Online Poker History April

Late April is one of the most significant times on the calendar in poker history thanks to two longstanding tournaments, the World Series of Poker and the Irish Poker Open.

Few people realize the WSOP used to start in April (quite recently for that matter), and even fewer understand the rich history of the Irish Poker Open, which is why I’ll be kicking off this week’s column with these two stories.

I’ll also fill you in on several other happenings from this week in poker history, including the immediate aftermath of Black Friday, the first WPT Player of the Year winner, and a whole lot more.

History of the Irish Poker Open

Since 1980, April in Ireland has meant one thing, the Irish Poker Open.

The story of the Irish Poker Open rivals that of the World Series of Poker, as both were the vision of a singular force, the WSOP being the brainchild of Benny Binion (although the idea was partly nicked from the 1969 Texas Gamblers Convention held in Reno).

Across the pond the Irish Poker Open was created by Terry Rogers, who got the idea after his visits to the WSOP in the 1970’s.

Rogers (credited with bringing Texas Holdem to Ireland) launched the Irish Poker Open in 1980, and interestingly the first winner was a woman, Colette Doherty. Doherty would later add to her list of firsts by becoming the first European player and first female player to enter the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Over the years the Irish Poker Open morphed into one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, with Rogers using his WSOP bookmaking connections to lure big name American players over to Dublin to partake in the IPO, including the likes of Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar and Chip Reese, all of whom made the trip to Ireland.

Throughout the 1990’s the tournament lost a bit of its luster (this period was definitely a low point for poker everywhere) but the tournament continued on (only the WSOP has had a longer run than the IPO) and in 2005 Paddy Power started sponsoring the tournament, resuscitating the Irish Poker Open brand and keeping Roger’s legacy going.

Nowadays, the IPO may not be one of the must-play events on the tournament calendar, but it’s still a prestigious event thanks to its rich history.

I’ve said this before but I’ll bring it up again, how Terry Rogers is not in the Poker Hall of Fame is beyond me.

Did You Know the WSOP used to start in April?

My goodness, check out this schedule of events from the 2003 World Series of Poker!

One, YES ONE, $10,000 tournament (the Main Event obviously) and all of four $5,000 buy-in tournaments. Every other tournament on the schedule featured a buy-in between $500 (the Casino Employee Tournament) and $3,000.

Another interesting thing to note is the number of events. In 2003 (not all that long ago mind you) there were only 36 tournaments.

Also from the archives…

April 21, 2004: This is the second week in row we’ve had a professional athlete and online poker story. Baltimore Ravens cornerback was arrested for running a high-stakes poker game.

April 26, 2004: Erick Lindgren wins the World Poker Tour Player of the Year award. This was the first POY award the WPT handed out.

April 21, 2008: Tony G undresses Ralph Perry on TV. This didn’t happen on April 21, 2008, but that is when it was uploaded to YouTube.

April 26, 2011: Post Black Friday editorials

In the immediate aftermath of Black Friday nobody really knew what was going on or what the end-game would be, and editorials were being penned in the poker community, but also, for the first time, by mainstream media outlets.

One person who saw Black Friday as the perfect time to push for legalization of online poker was Caesars CEO Gary Loveman, who wrote an op-ed for CNN/Fortune called Online Poker: Legalize it!

In the piece Loveman says what many of us now realize: Without Black Friday online poker legalization would not have happened.

“It’s not often that opportunity arrives in the form of a federal indictment. But that’s exactly what’s happened in the world of online poker,” Loveman prophetically wrote at the time.

Of course, Loveman’s cajoling article was advocating federal legislation, as he felt ” state level legislation will not adequately address the problems that currently exist.” This attitude proved to be wrong in the long-run as it has been the states who have been responsible for iGaming gains in the US.

Happy Birthday to…

April 21 is the birthday of Russian poker player Alexander Kravchenko. Kravchenko was one of the first Russian poker players to really make a name for himself, which seems a bit strange considering the enormous poker talent that has come out of the country recently.

April 23 is the birthday of French poker pro Fabrice Soulier. Soullier is one of the best poker players in France and is likely going to become a Hall of Famer.