I realized recently that I have been playing online poker for ten years. That is a long time in online poker, almost its entire history. I thought I would write about my journey in the online poker industry. Before I got into the online poker industry I was working as a pizza manager and driver where I had been working for seven years at the time. I was disgruntled and ready to do something else. I played poker 2-3 nights a week at a home game that I delivered pizza to one night that thought they would take me since I was just the pizza guy. I had been playing with my friends all through high school and knew this was my chance to see how good of a player I was. I ran over that game but yet they would still invite me to help fill their games. I figured I must be good enough to do OK in online poker once I discovered it.
My First Online Poker Room
The first poker room I found was America’s Card Room. They are owned by one of the most respected sportsbook in the world, Betcris. I created an account and grinded out a freeroll for a small win, probably less than $100. I managed to grind that money up to maybe $1000 taking advantage of their promo bucks system which going back in time I figure had to be one of the most player friendly bonuses ever on online poker. After countless hours of fun I busted due to my inability to understand bankroll management.
As this was going on I got engaged. I lost a little interest in online poker. Eventually though, I could not stay away and deposited $200 of my own money at Paradise Poker. At the time it was the largest online poker room. This was before No Limit Hold’em caught on. Most of the games were fixed limit and there were no multi table tournaments because the software for MTTs had not been invented yet. There were sit and gos up to $100 but nobody played them. I grinded the 5 max tables of Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em and Omaha High/Low and turned my $200 into $1000 or so. I cashed out my $200 deposit and freerolled my $800. Eventually I would end up playing well over my head and would bust the $800. It probably took me a year to do it.
My First Online Poker Job
It was now 2003 and online poker was really starting to explode. I still had $200 sitting in my PrepaidATM account. Someone I played with at America’s Card Room got in contact with me and wanted me to prop (a proposition player is one that gets paid by the house to start games) at Big Bet Poker. I took them up on their offer of 100% rakeback and deposited my $200 there. While I was propping for them in my spare time I got hurt in a car accident while I was working. I had some time off to recover. I decided to play a lot of online poker in my spare time.
Big Bet Poker Bad Beat Jackpot
Props were able to take part in their promotions. One of their promotions was a $25,000 bad beat jackpot. One night I was playing and I rivered a straight flush to beat quad 5’s. We hit the bad beat jackpot. My share of it was $6250. It took a couple of months to get my money but they eventually paid it even though it killed their poker room. Now I had a real bankroll and it was time to take poker seriously.
Time to Say Goodbye to the Pizza World
Even though I went back to the pizza world I knew my days were numbered. I was working in a terrible, crime ridden area of Marietta, GA. I had some money saved up and decided after a workplace blowup with an incompetent coworker it was time to move on. I moved to another store part time but concentrated on online poker. Eventually I would completely quit because I was losing money every time I went to work because it took away from my poker time. In the end, I even got to tell the vice president of operation to shove it, although it was not that polite.
The Phrase the WSOP Would not Allow on a Tshirt
I began to “bonus whore” online poker rooms. That is finding online poker bonuses that paid back over 100% rakeback. I was making more money than I had ever dreamed without ever really risking any of my own money. While I was doing that I was offered a prop job at Absolute Poker right as they launched for real money.
When I First Discovered How Shady Online Poker Could Be
Absolute Poker was a rocky situation. While I made good money, I knew something was wrong. Eventually they would get busted in a massive insider cheating ring that I helped uncover. The people I knew, Scott Tom and Brent Beckley, were indicted in online poker’s Black Friday. The evidence is overwhelming that Scott Tom was the infamous “Potripper”.
I decided I was done with small, shady online poker rooms. I moved most of my action to Party Poker. One night I was playing the $25,000 guaranteed tournament and took it down for $8200. It was my biggest tournament win by far up to that point. I decided to play World Series of Poker satellites with my win. I ended up winning an $11,000 prize package. I decided not to play it though, Party Poker bought it out for $9700.
My Contribution to the Online Poker Industry
While all of that was going on I launched Rake Rebate Review. It was the website that brought rakeback from the underworld to legitimacy. To this day rakeback is still commonplace in the industry. From November 2004 through May 2006 it took most of my time so I played little online poker. Pokerlistings ended up buying it from me and intentionally killing it, presumably to kill off their competitors. They created an empty shell of a company to convince me it was a venture capital company because they knew I would not sell it to them otherwise. They went to a lot of effort to trick me but in the end they were the ones that got stuck. Just a few months after we closed the sale, Bill Frist backdoored the UIGEA into law as his last act as Senate Majority Leader by attaching it to unrelated legislation before leaving Congress in disgrace (or if you ask him, deciding not to run for reelection). Even though my industry was almost put out of business by a shady politician, my timing could not have been better to sell my website.
After selling Rake Rebate Review, I took a job with the company that coined the phrase “bonus whore”. Bonuswhores.com was the website I went to work for in South Dakota. After seven months the company sold. Luckily I discovered Cake Poker.
Cake Poker was the U.S. friendly fish pond for 2007. I took quite a bit off of Cake before they went shady. After dealing with Cake Poker’s shady ways, I decided to give all of my action to Pokerstars and Full Tilt Poker. I am a Seven Stud High/Low and Omaha High/Low specialist. PokerStars would end up being where I played the most because that is where the non hold’em action was. I did well grinding the tournaments out but needed something more since high buyin non hold’em games are not common.
No Job and Non Competed Out of Online Poker
I had signed a couple of agreements to stay out of the online poker industry until 2008 due to the sale of my business. My South Dakota job was exempted from them, but after that sale I was unable to work in the industry for anyone. After all of my non competes ran out, I went to work for Poker Affiliate Solutions (PAS). They had been trying to get me to work for them for months but I had ignored their emails. I cannot really say why. Looking back, it was quite unprofessional of me. I guess life was good and the thought of another online poker job did not really interest me. I finally agreed to visit their office and after some consulting days I agreed to work for them. Although I left the company full time in August 2010, they are still a company I help out part time with blog posts, industry news, player support and other odd jobs that come up.
In October 2010, I moved to Las Vegas. It just seemed like the place to be if I wanted to stay in the industry. On Black Friday (April 15, 2011), I had almost all of my online poker money at Pokerstars as opposed to Full Tilt Poker. That turned out to be a good thing since Full Tilt turned out to be a “ponzi scheme”. Those are the Department of Justice’s words, not mine. PokerStars paid my money quickly but as you probably know Full Tilt Poker has yet to pay any U.S. players back. As much as the DOJ wants to point fingers at Full Tilt, it is hard to think U.S. players would be in this situation if they the same interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 that the courts have decided. Their lack of understanding of court rulings is for another blog post, maybe my online poker cash grab post.
So here I am, ten years after my first online poker hand, writing for a variety of online poker companies about the industry that I know better than almost anyone. I do not work for any single person or company. I have a modest office about six miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. I play little online poker due to PokerStars being forced out of the U.S. Hopefully ten years from now I can be talking about how the U.S. finally caught up with the rest of the world’s internet freedom and I am either playing professionally again or working for one of the future U.S. online poker companies in my corner office writing about my 20 years in online poker.