With online poker enjoying another surge in popularity in 2020, many are asking whether there’s going to be another lasting poker boom. While it’s too soon to tell whether we’re in the early stages of a new wave of popularity, we can look back at the factors that led to the exponential rise in online poker playing back in the 2000s.
What was the Poker Boom?
It’s likely you know what the poker boom was, but for the uninitiated, it was a period between 2003 and 2006 where online poker’s popularity rose exponentially. It’s generally considered as being the point where poker went from being a game played in back rooms to a mainstream pastime enjoyed by the general public.
The most popular variant of poker played during the boom was Texas hold’em, but a lot of other variations were played too, including 7-card stud, 5-card draw, and Omaha hi-lo.
Existing and new online poker rooms competed to attract new customers, many of whom were playing the game for the first time or moving from occasional casual games to taking part in online tournaments. Many sites did this with sign up bonuses like the bonus bets offered by BGO Vegas today.
Online casinos raced to add poker to their offering as well, with many opting for video poker instead of poker rooms. This is still the case today, with some also adding Caribbean stud poker to their live casino offering.
What Started the Poker Boom?
There was no single factor that led to the poker boom. Instead, it was a string of events that all contributed to the overall rise in popularity of the game.
An American accountant named Chris Moneymaker began playing poker online and eventually won the Main Event of the World Series of Poker in 2003.
At the age of 27, he was the first person to do so after qualifying to a place at the Main Event by playing online, a feat that others have since emulated.
His influence on the growth in popularity of poker has been dubbed the “Moneymaker Effect”, as many more people began taking part in online tournaments and attempting to replicate his success.
Moneymaker remains a prominent figure in the online and live poker scene today, playing in events across the Americas and Europe.
Moneymaker didn’t start the poker boom single-handed. Another contributing factor was the 1998 film Rounders. Starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, the film follows Mike McDermott, a law student from New York who is a skilled poker player.
Mike is eventually forced to play in underground games against a mobster, Teddy KGB, to help pay off his friend’s debts before heading to Las Vegas to take part in the World Series of Poker.
The film gained a cult following, despite receiving mixed reviews from movie critics. Several professional poker players credit the film with getting them interested in playing the game, and it’s widely considered the best poker film ever made.
Poker on Television
Television has helped to make a commercial success out of many sports. From football to Formula One, fans from around the world can follow their favorite teams and athletes by watching them on TV.
It’s the same with poker. When games started airing on TV during the early 2000s, many more people fell in love with the sport. The World Poker Tour was broadcast on the Travel Channel in the United States, while ESPN began airing poker games to replace hockey games during the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Poker can still be found on TV today, and there’s even a dedicated poker streaming network called PokerGO. Many more fans choose to watch poker via platforms like YouTube and Twitch, where countless hours of online and live games are available for consumption. Some argue that this increased access to poker content could be a factor in any future poker boom.