In May 2003, an unknown 27-year-old Internet Togel poker player named Chris Moneymaker (yes, his real name) won the Kentucky Derby of poker — the annual World Series of Poker held at Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The prize for beating the swarm of professionals and other amateurs was $2.5 million. The real kicker, though, was that Moneymaker qualified for a seat at the tournament (which normally costs $10,000) by winning an online series of satellite tournaments, which cost him only $40 total to enter. Moneymaker also said he had never played in a live poker tournament before the World Series. He had only played online.
“We’ve seen quite a few unknowns go to final tables of major (land-based) events and do extremely well against the pros. And where have all these people honed their skills? Online,” says Vikrant Bhargava, general manager of PartyPoker.com, which is owned by iGlobalMedia, based in Gibraltar.
Bhargava says his firm’s site — which Togel PokerPulse.com calls the largest online destination — has 60,000 players at tables in peak traffic, suggesting a couple hundred thousand visitors per day. The bulk of the customers come from the U.S.
Most of the players are male, Bhargava says. Patrick Selin, CEO of competitor PokerRoom.com, owned by Sweden-based Ongame, confirms this demographic trend.
About 85 percent of players at PokerRoom.com are male and the average age is 28, Selin says.
While almost all online poker sites let players play around with play money, the operators don’t earn any money from them. So efforts are made by the sites to encourage players to load up accounts and play with real money.
During Halloween weekend, Togel PokerRoom only allowed players who had money in their accounts to play. To entice new customers, special bonuses were offered for deposits.
The draw for many players continues to be the tournaments and the hope of becoming the next Chris Moneymaker.
“With tournaments, it’s that dream … meeting the big poker stars, being able to travel somewhere and hopefully winning a million dollars or whatever (the prize) is,” Selin says.
But while poker is growing at a phenomenal rate, Selin admits the gold rush could diminish soon. He says the amount Togel wagered online skyrocketed by more than 600 percent in 2003, but this year’s growth rate is expected to be 150 percent. He expects next year’s growth rate will be 100 percent — meaning total wagering will double.