Make no mistake, 2013 was big year for online poker in the United States – perhaps the biggest ever.
2013 brought about the launch of licensed online poker, some additional closure from Black Friday, the unregulated market’s fall into chaos, and the return of some major players in the US market.
In a normal year you’d be lucky to get one or two stories that have the potential to be real game changers, but this year we had at least a half-dozen that could be counted in this category.
Here are the 10 biggest online poker stories of 2013.
If you were selecting a list of winners and losers of 2013 then 888 Poker would be right at the top of the winners’ side.
The year began with 888 becoming the official sponsor of the World Series of Poker, including the WSOP APAC, Las Vegas, and Europe.
In between all they did was launch their WSOP.com website in Nevada, get selected to provide Delaware’s online gaming (along with Scientific Games), and launch two different online poker rooms in New Jersey.
During this time 888 Poker also saw their network creep into a neck-and-neck horserace for the #2 spot on www.pokerscout.com’s traffic rankings.
It’s hard to believe but it had been seven years since US poker players had the chance to play at Party Poker, following the company’s decision to leave the US after UIGEA passage.
But Party’s period of exile is now over after they teamed up with the Borgata and launched two poker rooms in New Jersey last month.
So far Party Poker has been the dominant force in the US market, with a 50% market share in New Jersey. It’s still early, but thus far it looks like Party Poker will be picking up right where it left off.
Sandwiched in between the launch of iGaming in Nevada and New Jersey, Delaware’s online poker industry has been flying under the radar (having an average of 25 players online at any given time will do that) but Delaware’s launch is still a pretty big deal.
Delaware is the only state of the three that is running their online gambling through the state’s lottery, and using a singled provider – 888 and Scientific Games.
And as I mentioned in this article, Delaware could very well be the lynchpin to interstate online poker.
The funny thing about this story is that it’s still developing, and we really don’t know if Bitcoin (and its role in online poker) is going to be a blip on the radar or a full-fledged revolution.
What we do know is that during 2013 Bitcoin went from a fringe currency worth a few bucks and lauded only by a few diehard advocates, to a potential game changer for currencies, trading at over $1,000 a piece, or a Bitcoin, or however you measure the things.
Sheldon Adelson tried to come in at the tail end of 2013 and upset the online poker apple cart in the US, calling for a federal ban of online gambling.
If money was actually returned we’d be looking at a top 3 story, but the beginning of the Full Tilt Poker Remission process by the Garden City Group is still big enough to make the top 10.
Claims are supposed to start arriving at poker players’ doors sometime in early 2013 (March/April), but as we have all come to realize when it comes to Full Tilt Poker, a deadline is more of a recommendation than a covenant.
Lock Poker can thank pretty much every other entry on this list for trumping the site’s numerous and disconcerting issues, or at the very least distracting US players for a period of time.
Earlier this year it looked like Lock Poker and their troubling transaction times were about to be razed to the ground by the poker community, but somehow the site has managed to carry on, all the while fending off the torch and pitchfork crowd, even after leaving Revolution Gaming and striking out on their own.
PokerStars’ US aspirations were hampered with DOJ settlements, the five-year “bad actor” clause in Nevada, a rescinded deal with the Atlantic Club that led to a legal battle, a partnership with Resorts Casino, and finally the suspension of their license application for the foreseeable future by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.
Poker players had hoped PokerStars would have a seat at the US online poker industry’s regulated table, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. The US market is now moving forward without the biggest brand in the industry.
Fortunately, the market is progressing in a good way, and in a couple of years US players could be saying, “PokerStars who?”
You know it’s been a big year when the return of online poker (legal, licensed online poker to boot) is only in the #2 spot on this list.
On April 30, 2013, the first licensed online poker room in the United States came online in Nevada, Ultimate Poker.
The reason Nevada gets the #2 spot despite being the first state to launch online poker is simple; the industry has stagnated in the sparsely populated state of 2.7 million.
And this is why the #1 US online poker story of 2013 is…
It may seem blasphemous to put any story ahead of Ultimate Poker’s launch, but there is no question about it, the launch of online gaming in New Jersey was the #1 story this year.
On the night NJ online poker went live with their soft launch Twitter, 2+2 and every other poker outlet was talking about nothing else.
Now a month later, pretty much every poker headline not covering a specific tournament or player is talking about New Jersey iGaming.