Isildur1 is taking on another player.

After crushing all of the best, he was stopped by players sharing the databases Isildur’s hands and breaking down his play to the details, which was not considered a very ethical act back then. That being said, Isildur1 will forever be a legend in this game, and those times when he challenged everyone and anyone will be remembered.

4. Black Friday in 2011
One of the worst days in poker history came on 15 April, 2011 when the U.S. Department of Justice seized domains of the biggest poker rooms at that time, namely PokerStars, FullTilt Poker, and Ultimate Bet. The access to these sites as well as players funds were locked, and everyone began to wonder what’s going on.

It was soon announced that all of this would only affect U.S. players, but the blow was devastating, to say the least, and done enormous damage to the poker industry that is still sensible to this day.

3. PokerStars set a world record in 2013
Even without U.S. players, PokerStars was able to set a new world record with 225,000 players in a single tournament in 2013.

With only $1 buy-in and $300.000 in the guaranteed prize pool, that was a tournament to remember. To this day, no one was able to beat this record, and we can only guess if that is ever going to happen.

2. Poker bots solve Heads-Up games in 2015
When the knowledge of poker strategy progressed over the years, it soon became evident that poker bots are an inevitable part of this game.

Many science teams behind big universities starting working developing software that could play poker, and while their first tries weren’t successful, they gave some clear warning signs in 2015.
First poker bots where easy to beat and had significant flaws, but “Cepheus” solved Heads-Up Limit games and was unbeatable one on one. While this did not cause a lot of threat since that was not a popular format, it made many players nervous and question the future of the game.

1. AI software Pluribus beat players in 6max format in 2019
While previous software was only able to play one on one games, Pluribus finally changed that. This advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software beat 5 top players in a 6max game, and that was not something players wanted to see.

This time, scientists did not teach any strategy to this bot and let him learn everything by playing himself with only the introduction of poker rules. This way, Pluribus learned unexplainable play and basically became unbeatable to humans. So, what will the future bring next? Only time will tell.
Top 10 moments in poker history is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Tadas Peckaitis

Tadas Peckaitis has been a professional poker player, coach and author for almost a decade. He is a manager and head coach at mypokercoaching.com where he shares his experience, and poker strategy tips.
Tadas plays poker, mostly online, but also manages to play live events while travelling through Europe and the U.S.
He is a big fan of personal effectiveness and always trying to do more. Tadas regularly shares his knowledge about both of these topics with his students, and deeply enjoys it.
Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, or visit www.mypokercoaching.com
Tadas Peckaitis
Tadas Peckaitis has been a professional poker player, coach and author for almost a decade. He is a manager and head coach at mypokercoaching.com where he shares his experience, and poker strategy tips.
Tadas plays poker, mostly online, but also manages to play live events while travelling through Europe and the U.S.
He is a big fan of personal effectiveness and always trying to do more. Tadas regularly shares his knowledge about both of these topics with his students, and deeply enjoys it.
Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, or visit www.mypokercoaching.com