History of US Online Poker

You may notice that we’re giving this column a bit of a makeover.

Not only does it now have a new home, but we’ll be expanding the topics to all of poker and not just online poker, which means our weekly look into the history of the game will now go back decades if not centuries.

This week we’ll go back as far as the 1970’s as we take a look at the World Series of Poker’s first real challenger, Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker.

We’ll also examine an incredible tournament series from 1994 where three legends of the game (two of them are in the Hall of Fame) put on quite a show at the Commerce Casino.

You’ll also get a glimpse at the earliest days of 2+2, a refresher course on Andy Beal’s match against The Corporation, and a whole lot more.

1979-1991: Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker

Before the World Poker Tour and before the Aussie Millions, the World Series of Poker dealt with some competition a bit closer to home, when in 1979 Amarillo Slim Preston created the Amarillo Slim Super Bowl of Poker, held in Las Vegas in February.

The Super Bowl of Poker was the second most popular tournament series of the time, complete with its own $10k Main Event, and lasted until 1991.

Some of the biggest names in the game won the $10,000 Main Event, including some guy named Stu Ungar who was a three-time winner (to go along with his three WSOP titles), as well as TJ Cloutier, Mickey Appleman, Jack Keller, and Gabe Kaplan.

By the early 1980’s the Super Bowl of Poker was pulling in 50 entrants, about half as many as the WSOP itself, but it never managed to get over the hump.

Part of the problem was that the tournament never found a stable home and was played in five different casinos during its 13 year run. In 1991, when the tournament was moved to the Flamingo in Laughlin, Nevada, only 12 players showed up – signaling the end of the once-promising tournament series.

March, 1994: An Tran and Johnny Chan dominate the LA Poker Classic III

Freddy Deeb may have bested TJ Cloutier for the LA Poker Classic III Main Event title, but the real story from the tournament series was An Tran vs. Johnny Chan, a battle that played out in a couple of the preliminary tournaments.

Just a couple of days before the Main Event An Tran beat a final table that included Johnny Chan for the $1k PLO title, getting a little revenge after Chan bested him for the 2-7 title just two days prior – a tournament where Main Event runner-up TJ Cloutier finished in 3rd place.

Overall, Tran won two events at the series, finished 2nd in two other events, and 3rd in another. Chan managed just the two final tables mentioned above, finishing 1st and 4th in the events.

To bring the story full circle, TJ Cloutier made three final tables, finishing 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, just like Tran, Chan, and Cloutier finished 1, 2, 3 in the 2-7 tournament.

If you don’t know who An Tran is, I highly suggest you check out his Hendon Mob page; he was easily one of the best tournament players of the 1990’s.

Also from the archives…

  • March 3, 2001: France’s Pascal Perrault wins the 2001 British Poker Open Main Event, besting a couple of legendary Irishmen in Liam Flood and Padraig Parkinson, as well as Surinder Sunar at the final table.
  • February 26, 2006: Chip shuffling on YouTube. It may seem quite silly now, but back during the Poker Boom chip tricks were all the rage, so much so that I always said if you wanted to write the best-selling poker book of all time write one about doing chip tricks.

March 1, 2000: 2+2 before it was 2+2

Before forums there were these things called “newsgroups” which were basically forums but not quite as fancy – a good analogy would be to think of newsgroups as the telegraph and forums as the telephone.

Before 2+2 became 2+2 this is what people looking for poker discussions would find. Notice the person’s email address after their name, and scroll through and see how many recognizable names you can find from this old thread.

I found Greg Raymer, Ray Zee, Shawn Keller (with a .edu email), Mason Malmuth, and Abdul Jalib in the first 10% of the mammoth archive.

February 28, 2006: Andy Beal takes on The Corporation

Before Guy Laliberte on Full Tilt Poker, and before Super-High-Roller tournaments and the Big One for One Drop, there was Andy Beal, and his heads-up Limit Holdem battles with a rotating collection of the world’s best poker players, dubbed The Corporation.

If you are unfamiliar with this story you can find a quick summary of what took place in these games where the blinds were as high as $50,000/$100,000 at PokerListings.com, but if you want the true experience I suggest picking up Michael Craig’s book on the topic The Professor, The Banker, And The Suicide King.