4 Things You May Not Know About Poker Before the Boom

Steve Ruddock : April 19th, 2016
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A lot, probably way too much, has been written about the poker boom. Furthermore, the period of time leading up to the poker boom, beginning in about 2002 or so, has gotten quite a bit of attention in its own right. Yet, the period of time that immediately predates this “modern poker” era is largely overlooked.

In the eyes of many, poker as we know it sprang into being sometime in 2002/2003 when the hole card camera burst onto the scene (first on the World Poker Tour and later on the 2003 WSOP episodes that aired on ESPN), and piecing together anything that happened before this time is akin to an archeological dig.

But it really shouldn’t be that way.

The poker boom may have been a complete surprise to most people, but the writing was on the wall. There was a lot going on in the poker world in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and in many cases poker (and gambling) was ahead of the curve, particularly when it came to the game’s online presence.

Here are a few interesting aspects of the pre-boom poker industry you may not be aware of.

Moneymaker didn’t create the boom

Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP victory is a bright line of sorts. For most people the 2003 WSOP is a point of demarcation that marks the beginning of the poker boom.

However, Moneymaker didn’t create the poker boom, he was more of an accelerant. As I’ve said several times over the years, poker was going to explode with or without Chris Moneymaker, but Chris’s improbable story likely sped up, and perhaps increased the size of, the explosion.

Prior to Chris’s victory:

  1. Online poker was already gaining traction;
  2. The World Poker Tour (and the hole card camera) had launched and garnered strong viewership numbers;
  3. Rounders was a cult college film, and home games were being played in dorms and campuses across the country;
  4. Poker news and media websites were sprouting faster than anyone could keep track;
  5. James McManus’s Positively Fifth Street was a New York Times bestseller;

Basically, a lot of pieces had already been moved into place by the time Moneymaker came along. Case in point, the 2003 WSOP Main Event (before the so-called poker boom) saw attendance up 33% (attendance was up 113% since 1999), a clear indication the spark had already been lit.

The original online poker training site

Long before Cardrunners and Deuces Cracked there was something called PokerSchoolOnline.com.

PokerSchoolOnline was the subscription area of the popular PokerPages.com portal, which along with Card Player Magazine, twoplustwo.com and rec.gambling.poker were must-visit websites for poker enthusiasts at the time.

Poker School Online didn’t have videos like modern training sites, but they did have exclusive content written by some of the top poker thinkers of the day.

PokerPages.com shouldn’t be overlooked either. The site had a ton of poker content, old archived footage of WSOP tournaments, and a decently active forum. PokerSchoolOnline.com (and PokerPages.com) also had their own online poker software and offered free-play tournaments and cash games.

The original KevMath

Long before Kevin Mathers became the go-to guy for all things poker, there was someone named Andy Glazer. Sadly, Glazer passed in July of 2004. The cause was officially listed as a complication from a blood clot, but the unofficial (and almost universally acknowledged) explanation was suicide.

Glazer was a tournament reporter and poker columnist extraordinaire, and he had a passion for all things poker. More to the point, Glazer was a trailblazer for all modern tournament reporters.

Unfortunately, as I went looking through Google for the many Andy Glazer tribute articles that were written to add to this section, most are long gone, as the hosting sites are now defunct. Luckily, I penned a short column on Glazer a couple years ago that has some of this source material in it.

R.I.P. Andy Glazer.

The poker minds

Before the poker boom there were a lot of poker books being written, the vast majority by Mason Malmuth’s publishing company, twoplustwo, and by poker theorist Mike Caro.

You can say what you will about this content’s simplicity, and/or some of the advice being outdated, but a lot of the early work done by the likes of Mike Caro, Mason Malmuth, and David Sklansky does stand up to the test of time – Malmuth’s early writings on bankroll requirement are still the foundation for all of today’s players, and you’d be hard-pressed to find books on Draw, Stud, or high-low games that are better than the volumes written in the 80’s and 90’s.

If it doesn’t stand up to the test time, it’s more a matter of the games of Texas Holdem and PLO having changed, and not a fundamental flaw in the advice itself.

On a related point, it’s important to note the twoplustwo.com poker forums, as well as the rec.gambling.poker newsgroup. These two internet havens were the home of some of the best poker minds of the day (twoplustwo.com (some parts of it anyway) continues to be a home for modern day poker thinkers) and a lot of what is known about poker strategy can be traced back to discussions at 2+2 and RGP.

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