On March 29, 2014, Oleksii Khoroshenin pocketed an astonishing EUR 578,392 when he beat the final table at the European Poker Tour (EPT) Vienna event. The Ukrainian poker pro could have banked considerably more if he hadn’t made a deal when there were only three players left in the tournament.
Poker has come a long way since its heyday, when it was played in dimly lit basements, pool halls, or the backrooms of bars. The lack of organization meant that several players often faced life or death situations where abandoning their winnings were the only way to secure safe passage.
Today poker is played in the swankiest casinos, housed by exclusive hotels, or, ironically, online in front of dimly lit computer screens. This year’s instalment of EPT Vienna was played out at the Hofburg Palace and attracted 910 participants, fighting over a total prize pool of EUR 4,413,500.
The lure of “easy” money has attracted millions of players from around the world to shove their lifesavings, retirement funds, or college tuition all-in… often literally. Some, of course, make it big and can afford lifestyles most only dare to dream of, while others are pushed into serious debts.
Almost every World Series of Poker (WSOP) and EPT Main Event tournament is decided over the game of Texas Hold’em, a poker variant made famous by living poker legend Doyle Brunson. He and others like Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts brought the game to Las Vegas in the 60s.
At first there was only one casino that offered the game, but it slowly grew in popularity. Popularity grew even more when it became available online. It practically exploded into the mainstream in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker became the first player ever to win the WSOP Main Event after qualifying for a seat from an online tournament.
Moneymaker turned his US$39 buy-in for the online tournament into US$2.5m when he beat poker pro Sam Farha at the final table. His victory garnered Moneymaker instant superstardom and launched millions of online poker players.
Players still cling to the possibility of investing as little as US$40 and turning it into millions. With this conviction there’s at least one thing’s for certain – poker is here to stay.