Planet Poker

Planet Poker

Planet Poker was the first real-money online card-room for playing Poker. [http://www.casinocitytimes.com/news/article.cfm?contentID=165004]

History

On 1 January, 1998, after several months of planning and preparation, Planet Poker dealt a $3-$6 game of Texas Hold’em poker that started what would become one of the most successful, fastest growing industries in the world. Without an existing model to follow, Planet Poker’s founder, Randy Blumer, let his instincts and his passion for poker be the guide for setting up the world’s first Real Money online cardoom. In 1997 real money online poker simply did not exist and each step was truly a plunge into uncharted territory.

During the initial launch and testing phases in late 1997, Planet Poker began to gain momentum and started to build what would become a loyal customer base. A small number of customers were attracted to the concept of Planet Poker’s promise that on-line poker tables were coming soon. By the time the first Real Money table opened on 1 January 1998, a handful of customers were ready to play.

As days turned to weeks, the small group of customers began to grow and the poker games started to run longer. Sometime in February 1998 a game continued through the night with enough players rotating in and out the game that it carried all the way through to the next evening. It may not sound like a significant event today when one can find several sites with in excess of 10,000 players at any time, but it was truly one of the major milestones in the history of online poker.

By the early summer of 1998, Planet Poker had amassed a loyal following and games regularly ran around the clock. Game selection was increased to meet the demand of the steady stream of new players. For the remainder of 1998, Planet Poker continued to enjoy growth but as with any rapidly growing business, new challenges emerged as well. The customer support team was expanded to deal with increasing support requirements. Credit card payments were added to allow customers an easy means of getting money into and out of the game. However, by far the largest challenges were technical in nature and often-required days for problems to be fully resolved. The Internet itself was in it's infancy and was often plagued by geographic outages and poor connections. Technical issues were further compounded by the growing need for more features and enhancements related to the gameplay.

Although the launch of Planet Poker had made online poker a reality, the site lacked many of the necessary playing features and the backend capability did not adequately the meet standard required for efficiently managing a cardroom. Planet Poker was able to address the backend capability by assembling an in-house team to build toolsets to monitor and extract the necessary information for the support staff to service the growing number of players. The playing features were more of a challenge.


Implementation of new playing features required changes to the core game software and Planet had to rely on the 3rd party supplier to make changes. Recognizing the importance of getting these features in place, agreements were renegotiated with the software supplier that provided the software provider with generous payments to implement needed changes. However, the software supplier had mixed business interests and the pace of developing the changes was less than required to keep pace with the evolving online poker industry. Maintaining a relationship with the software supplier soon became a time consuming effort that diverted resources from other aspects of the business.

Then in 1999, without advance notice, a new cardroom called Paradise Poker emerged. Coincidently, in the week that Paradise Poker launched, Planet Poker was plagued with technical problems that led to several days of downtime. Within a few days Planet Poker fully recovered from its technical problems but Paradise had established a foothold and the online poker industry got its first taste of competition. Almost overnight, Paradise Poker attained instant success and the size of its customer base soon surpassed Planet’s despite Planet’s growth continuing at record rates. In a few short months, the number of concurrent players at peak grew from 400 at Planet to 1500 at Planet and Paradise combined with Paradise emerging as the clear industry leader with superior features and improved stability.

Staff recognized that it would take time for Planet Poker to catch up to Paradise Poker on the technical front. Planet focused on providing the highest level of integrity and security for their customers. Mike Caro was engaged by Planet as one of the most respected, recognized names in the poker industry to guide and represent Planet Poker’s operation. Mike Caro's presence provided instant credibility to Planet Poker and the online poker industry as a whole. Roy Cooke would also join the Planet team as their cardroom manager.

By early 2000, the capability gap between Planet Poker’s and Paradise Poker’s cardroom was continuing to widen. A new company Acekicker.com Holdings Inc. was formed to develop a software product for Planet Poker. Based on Planet’s operational experience, a set of requirements were established that would allow Planet to re-capture the number one spot in the industry. AceKicker’s initial development efforts were plagued by issues with an offshore software developer and the development of the software was delayed. By the time the issues were resolved and the development was moved to Canada, there were several new well-funded entrants in the online poker industry and Planet was chasing a moving target. Most of Planet’s financial resources were diverted to software development and Planet now lacked the funding and expertise to compete with the industry giants in marketing. Planet would not launch its new system for real money until 2004 and by this time, Party Poker was dominating the industry with a handful of other cardrooms clustered near second place.

From 2002 onward, Planet Poker remained a steady fixture as the industry evolved. Many new poker rooms came and went, but there was continuing explosive growth in the overall number of online poker players. Planet still retained a loyal customer base from its initial startup but could never seem to increase its critical mass to a point where they could compete with the larger sites and their associated marketing. While Planet Poker would peak at around 1200 players in prime time, other cardrooms were setting new daily records that would eventually exceed 100,000. Planet Poker continued on as a small cardroom with it's friendly atmosphere as the primary attraction for it's modest but loyal customer base.

In September 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in the U.S. changed the legal landscape for the online poker industry. By the time the act was passed, Planet Poker had registered over three quarters of a million customers. The UIGEA would soon start to have a profound effect on online poker and Planet Poker would face a new, final set of challenges for Real Money play.

In response to the UIGEA Planet Poker suspended real money operations in March 2007. Planet Poker continues to operate as a free play (subscription based) poker site.

Notes

References

[http://www.cardplayer.com/magazine/article/14257 The Business of Internet Poker]
[http://www.cardplayer.com/magazine/article/13087 Planet Poker turns five]
[http://www.pokertips.org/history/online-poker.php Online Poker History]

External Links

[http://www.planetpoker.com Planet Poker Official Site]


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