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Online Poker
The online poker industry has seen numerous growth spurts since the internet first became available. The constant improvements to functionality and addition of new features to software has made online poker a more accessible option than live poker for the majority of players. Online poker schools offer tutelage into the rules of different poker forms, as well as insight into the most effective strategic approaches, making online poker that much easier for anyone to learn and play.

The steady growth of the popularity of online poker is indicative of a world-wide interest in wager-based card games. A number of online poker players have turned professional without ever setting foot in a live poker venue. The reality of online poker as a fast-growing, favorite past-time took less than a decade to bear fruit, with all signs pointing toward continual thriving and technological progress well into the future.

The Moneymaker Effect
One fateful day, 27 year old Chris Moneymaker entered and won a $39 online poker satellite tournament that awarded him with free entry into the 2003 World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event. The Tennessean accountant went on to claim the WSOP Championship bracelet and $2.5 million dollars in one of the most surprising live poker tournament results in history, effectively changing the image of the online poker industry forever.

Immediately following the fateful victory of Chris Moneymaker, people all over the world flocked to the online poker rooms in droves, all seeking an opportunity to repeat the success of the amateur poker player who by-passed the $10,000 entry fee by qualifying online for the most prestigious live poker tournament in the world. What had once been a relatively obscure internet gaming market, was suddenly inundated with new players inspired by Moneymaker's accomplishment.

Pioneers of Online Poker
Virtual poker made its first appearance in the form of IRC, Internet Relay Chat. Drawing only a small crowd of players to the "play money" system, the graphical interface was significantly limited in comparison to today's standards. Advances in software speed and imagery began to draw more players, many of whom already had experience playing poker.

The very first real money online poker site, Planet Poker, was established in 1998 by professional poker player and writer, Mike Caro. The success and popularity of Planet Poker grew rapidly as the online poker room held the rank of sole internet poker provider for a year. However, Paradise Poker soon emerged, providing Omaha and 7 Card Stud to the still growing online poker community, dominating the market prior to the 2000 founding of Ultimate-Bet.

Changes and Improvements
In 2001, another huge improvement to online poker came in the form of tournaments made available by PartyPoker and PokerStars. The guaranteed prize pools and huge fields of players gave online poker a new dimension that appealed to poker players throughout the world. New online poker rooms continued to come into existence with a stronger focus on tournament play.

Following the 2003 WSOP win by Chris Moneymaker, Full Tilt Poker was launched with what has proven to be a successful marketing strategy; an online poker site founded by professional poker players with whom players could talk to, watch play, or even compete against. Full Tilt Poker also paved the way for sponsorship and television advertising. PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Party Poker, and UltimateBet, continue to lead the industry with enticing online poker tournaments, innovative software developments and effective marketing within a booming industry.

Advantages of Online Poker
Despite early skepticism from some experienced poker players, online poker has introduced a wealth of opportunities for learning how to play poker, and improving personal results. A number of tracking tools are available that allow players to quickly and effectively analyze their results in online poker games, revealing patterns that indicate preventable losses.

Convenience is a major factor in the success of the online poker industry. In the information age, where access to the internet is becoming the norm, the ability to simply sit down at the computer and play poker online is tremendously more affordable and attainable than a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City on a whim. The internet has made the opportunity to play poker obtainable to those who otherwise may never have even been introduced to poker.

Another advantage of online poker is that the games move along much faster than live poker. In fact, many online poker players find it difficult to sit through live poker tournaments due to the significantly reduced speed of the format. Online poker cards are dealt in a fraction of the time, a time limit is enforced to maintain a flow to the game, and the ability to play a number of tables at once keeps multi-taskers engaged when things still aren't moving along fast enough for them.

While speed may not seem like the most important aspect of online poker to a novice player, after taking time to study the various poker forms, players tend to become much quicker at making decisions. Increasing the speed of play by joining the "fast play" online poker tables and multi-tabling, have a tremendous impact on how much money can potentially be earned in the course of an hour.

A number of features are provided by online poker sites that simply aren't available in live games. One is the ability to take notes about one's opponents during a game. Players can also search for players they have competed against before, or view table statistics from the lobby in order to choose an online poker table based on the average pot-size, the amount of the other players' current chip stacks, or the percentage of flop views. These abilities allow players to expand upon their existing poker strategies.

Several online poker sites have a game selection that simply cannot be rivaled by most casino poker rooms. While Texas Hold'em is perhaps the most prevalent poker form throughout most of the world, mixed games - in which a number of predetermined poker variants are cycled throughout the game - have been drawing a great deal of interest. This has created a demand for poker games such as Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo, 7 Card Stud, Razz, and 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo. A few online poker sites even offer the lesser known poker game, Badugi, a challenging triple-draw lowball game with a unique hand ranking system.
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