The history of online poker. The Stone Age (1995-1998)

The history of online poker. The Stone Age (1995-1998)

Online poker, like any phenomenon, which went through its significant milestones, has an outstanding history. When people begin to play, they do not even think about of how online poker emerged. Most players begin counting from the moment when they first registered in a poker room and ran the poker client. But everything has its origin.

The exact date of the first “online poker” games in history is unknown. What we are going to talk about is remotely comparable with the classic notion of the term "online poker". Online poker was born somewhere in the chat rooms of iRC-communities in the mid-90's, when most of us were familiar with the Internet by hearsay. Those who caught iRC-era know what it was like.

In 1995, an unknown but definitely talented programmer created IRC Poker, the first prototype of modern poker clients. Users played and communicated in a big chat room, which combined the ICQ and Fidonet elements. The program featured a text interface, and “simple” commands, used for making bets, for example, "/msg dbot p fold". In 1995, the word "simple" had somewhat different meaning.

iRC poker

The world of the first enthusiasts engaged in the promotion of their favorite game looked like that.

Poker of that time was nothing to do with user convenience. Making an elementary action as "fold" required using a special command ("call", "bet" and "raise", by the way, too).

There was no any graphics, and even suits had an alphabetic designation. However, people were happy to play cards from computers and few cared that time. As you may guess, they did not even stew over financial element, which at that time (95-97) was not developed. Only playmoney and limit hold'em, nothing else. Each new player received 1,000 imaginary dollars. If you lose a virtual bankroll, you had to wait 24 hours for your account to be uploaded with new portion. This contributed to responsible gambling.

Don’t think the players of the "Stone Age" were amorphous unambitious people. You may be surprised, but such a notion as "regular" existed even at that time. Most people had competitiveness and strived for perfection, even if their then-purposes (like reaching the top-10 local leaderboard, etc.) seem to us silly and funny. In the late 90's they were able to enjoy the first opportunity to cash their virtual millions. If the player managed to build up his bankroll from the starting 1,000 to the final 1,000,000, he could get a real $100.

Given that most of the games were played at the only 5/10 limit (in other words, the player's bankroll was 100 BB), you can imagine how much time it took to regain the coveted million. By the way, nobody played No-Limit Hold'em, though it existed. It was unpopular, and the fear of losing the entire stack dominated over players who cherished virtual money. This continued until 1998, when the world's first poker room Planet Poker tapped into the market.

Planet Poker - the very first online poker room

The first real money poker room opened its doors at the beginning of 1998. You might be thinking of the standard lobby with cashier, tables, and a huge range of games. But no, in the 1998 it was far from it.

The poker room offered visitors only one 10-max table with $3/$6 blinds. Only with Limit Hold'em of course. By the way, an interesting fact - at that time, the game started only if all the seats at the table were busy. The dealing did not start, if the players were nine so everyone had to languish while waiting for a random online poker enthusiast. As the result, the game was often interrupted or could not start at all. It was in February when the first game continued through the night.

It is a paradox, but the appearance of the world's first real money room did not cause any expected excitement. People continued to play on playmoney in the iRC in the same old way. What is it? Habit? Or distrust? Both. The news that you can play real money poker quickly spread in the thematic community. After the advent of Planet Poker, the world-famous forum 2 + 2 was created. Many were wary of the novelty, suspecting the poker room in dishonesty, while the hysterics of those who risked depositing their hard-earned money only heightened the belief that "everything is rigged." As you can see, nothing changed after almost 20 years: the same hysterical appeals of newcomers that the RNG is rigged, that the room can see cards and false tables are distributed. Fortunately, iRC worked honestly, and you risked nothing.

The management of the newly hatched poker room found themselves in a lose-lose situation. Distrust grew, and the project was slowly dying. This situation required a decisive action to prove to all ordinary people that the room is reliable, that it doesn’t need to deceive and all crashes were because of the oddities of variance.

As a result, Planet Poker management, which hoped to win the trust of the players, presented the algorithm of its RNG to the public for proving its impartiality. They were guided by good intentions, and the desire to show people that they were not deceived. However, as it always happens, such generosity played against the poker room. After a while, a group of programmers wrote an article, which described the process of breaking the RNG of Planet Poker.

It turned out that the algorithm was not random enough, and there was even a program, which during the flop predicted the opponent's cards, turn and river with 100% accuracy.

Poker GUI

Surprisingly, but this information was shared not for making profit. Planet Poker quickly made improvements in the RNG algorithm.

Urgent action was necessary to save the situation, or someone who "would ensure credibility." It was Mike Caro who was engaged as authoritative defendant. At that time, he enjoyed an unshakable reputation among players. If Mike said "fair", it was "fair". After this situation, the money slowly flowed into the room. The management tried to cover up the incident with the RNG, filled gaps in the software and avoided such missteps in the future.

But more unpleasant surprises were waiting for Planet Poker…

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