My fellow online denizens, we are gathered here today for a funeral to celebrate a short but white-hot light that was snuffed out last week. International Online Poker passed away after a long illness otherwise known as “death by 1000 cuts.” While it seems that it was around for much longer than it was, International Online Poker was only 19 years old and had envisioned a much better life for itself.
Coming out of the womb of something called “the internet” and buoyed by the increase of home computers in the late 1990s, International Online Poker came to life in 1998 with its first home, Planet Poker. Soon after that, other homes began to emerge for International Online Poker, with each one improving on the previous domicile. Paradise Poker was next to host International Online Poker, but the true boom wouldn’t come until PartyPoker opened a new palace for International Online Poker to live just before the end of the 20th century.
PartyPoker made it cool to play poker, especially with people from around the world, and it thrived on a solid platform and good customer service. In 2001, however, another new place for International Online Poker to call home was built with even better amenities. Called PokerStars, the new place was unveiled but was quickly overcome by the news of the day, an attack in the United States that brought down the World Trade Center in New York City.
PartyPoker remained the dominant site for the next couple of years as PokerStars fought to get the attention of International Online Poker and draw it over to its new pad, alongside such other upstart homes as Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. In 2003, PokerStars got its edge in sponsoring a young man with the unlikely moniker of Chris Moneymaker after he won a seat to the World Series of Poker’s Championship Event. After Moneymaker won the tournament, more people began to flock to International Online Poker’s new hangout, especially when more World Champions became tied to PokerStars after their victories.
In 2004, another newcomer came along. The people considered “professionals” in the poker playing community decided it was time they got a piece of what International Online Poker was giving and opened their own home. Called Full Tilt Poker, those “professionals” promoted the factor they lived in the home as well, making for a great place for people to come and learn the game while enjoying the new digs. With outstanding properties popping up seemingly every day, International Online Poker was quite happy and celebrating whichever home it went.
The clouds were growing for International Online Poker, however. In 2006, the first chink in the armor emerged when the United States passed laws making it illegal to finance online gaming transactions. PartyPoker, in a highly difficult decision, pulled out of the country to stay in accordance with the new laws, as did 888Poker. PokerStars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker didn’t, however, leading the U. S. contingent – and, thus, International Online Poker – to go to those sites. The actions in the U. S. were limited to begin with but, as the years went on, other countries began to also knock chunks out of International Online Poker.
Germany, Italy, Spain, France…all introduced legislation over the next few years to ban online gaming save for sites that were expressly established and located in the country of the game. These moves also wore on International Online Poker as it pulled those countries’ players out of the overall pool and forced them into playing against their countrymen and didn’t allow anyone else in. It also didn’t help that those countries where “fenced off” play was located were taxed extremely, driving players from the game who could no longer make a living.
Just as International Online Poker was trying to get used to these changes, the U. S. dropped another atomic bomb of sorts. “Black Friday,” where the U. S. Department of Justice indicted the leaders of the three powers of the online poker industry – PokerStars, Full Tilt and CEREUS (the partnership of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker) – effectively knocking the U. S. out of circulation. International Online Poker was dealt a severe blow with “Black Friday” and it only got worse until International’s demise this week.
Alas, my friends, International Online Poker will never come back after the Australian decision. The current trend towards “nationalism” in politics has spread into our taxation and revenues systems. If a nation can tax something from its citizens to death and keep those profits for itself, they are going to do that (we’ve seen this with France, Spain, and Italy). If they can enforce laws that make companies come inside their borders to participate, then they’ll make sure they do that, too. What they won’t do is allow the old status quo to return, when someone in California could be playing the game against someone in Lithuania in a world-uniting endeavor.
Several locales will survive International Online Poker’s demise, each struggling to make it on its own. French Online Poker, Spanish Online Poker, and other nationally-restricted siblings of full-fledged International remain, with “International” now limited to the United Kingdom, Canada, South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. That may seem large until it is considered that Asia may be the next to withdraw inside itself rather than see the money go elsewhere.
How strange is it that slightly more than a decade ago we now consider the “Golden Age” of the online game? It was a brief but bright light that burned twice as brilliantly. Now, International Online Poker is dead, never to return as we once knew it. And we can only sit back and wonder what could have been…