I’ve been fortunate over my long career to see a lot of poker history made and have had the pleasure of being part of some of it. I saw the high stakes cash games in the 70’s in Las Vegas and became friends with all the poker legends. When you think of poker history, you might think of Doyle Brunson’s back-to-back WSOP main event wins in ’76-’77 or perhaps Stu Ungar winning the WSOP main event back-to-back the very first two times he played it in ’80-’81. Maybe because of Rounders, you think of Johnny Chan taking centre stage at the WSOP when he finished 1st, 1st, and 2nd in the main event in ’87-’88-’89. Truly incredible!
In 1990, Monsour Matloubi from England made history by becoming the first player living outside the U.S. to win the WSOP main event. A few years later, it was amazing to see both Ted Forrest and Phil Hellmuth make poker history when they won three bracelets each at the 1993 WSOP. In 1995, poker history was made again as the first (and to this day, the only) woman to make the final table of the main event at the WSOP. That was Barbara Enright who finished in 5th place.
Incidentally, it was pretty historical how Barbara was knocked out! She was in the BB with 8-8, everyone folded to the SB who called. She moved all-in and after not that long of thought, was called by the SB (Brent Carter, who, believe it or not, really was a top tournament player). He had the 6-3 of diamonds – and he didn’t have many more chips than she did! Nobody believed Brent called almost all of his money off with a 6-3 and the packed house was going crazy until he flopped 6’s and 3’s and eliminated her. It felt like an ice pick in the eye to all of us that were rooting for Barbara.
Just like that, she was out in 5th place to the shock and dismay of the entire room. And certainly, we can’t forget about the history Stu Ungar created when he captured his 3rd WSOP main event title in ’97. He won the first two times he ever played the WSOP main event and sixteen years later, the last time he ever played it! And how about the Irish performance in the ’99 WSOP main event. They finished 1st (Noel Furlong), 3rd (Padraig Parkinson), 7th (George McKeever), and 14th (Mickey Finn). Go Ireland! That’s truly historical!
To most people, ‘old school’ refers to players who were playing before the turn of the century. After the turn of the century, plenty of poker history started taking place, and in fact, history that changed the poker world forever.
Online poker had just started up and an accountant from Tennessee with a magical name, Chris Moneymaker, won a $40 online satellite to gain an entry into the 2003 main event at the WSOP. Incredibly, he won it! Talk about making poker history!
Some people think that was the reason for the ‘poker explosion’, and certainly it helped a lot, but they’re wrong. Make no mistake, it wasn’t online poker or Moneymaker’s win, it was the World Poker Tour, which first aired in the U.S. a few months before Moneymaker’s amazing win, that was the primary reason for the ‘poker explosion’.
The WPT – poker on prime time TV on a weekly basis – was the dream and creation of Steve Lipscomb. As soon as that first episode of the WPT aired on the Travel Channel on March 30, 2003, it literally changed the poker world forever. It was a smash hit. No Limit Hold’em was the game everyone wanted to play now. I believe everyone in the poker industry owes a huge thanks to Steve Lipscomb and his associates (who didn’t even play poker but who Steve said he wouldn’t have started without them), Audrey Kania (marketing) and Robyn Moder (Production), as well as to poker Hall of Famer Lyle Berman, whose company Lakes Gaming, funded the WPT. We all salute you!
As far as poker history goes, partypoker certainly played a HUGE role in the growth of poker. PartyPoker.com launched on August 1, 2001 and started with just $22 one-table satellites where the winner moved on to play in the partypoker MILLION semi-finals in late January 2002. There were four days of semi-finals where 25 players each day would win a luxurious cruise for two, get $500 in cash, and have the opportunity to play in the parypoker MILLION where the winner would get $1,000,000!
The cruise was set for early March 2002 and after the semi-finals were over, I got a call from Steve Lipscomb. I knew Steve because he filmed a documentary on the WSOP in the late 90’s and I appeared in that documentary. He said, “Mike, I think I can get your partypoker MILLION on TV and it won’t cost you anything.” I said, “Wow, that would be fantastic!” The Travel Channel gave him a budget to film the PartyPoker MILLION and boom, just like that, our new online poker site was going to be featured on television! And it wasn’t going to be called ‘Poker at Sea’ or anything like that, it was called the “PartyPoker MILLION” (which I knew would benefit our site greatly).
I can’t tell you how much buzz TV created for all the players on that ship as they were being filmed and interviewed daily. It was so cool. Steve did an incredible job putting it all together and the PartyPoker MILLION was a smash hit on the Travel Channel. There’s no doubt in my mind that the success of the PartyPoker MILLION was the primary reason the Discovery Network (which owns the Travel Channel) gave Steve Lipscomb a five-year deal with the WPT. Needless to say, it was a great deal for Discovery as the World Poker Tour was the #1 show on the Travel Channel all five years and putting poker on TV every week certainly changed the poker world forever.
The partypoker MILLION kicked things off for partypoker, but the real historical move came when our genius CEO at the time, Vikrant Bhargava, said to me, “What would you think about partypoker advertising on TV?” Up til then, no online site had ever advertised on TV (and the WPT hadn’t aired yet). I said, “Wow! I think it’s a great idea, but if we’re going to do it, let’s advertise on the new show that I’m commentating on, the World Poker Tour. Nobody knows if it will be a hit or not, but I know that everyone watching will be a poker player. They’ll see me as the host/commentator on the show and then see me doing ads for partypoker. That will give us instant credibility.”
He loved the idea and made the deal with the Travel Channel – which certainly turned out to be one of the greatest deals in advertising history! In one month after our ads started airing, our business grew ten fold and we never looked back. partypoker became far and away the #1 online site in the world.
Here’s a little more history for you – in June 2005, PartyGaming went public on the London Stock Exchange for nearly $9 billion dollars! The day we went public, from a little poker site we started less than four years earlier, we became bigger than British Airways and Mastercard! Think about that.
Sadly, more poker history was made on September 30, 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was attached to the Safe Port Act late at night without discussion and the House and Senate both passed it. It was signed into law by President George Bush on October 13, 2006. The UIGEA basically made it unlawful to fund online gaming sites.
Naturally, the partypoker owners didn’t want to leave the U.S., but their lawyers said, “We don’t think you’re doing anything illegal, but if it’s deemed that you are, your shareholders could sue you and you might lose back all the billions you’ve made.” (All four owners had became billionaires!) With that knowledge and being a publicly traded company, partypoker had no choice but to leave the United States. Talk about a sad day in life – leaving the U.S., which was 78% of our business – whew! That ended our #1 reign.
Well, it’s time for more poker history and partypoker is again, right in the thick of it. Sadly live poker events around the world have been cancelled. The good news – some have opted to partner with partypoker and bring them online. The first is the 40th anniversary of the Irish Open, which is now the Irish Open Online Series April 6-12.
The Main Event is a $1m prize pool guarantee. You can see the full schedule on the Irish Open website or at partypoker. You won’t get the live craic in the pub after busting out but you can have all the pints you want at home and play in your underwear if you like. And the money you win spends the same! Hope to see you at the Irish Open Online!
Next up is partypoker partnering with Poker Central. They are moving the Poker Masters Online April 12-26. This is for the big-hitters, and I do mean big-hitters, but everyone’s welcome. (Check out the satellite schedule shortly) There will be 30 high roller events over the two weeks with buy-ins ranging from $10.3k to $51k for the Main Event. partypoker is posting $15.25m in guaranteed prize money for these events! In addition, the Poker Masters online champion will get $50k and a Poker Masters purple jacket. If you want to swim with the sharks, dive in!
Here’s the one I really love. For the first-time ever, the World Poker Tour and partypoker have teamed up for the WPT Online Championship May 10-26. It’s just as if you travelled to a WPT event somewhere in the world, except you don’t have the travel or hotel expenses! And the good news is that you can use the WPT Passport by partypoker to play all the flagship events: the Main Event ($3200 buy-in with a $5m gtd prize pool), the WPT500 ($530 buy-in with $1m gtd prize pool), WPT Deepstacks ($1600 with $1m gtd prize pool), plus get $170 tournament dollars on partypoker for a value of $5500.
There are numerous other tournaments as well during this series including the Bounty Hunter, 6-max online, mix-max online, Turbo progressive knockout, and the WPT high roller ($10.3k buy-in with $2m gtd prize pool) and Super High Roller ($25.5k buy-in with a $2m gtd prize pool). There’s something for everyone in the first-ever WPT Online Championship. WPT Passport satellites are running now on partypoker.com Do yourself a favor and check them out!
More poker history – and this time, you can be a part of it. I hope to see you in some of these events on partypoker. Good luck!
Hi. Mike Sexton here. I’m happy to have this blog to communicate with players. Hopefully, you’ll find it fun, informative, and entertaining. I’ll be blogging about past events, future events, telling stories about poker legends, or discussing anything you would like. If you have any requests, just let me know.