2/11/10 – There was a time – and it wasn't that long ago – that the achievement of a billion hands of poker by an online gambling site was a cause for celebration and publicity; that pales these days as Pokerstars, the world's largest poker site, prepares for it's imminent 40 billionth hand to be dealt.
The big event is expected to occur sometime this (February) month and will be marked by a slew of cash giveaways and prizes that include a boost to create the biggest yet Sunday Million tourney…the guaranteed prizepool will be $4 million.
Players in action at the table when the record breaking 40 billionth hand occurs will receive generous cash prizes and the pot will be doubled by the poker company.
Coinciding with the big event for Pokerstars, the business magazine Forbes this week carried an interesting feature on the company. The piece records that Isai Scheinberg, a former programmer with IBM, started this industry giant by founding a small software company in Toronto titled PYR.
The company still operates, providing software for Pokerstars from the third floor of a small building "squeezed between a gas station and a Persian restaurant" in a Toronto suburb, and was the foundation for the giant enterprise which Scheinberg and his son Mark built and titled Pokerstars.
Now based and regulated on the Isle of Man, the enterprise holds records for greatest number of online gamblers in action on the site at one time (Guinness World Record verified at 149 196) and, according to the latest independent Pokerscout statistics, dominates the market with 32 600 cash game players on an average day – way ahead of nearest rival Full Tilt Poker.
An estimated two-and-a-half million of the legions of Pokerstars members are believed to be resident in the United States, helping the company to generate annual revenues in excess of $1.4 billion and some $500 million in profits.
The article goes on to record the Scheinbergs' tough-minded decision to continue servicing US players when the UIGEA had caused most of its opposition to retreat from the market, incurring huge losses in the process. The feisty stand set the scene for Pokerstars to rapidly grow, overtaking previous industry leaders to their managements' chagrin even today.
H2 Gambling Capital research has established that the online poker market today is worth some $4.8 billion a year, Forbes reports, noting that the Scheinbergs have shrewdly built on their success in America by expanding globally.
The decision to tough out the American restrictions was more than an act of defiance, and was a carefully considered business move, the article points out. Pokerstars has taken legal opinion from several major US law firms who have opined that it is not violating US law despite claims by the US Justice Department citing the outdated and sports betting oriented Wire Act of 1961.
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“Pokerstars believes that the passage of UIGEA in 2006 did nothing to change the legality of real money online poker in the U.S.,” PokerStars told Forbes in a written statement. “It is PokerStars’ position that both the plain language and the legislative intent of the Wire Act strictly limit its application to sports wagering.”
The online poker company claims its top market position has largely been a result of its innovation. The company points to its early promotion of tournament poker online as opposed to cash games. “A community of players has evolved where people from around the world log on to enjoy the game and a sense of competition with friends,” PokerStars says in its statement. “PokerStars has united millions of people from hundreds of countries.”
Forbes reports that the company currently has 1 000 employees.
It has not always been plain sailing in the US for Pokerstars, however; in 2008 the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan froze some $34 million owed to poker players from companies that processed payments for poker games hosted by PokerStars and Full Tilt. Both companies refunded their customers, even though Pokerstars says it was under no legal or contractual obligation to do so.
The Forbes article comes to the conclusion that whatever happens in the United States, Pokerstars is likely to continue to prosper. "Either way PokerStars dominance of this lucrative global business seems secure for now," it opines.