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Online Poker News Archives - August 31, 2004

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Copyright 2004 Southeastern Newspapers Corporation
The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)

August 31, 2004 Tuesday, ALL EDITIONS

HEADLINE: ONLINE POKER PLAYERS ARE BIG DEAL TO INDUSTRY

BYLINE: Sam Diaz< San Jose Mercury News<

BODY:
   For generations, the poker room has been portrayed as a smoke-filled parlor where whiskey-drinking, tobacco-chewing gamblers would rather shoot you than let you take the pot with a pair of fives.

   But recently, the Internet - and a man named Chris Moneymaker - brought new life to one of the oldest card games around.

   Mr. Moneymaker, an accountant from Tennessee, qualified for the May 2003 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas - after honing his poker skills on the Internet. With only three years' experience in the game, he bested a lineup of professional players in the Las Vegas tournament, walking away with the $2.5 million jackpot.

   His win, along with the popularity of the World Poker Tour TV show, has sparked a boom for online poker rooms.

   Call it poker for the 21st century - and it's more than just a game.

   It's a big business. More than a dozen poker Web sites drawing thousands of players per hour - some playing for real money and others for fun - have sprouted up in recent years.

   The online boom has started to affect offline poker. On the Las Vegas Strip, where poker tables were shut down a few years ago for lack of business, some casinos have reopened poker rooms, giving partial credit to the Internet for introducing new players to the game.

   The Internet also has tweaked the strategies for playing the game, replacing the art of reading an opponent's body language and facial expressions with pure analysis and statistics.

   "Technology has completely changed the face of the game," said Vikrant Bhargava, the general manager of PartyPoker.com, the world's leading online poker Web site, based in India.

   Within a year of Mr. Moneymaker's win in Las Vegas, the average number of tournament contestants playing poker for real money online jumped from about 1,500 per hour to more than 14,000, according to PokerPulse.com, a Vancouver company that tracks people and money at 19 leading sites around the world. The average number of paying players in nontournament games jumped from 2,500 to more than 11,000.

   That has created a dot-com phenomenon generating an estimated $3.2 million per day for the leading sites, according to Pokerpulse.com.

   Even the free tables play an important role in the sites' success because they allow players to test their skills without risking cash.

   The boom in online poker comes despite its murky legal status in the United States. Some legal experts say federal law gives the government power to prosecute some forms of online gambling, but state anti-gambling laws vary - leaving online poker trapped in a legal gray area. Also, most online poker sites are licensed and regulated outside the United States, many in Canada.

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