Online poker has been one of the most impactful developments in the game’s history. Now, players have the freedom to enjoy poker whenever they want, from wherever they want. This makes poker incredibly accessible, which is why online poker has hugely contributed to the game’s current success.
Another area of online poker that has greatly improved is competitive poker. It’s easier than ever for good players to get recognized for their talent, with many modern-day poker pros beginning their careers online before switching to live. If you’re interested in the stories of these pros, this article is for you. Here are some of the most memorable stories in the history of online poker.
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Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP Run
Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) win may just be the single most impactful WSOP win in history, and it couldn’t have happened without online poker. The amateur accountant won $2.5 million in the world’s biggest poker tournament, proving to everyone two things. One, anyone can win at poker if they have what it takes. Two, online poker is the superior way to play.
Moneymaker joined a $39 online satellite tournament, which is a type of tournament that qualifies you for a larger event. He won, making his way to a $600 satellite tournament that offered a seat at the WSOP. While he initially wanted to get second to receive cash instead of qualifying, he won the tournament after some insistence from friends and family.
While Moneymaker was a total amateur – the WSOP was his first live tournament – he made up for it with determination and courage. He fought through the tournament, making one of the most daring bluffs in poker history against Sammy Farha. It’s hard to understate just how much this win shook the world. WSOP attendance increased tenfold in just three years, and poker became incredibly popular.
The Legend of Isildur1
One benefit to playing online is anonymity. You can play as much as you want without ever revealing your real name, and there’s no better example of this than the legendary “Isildur1”.
From November to December 2009, one player was on everyone’s minds. This mysterious player, known only by the handle “Isildur1”, stirred up a storm by crushing nearly every online pro he encountered. Top-tier players like Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, and Tom “Durrrr” Dwan were just some of the numerous players Isildur1 beat while playing at the highest stakes available. Patrik Antonius praised his trademark aggressive playstyle that forced players into tough decisions.
Isildur1 was an incredible player but extremely inconsistent. The millions he won, he lost just as quickly. He went through extreme bankroll swings, but left an impact on the online community for years to come. Eventually, Isildur1 revealed himself as Viktor Blom, a Swedish poker pro. He partnered with PokerStars in 2010, representing them at various live tournaments.
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The Durrrr Challenge
Tom “Durrrr” Dwan is a legend in the online poker scene. He was one of the world’s best online pros back in the day, up there with the likes of Phil Ivey and Patrik Antonius. Regularly winning at the highest levels of play, he issued a challenge to the world in January 2009.
The “Durrrr” Challenge, named after his online username, dared any poker player – except Phil Galfond – to take on Dwan in high-stakes heads-up poker spanning thousands of hands. If, in the end, Dwan is ahead, the other player pays him $500,000. However, if the other player successfully beats Dwan by the end, Dwan will pay $1.5 million.
While indeed an ambitious challenge, the results are mixed. Dwan’s first opponent was Patrik Antonius. $2 million and 40,000 hands later, Antonius backed out and left Dwan with his first win. Daniel “Jungleman” Cates was Dwan’s second opponent and proved far more formidable. By 19,335 hands, Cates was in the lead by a good $1.2 million. No more matches have been played, with Dwan paying compensation fees to Cates.
Finally, if Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP win was the beginning of online poker’s popularity, the 2011 “Black Friday” incident was the end, at least for the United States.
On April 15, 2011, online players around the US saw the same notification on three of the largest poker sites at the time. The government seized the sites, and players could no longer access or withdraw their funds. This action resulted from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, and it completely crippled the online poker industry.
The websites’ responses varied wildly, with PokerStars swiftly pulling out of the US while paying back all their players. On the opposite end of the spectrum, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker took the money and ran. They didn’t acknowledge the government’s action, even pretending things were normal and letting their users play. When it became apparent everyone just wanted to withdraw the cash, they fired all their staff and simply refused to pay their users.
Online poker was never the same after Black Friday. Real money online poker isn’t allowed in almost every state, so most sites do not offer services. UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are now defunct, with all the money players invested seemingly gone forever.
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Which story was your favorite?
Those were just a few of the most memorable events in online poker’s history. From high-stakes gameplay to government controversy, online poker is never dull. If you want to try it, we recommend checking out multiple sites before getting started. Different sites offer signup bonuses and other promotional offers, making it a great idea to scout before you choose one.