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Online Poker News Archives - December 10, 2004

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Copyright 2004 The Irish Times
The Irish Times

December 10, 2004

HEADLINE: Online poker brings new faces to challenge the old hands

BYLINE: Robin O'Brien Lynch

   World Series of Poker winner Mr Chris Moneymaker didn't learn his skills hustling the back rooms of Las Vegas or spending a lifetime learning how to read bluffs.

   He started playing poker three years ago on and had never played a live tournament before.

   His $2.5 million (EUR 1.9 million) win in 2003 brought home to many in the gambling industry the impact online poker has had on an ailing game.

   Boosted by the new generation of online players, the 2004 World Series of Poker, the game's premier event, was attended by three times as many players as the previous year - which was also won by an online player.

   Although appetite for local games is as strong as ever, casino poker had been in decline due to high running costs. A single table takes up a lot of room and staff for the returns it gives, compared to six slot machines which take up the same floor space.

   Online casinos can add tables as they wish according to demand, and players who may have been intimidated by a "bricks and mortar" casino are much more comfortable logging on to a site. Beginners can learn how to play on low-stakes tables before progressing.

   The world's biggest poker site,, can have more than 40,000 players at any one time.

   Despite this success, traditional players are highly sceptical. Can the flourishing online poker scene offer the same thrills? How do you bluff a screen? And what's to stop your opponents having a pack full of virtual aces up their sleeves?

   John Taylor (27) is an Irish stockbroker living in London, where City firms see an online poker face as a valuable skill for electronic trading. He plays at, where he has a username and account and he can play with virtual chips for as long as he's winning. The rules are available at the click of a mouse

   "I play at lunch time most days. It's free and really easy to play and, if you know nothing about poker, it's the perfect way to learn," he says.

   Even if he was on a steady roll of success, Mr Taylor reckons he'd never play for real money.

   "If the game with play money has taught me anything, it's that eventually you lose it all."

   There is another, more sinister reason behind his reluctance. "With a little bit of IT knowledge, you can cheat easily by forging IP addresses so you appear to be four separate users instead of one. It's like modern day card counting."

   However, unlike in real casinos, where a player folds most of his hands without revealing them, online site police can see a player's entire hand history and use sophisticated software (or just a keen eye) to detect any anomalies.

   Ken Powell (31) had played for years in live tournaments but, until recently, had resisted the lure of the online game.

   He seems unconcerned at losing his house or falling foul of scams and is enjoying what he terms moderate success.

   "I'm not a professional gambler or a full-time player by any means. I'm studying for law exams and I make enough at the table to get by."

   Mr Powell puts money into an account using his credit card, which he can add to as he pleases. His winnings are then put into his account (or on a bad day, his losses removed).

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