Time flies, eh? Has it really been 20 years since 1998? Is my Barenaked Ladies CD that old? What ever happened to them? As we usher in 2018, it's time to look back and feel nostalgia for things we did two decades ago. This week marked the 20th anniversary of online poker… albeit a baby step. Planet Poker became the first virtual card room to accept real-money deposits on January 1, 1998. Although poker and other card games were played in various forms on the internet (e.g. IRC), 1998 was the first year that Planet Poker spread cash games. Prior to the start of 1998, Planet Poker offered play money tables. They flipped the switch to real cash on 1/1/98 and… the rest is history.
The year 1998 seems like a distant memory, but it was the perfect time in the tech world before smartphones and social media took over every aspect of our lives. The internet life at the end of the 1990s consisted of firing up your modem and connecting your phone to the interwebs. Cue the static-modem sound.
Going online equated to simple tasks like checking your email, "surfing the web", IMing your friends, or hang out in chat rooms. The internet via forums and chat rooms and e-mail lists became an incubator for micro communities. Poker has always been a universal game, but the internet allowed enthusiasts to share their passion for the game with strangers on the other side of the planet.
For a small select group of tech-savvy poker players, Planet Poker was a glimpse into the future. The virtual tables became a conduit for poker greatness and helped ignite the poker boom. All it took was an internet connection and an interest in poker and... boom! Online pokers!
If you played online poker in the late 1990s, then hopped on the first wave of the glorious poker boom that would drastically change the gambling industry at the turn of the century. Chris Moneymaker would still be five years away, but Planet Poker got the party started.
Man… 1998 seems like yesterday, but 20 years creeped up on ya, right? In the sporting world, France defeated Brazil on its own soil to win the World Cup for the first time. Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls won their third straight NBA title (and 6th crown in 8 years). The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup. The Winter Olympics were hosted in Japan and the Czech Republic (led by Jaromír Jágr and goalie Dominik Hasek) won the gold medal in men's ice hockey.
In the music world, Daft Punk's first album Homework was barely one year old. Country singer Garth Brooks had the top album in America and Gettin' Jiggy With It by Will Smith raced up the billboard charts. Celine Dion was competing with Elton John and Mariah Carey for supremacy of the radio airwaves, while MTV reached the peak of its powers. The grunge days were over and boy bands dominated MTV.
Titanic (released in 1997) became the biggest grossing film at the box office and James Cameron's mega-hit would go on to win multiple Oscars including Best Picture at the 70th Academy Awards in Hollywood in March 1998. That same year, a couple of actors from Boston – Matt Damon and Ben Affleck – co-won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Damon's win at the Academy Awards with Good Will Hunting occurred less than six months before his poker movie, Rounders, debuted in theaters in late September 1998. Yeah, the cult classic Rounders hit the screens approximately nine months after Planet Poker began accepting real-money players. Timing is everything, eh?
In the poker world, Stu Ungar began 1998 as the reigning WSOP Main Event Champion. We all know how his sad story ended up. Ungar failed to defend his title in May 1998, and Scotty Nguyen won $1 million and the Main Event. Everyone knows Scotty's story and his infamous phrase... "You call and it's all over baby!"
In 2004, I opened an account on Planet Poker, which was one of six or seven poker rooms I tested out when I first caught the poker bug. Playing online poker was so simple during the boom in the wake of Chris Moneymaker heads-up win over Sammy Farha. No joke, but it only took a couple of minutes to open and fund an account. You could be playing on a new room within minutes of downloading the software. Too bad politics ruined a fun time and those crooked, smarmy political hacks in Washington D.C. crushed a sick racket.
The entire gambling industry has changed over the two decades due to the leaps in technology. Gambling is a global business. We've come a long way since the early days of online poker via dial-up modems. In 2018, we're caught up in the crypto craze as the poker world embraced blockchain technology (whether it was investing in cryptos or using the tech to play virtual poker). Poker and tech will continue to influence the game, but how much longer do we have to wait for politicians to get their act together… whether it's Australia, the U.S., or elsewhere.
Yeah, 20 years later… and online poker barely resembles its origins. Plant Poker and the old-school card rooms have become dinosaurs. Will partypoker and PokerStars be influential in 20 years? Will they still around in another 2038? Tune in to find out.