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Card Player Celebrates 20 Years

by Card Player News Team |  Published: Oct 31, 2008


Card Player Celebrates 20 Years
By Justin Marchand

The first issue of Card Player hit the stands in October 1988, with the express goal of bringing the poker industry a publication that communicated to everyone involved with or interested in poker what was happening, where it was happening, and who was making it happen.

When it began, The Card Player was a 40-page, black-and-white pamphlet that was distributed mainly to cardrooms and casinos located in Nevada and California. Over the years, the magazine tapped the brightest poker minds and winningest players to fill more than 50,000 pages with sound strategy advice geared toward making your time at the tables more profitable and enjoyable. The mission was, and still is today, to be "The Poker Authority," and as such, to be the leading information source for all things poker.

Unlike 1988, when the poker business consisted primarily of smoke-engulfed tables tucked into dark corners of casinos, poker has exploded into a global game and a huge business. Long gone are the days when only a few major tournaments were offered. No longer are limit, stud, and high-low split games the only ones in town. No longer are poker rooms a rarity in the world's major casinos. Thanks to a heavy television rotation of million-dollar tournaments and dozens of popular online poker sites, poker has morphed into an entertainment phenomenon that continues to capture the attention of new players every day.
If you step into just about any casino today, odds are that you'll find a thriving poker room. There are now more than 370 poker rooms in the United States, housing more than 4,600 tables. In California alone, 1,700 tables spread games in more than 91 cardrooms, and bring in $871 million in revenue to the state. In Las Vegas, just over 900 tables, up from 484 in 2004, rake $168 million. And the number of tables around the world continues to grow rapidly.

Despite the growth of brick-and-mortar casinos, it pales in comparison to the scope of online poker's overall effect on industry growth. The online poker "industry" was born in 1998 after the first online cardroom, Planet Poker, dealt a $3-$6 hold'em game that changed the poker paradigm forever. The ability to offer real-money poker games in cyberspace ushered in a new platform that drew thousands of new players and created a billion-dollar industry. Online poker companies, such as PartyGaming and, went public and generated huge market capitalizations. According to Christiansen Capital Advisors, a company that conducts gambling industry analysis, online poker revenues grew from $82.7 million in 2001 to $2.4 billion in 2005 as the game became a major profit center for the $12 billion online gaming industry.

Just how large is online poker? One look at the numbers shows that it's staggering. According to, which provides online poker traffic reports, the number of simultaneous ring-game players (seats filled at real-money tables) is, on average, 53,000. The site estimates that every day, 1,450 scheduled online tournaments attract roughly 450,000 entrants, and 2.5 million players participate in 275,000 sit-and-go tournaments. The largest online poker site, PokerStars, routinely has more than 120,000 players online at one time (in real-money cash games, play-money games, and tournaments), enough to fill 13,333 nine-handed tables.

After online poker opened the door to poker's next generation, something changed - or, shall we say, exploded - starting in 2002. This was the year that the World Poker Tour debuted and poker became a spectator sport in the U.S. via holecard-camera technology. With increased viewership, some top poker players soon became celebrities and were able to secure lucrative endorsement deals, similar to those of some professional athletes. The following year, poker received perhaps its largest PR boon ever after Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP main event and $2.5 million. Moneymaker's victory was made possible via a $39 satellite on PokerStars. His marketable story and memorable name were huge catalysts in further mainstreaming poker's image as a game in which anyone could compete against the best players in the world and win.

Thanks in part to Moneymaker and the proliferation of other poker television shows, tournament poker, nearly overnight, became a heavily rotated TV sensation. Online poker continued, thanks to satellite qualifiers, to swell tournament fields and prize pools, with the apex occurring in 2006. That year, Jamie Gold won an astonishing $12 million after beating 8,772 other players in the WSOP main event. A huge portion of the field won their seats through online sites, with PokerStars alone sending more than 16,000 players to the event. It seemed that, thanks to the online poker machine, nothing would stop poker's growth.

That was the case until Oct. 13, 2006, when the United States government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. The law prohibited the transfer of funds from banks to Internet gambling sites, including online poker rooms. Some of the largest sites, especially those publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, such as PartyGaming, stopped doing business with U.S. players. While PartyGaming saw its stock drop 60 percent in less than 24 hours, U.S. poker players suddenly found themselves denied the right to play poker in their own homes. The entire episode created poker's first lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, caused attendance numbers at major tournaments to decline, and started a global debate about the legality of such laws.

As poker, once just a game, has matured into an entire industry, Card Player and its stable of loyal contributors have been there every step of the way. This transition has broadened our mission. Now, updating the poker-playing community with the latest news and legislative developments is just as important as discussing the proper strategy for playing suited connectors in late position.

In honor of our 20th year, Card Player took a further look at some of the most important industry developments and benchmarks over the course of our existence.

Linda Johnson: The First Lady of Poker

Linda Johnson is a visionary, an ambassador, and a key player in making poker what it is today. She began her poker career in Las Vegas as a professional player in 1980, and became the publisher of Card Player magazine in 1993, playing an integral role in building Card Player into the biggest brand in poker.

An advocate of the game's integrity, she was a co-founder of the Tournament Directors Association and the original chairperson of the Poker Players Alliance, for which she now serves on the board of directors. In addition to being the announcer for World Poker Tour events, Johnson also finds time to host charity events and seminars around the world.
A player at heart, Johnson has several major tournament cashes, and owns a World Series of Poker bracelet from the 1997 $1,500 razz event. She says that she always has three goals when she sits down at a poker table: make money, have fun, and make sure that her opponents are having fun. All things considered, it is no wonder that she is known as "The First Lady of Poker."

Card Player spoke with Johnson on the eve of the publication's 20th anniversary to get a glimpse into her lifelong mission of enhancing poker's visibility.

Kristy Arnett: What led to your decision to buy Card Player?

Linda Johnson: I went on their first-ever poker cruise in 1992, and I had so much fun that as we were waiting to get off the ship, some friends of mine and I decided that we should ask the owners of Card Player if they were interested in hiring us to do something so that we would never have to miss another cruise. They said that they were actually looking to sell the magazine. So, two friends and I decided to buy it, even though we didn't know anything about running a poker magazine. We didn't have money at the time, so we got an investor. June and Phil Field (the owners) were nice enough to stay on for six months and teach us the ropes.

KA: Was the magazine successful at first?

LJ: The first year, we didn't make very much money. My two business partners, Denny Axel and Scott Rogers, and I decided that we should turn the magazine glossy. Once we made it a glossy, color publication, all of the big casinos wanted to be in a beautiful magazine. That meant that there were a lot more venues for us to get advertising from, which also gave us more to write about. Everything kicked off from there.

KA: What was the state of poker during that time?

LJ: Two months after I started as publisher, poker was legalized in Atlantic City. After that, a number of states across the country followed. When I first took over the magazine, poker was legal only in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Montana, and California. I was very fortunate that poker began to expand all over the country. Timing was everything for us.

KA: When did your days as Card Player publisher come to an end?

LJ: In 1998, I sold the bulk of the magazine. I was ready to give up the publishing end, but not the cruises. We decided to make Card Player Cruises a separate entity. Prior to that, it had fallen under the umbrella of the magazine.

KA: What do you think of the progress that Card Player has made over the years?

LJ: I will say that the founders of Card Player, June and Phil Field, did an excellent job in starting the magazine. When I took it over, it was in its infancy, and I sort of brought it into its teenage years. The Shulmans have developed it since then, and taken it into its mature adult years. I still read it cover to cover, and I'm happy to see where it is today.

KA: Taking a look back at your long and prestigious career, what are you most proud of?

LJ: I'm most proud of winning my bracelet, giving back through charity work, and teaching thousands of people to play poker over the years through Card Player Cruises and WPT Boot Camps. I'm also proud of the fact that I think I've made a difference in terms of improving conditions in poker rooms through developing the TDA and promoting the game's integrity.

It's such a great game. I still play every day. I feel sad for people who do it just because it's a job. For me, it's not just a job, it's something that I love. It's something that I think keeps us all young.

How the Biggest Poker Tournament in the World Has Changed From 1988 to 2008
By Ryan Lucchesi

The World Series of Poker, poker's marquee event, provides a measurement each year of the health and prosperity of the game. It has grown more than anyone could have imagined since the first Card Player magazine was published 20 years ago, and even though the game is as popular as ever today, the tournament that started it all faces its biggest challenges in the future.

The World Series of Poker main event drew 167 players, and the entire tournament featured a lineup of 12 events total at Binion's Horseshoe in 1988, the year that Card Player magazine was first published. The event - which began in 1970 as a reunion of Texas road gamblers, with a voted-upon champion, and then drew seven contestants the next year when it adopted a freezout tournament structure - was growing. The first 19 years of the tournament saw it grow to more than 23 times its original size, but what was really amazing was the increase that would follow in the next 20 years, as the tournament swelled to more than 52 times its original size.

1989-1993: Introducing … Phil Hellmuth

The period between 1989 and 1993 saw the emergence of Phil Hellmuth, who became the youngest player in history to win the main event with his victory in 1989. The size of the tournament grew modestly, from 178 players to 220 players, during this five-year stretch. Mansour Matloubi was the first foreign national to become world champion when he won in 1990. Another milestone was passed when Brad Daugherty became the first world champion to be awarded $1 million when he won the main event in 1991.

1994-1998: "The Kid's" Comeback

This five-year stretch was marked once again by modest growth, as the number of main-event entrants climbed from 268 to 350, but the cast of characters in the poker world also had grown. New champions included Dan Harrington (1995), Huck Seed (1996), and Scotty Nguyen (1998), who all still loom large in the poker world today. The spotlight fell on poker's fallen son, who pulled off the greatest comeback the poker world had ever seen in 1997. No one argued about the talent of Stu Ungar, as he was a back-to-back world champion in 1980 and 1981, but his habits away from the felt had buried a promising career in a haze of fast living and easy gambling that oftentimes left him broke. At 44 years old, "The Kid" had been staked in the main event in 1997, and after he made his way through a field of 312 players to sit at the final table, it was all over. For the first (and only) time in WSOP history, the final table took place outside, under a canopy on Fremont Street, and Ungar put on a show as he brazenly revealed bluffs and took home his third world championship in one of the most dominating WSOP final-table performances ever.

1999-2003: Turning the Corner

Three-time Irish champion Noel Furlong won the last main event of the 20th century, topping a field of 393 players to kick off a five-year period that saw the tournament more than double in size to 839 players in 2003. Over this period of time, the first-place prize grew from $1 million to $2.5 million. The most memorable final table took place in 2000, when Chris Ferguson beat T.J. Cloutier heads up for the world championship in a final-table battle that has since been immortalized by fourth-place finisher Jim McManus in his book Positively Fifth Street. However, the most memorable world champion emerged at the end of this stretch when amateur Chris Moneymaker topped veteran professional Sam Farha heads up to send the WSOP and tournament poker into a new era.

2004-2008: The Moneymaker Effect

Thanks to Moneymaker, the proliferation of online poker, and the popularity of poker on television as a result of the use of holecard cameras, the WSOP experienced a boom in growth starting in 2004. The size of the main event tripled in 2004 to 2,576 players, and then doubled in size the next year to 5,619 players. The growth peaked in 2007, when 8,773 players entered the main event, making it the largest live poker tournament in history. Jamie Gold won the largest first-place prize ever, $12 million, in a dominating win. The only thing that was able to slow down the growth of the WSOP was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was passed in late 2006. The numbers for the 2007 main event shrunk to 6,350, but grew once again to 6,844 in 2008.

Worst WSOP Bad Beats Over the Last 20 Years

Things have a funny way of working out in a poker tournament. Sometimes you get your money in with the best of it and lose, and other times you get your money in with the worst of it and win. The four hands that follow show that over the past 20 years, sometimes the hands that decided the world championship were a wild ride:

1. Ferguson Spikes a 9 Against Cloutier (Chris Ferguson vs. T.J. Cloutier - 2000)

T.J. Cloutier made the price of admission 175,000 preflop, and Chris Ferguson reraised to 600,000. Cloutier reraised all in and Ferguson went into the tank. He thought for five solid minutes and eventually made the call with the A 9. Cloutier had Ferguson dominated, holding the A Q. The board was dealt slowly, with pauses at every street to build anticipation and drama. The flop came K 4 2. The turn was the K, and the 9 fell on the river to make Ferguson the world champion.

Ferguson's winning chances preflop: 23.09 percent, after the flop: 12.12 percent, after the turn: 6.82 percent

2. The Double Drawout (Mansour Matloubi vs. Hans "Tuna" Lund - 1990)

Mansour Matloubi raised preflop to 75,000 with pocket tens, and Lund made the call with the A 9. The flop came 9 4 2, and Matloubi bet 100,000. Lund raised to 250,000, and after a few minutes of silent deliberation, Matloubi moved all in. Lund then went into the tank, and made the call. The turn and river fell A, 10, giving Lund the lead from behind on the turn, only to give it back to Matloubi on the river.

Lund's winning chances after the flop: 21.82 percent

Matloubi's winning chances after the turn: 4.55 percent

3. Yang Hits a Runner-Runner Straight for the Title (Jerry Yang vs. Tuan Lam - 2007)

Sixteen hours into the final table, Jerry Yang called an all-in bet from Tuan Lam with pocket eights. Lam flipped over the A Q and the board was dealt Q 9 5 7 6.

Yang's winning chances after the flop: 12.02 percent, after the turn: 13.64 percent

4. Ungar Makes a Wheel on the River (Stu Ungar vs. John Strzemp - 1997)

Ungar's winning chances after the flop: 27.58 percent, after the turn: 15.91 percent

Stu Ungar raised to 60,000 and John Strzemp made the call. The flop came A 5 3 and Strzemp bet 120,000. Ungar thought for a minute or two, and decided to move all in. Strzemp made the call and they turned up their hands. Strzemp was ahead with the A 8, while Ungar held the A 4. The turn and river came 3, 2, giving Ungar a straight and his third world championship.

The Bluff That Changed Poker History (Chris Moneymaker vs. Sam Farha - 2003)

The battle of amateur versus professional will forever live in the minds of poker players across the world as the battle between Sam Farha and an accountant from Tennessee by the name of Chris Moneymaker. This battle between David and Goliath was supposed to be a one-sided victory, but in the end, a Moneymaker bluff that led to his ultimate victory convinced legions of casual players that they could perhaps one day win the "big one."

In that hand, Moneymaker was dealt the K 7 20 hands into his heads-up match with Farha, and he decided to raise preflop to 100,000. Farha called with the Q 9, and the flop came 9 6 2. Farha checked to lead things off, and Moneymaker checked behind him. The turn was the 8 and Farha bet 300,000. Moneymaker raised to 800,000 and Farha made the call. The river was the 3, missing both players by a mile, but this did not prevent Moneymaker from moving all in. Farha then went into the tank for several minutes, and said the following in between his silent pondering: "You must have missed your flush, huh? I could make a crazy call on you. It could be the best hand." Moneymaker gave him nothing, and Farha eventually mucked his hand and watched the championship slip through his fingers.

Mike Sexton:
Poker Ambassador

Mike Sexton has been a central figure in the poker industry since the inception of Card Player magazine 20 years ago. Regarded by those in the know as "The Ambassador of Poker," Sexton has had a hand in growing the poker industry over the last two decades and over the years has been a regular contributor to Card Player. Mike recently spoke with Card Player about his consistent, positive influence on the game over the past two decades.

Lizzy Harrison: What was the poker scene like when you first arrived?

Mike Sexton: When I came onto the Vegas scene, there were only two tournaments a year, the World Series of Poker and Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker. And at both of those events, it wasn't the tournaments that were the draw - it was the cash games. A number of players played in a tournament only if they couldn't get a seat in a cash game that day.

LH: Tell us a bit about the establishment of the Tournament of Champions and what it did for the game of poker.

MS: I believed the poker world needed a premium event that you couldn't buy your way into, but had to earn your way in, such as the Tournament of Champions in golf, in which you had to win a PGA Tour event during the calendar year to play in it. Thus, I created the TOC of poker. It was a multiple-game event (limit hold'em, seven-card stud, Omaha eight-or-better, and no-limit hold'em, played by champions to determine the ultimate champion. I really believe it was the classiest event in poker history. Unfortunately, it was before the TV era, ahead of its time, and never made any money. But it was a fantastic event, and players loved it.

LH: In what direction do you think your activities helped steer poker?

MS: I think that I was a big part of the growth and "explosion" of poker, not only in the States, but around the world. I always had more vision than most poker players in terms of poker's potential to be successful on TV and with sponsorships. Seeing those things happen brings a smile to my face, as it should for everyone in the industry.

LH: As poker's ambassador, what have you done for the industry that you are most proud of?

MS: It's a combination of things over the years. Besides writing for Card Player since 1996 and founding the TOC, I helped create, one of the largest online poker sites in the world. I also played a key role in the development of the World Poker Tour, which was the first poker show to air during prime time on a weekly basis. During my career, I've also had my share of success as a player. It was capped off when I won the 2006 WSOP Tournament of Champions and was proud to donate half of the $1 million first-place prize to various charities.

LH: Who, in your opinion, has helped poker move more into the mainstream?

MS: I don't believe there is a person in the world who has done more for poker over the past 15 years than Linda Johnson. She owned Card Player magazine, helped create the Tournament Directors Association, is actively involved in supporting charities, and has done more for improving the behavior of players than anyone else. Certainly, Steve Lipscomb and Lyle Berman, the founders of the WPT, are the primary reason that poker has moved mainstream. And give credit to Harrah's for the massive growth and branding awareness of the WSOP. I also believe that everyone at Card Player magazine should take a bow for their efforts in taking poker mainstream. But none of us should ever forget the Binions and what they did by embracing poker players and creating the WSOP.

LH: What is it going to take to see more mainstream media and sponsors interested in poker?

MS: I believe that for poker to move to the next level, we must get active in contributing significant amounts of money to charity. This can come from all areas of the industry - players, venues that hold tournaments, and potential sponsors. If sponsors realized that a specific amount of their money was going to worthwhile charities, they might venture into sponsoring poker tournaments. And if poker was contributing millions of dollars a year to worthwhile charities, even poker's biggest naysayers would be impressed.

LH: How do you expect the poker industry to change, positively and negatively, in the future?

MS: The biggest question is how Internet poker will pan out. I believe that without question, it will be legalized and regulated here in the States; it's just a matter of when. Too many people love to play and the government is missing out on too much money. Whether it's positive or negative, I'm not sure, but I see more and more poker rooms converting to computerized poker tables, because they will make more money at a lot less cost in terms of staffing and benefits.

And, at some point, I see an "elite televised tour" for top qualified players, in which sponsors will put up all of the prize money. Every sport needs stars, and poker is no exception. Setting up a PGA Tour-type schedule for these stars - in which you'd have to qualify to get on the tour, just as you do to get on the PGA Tour, with sponsorship and pro-am events to help fund it, is certainly feasible in my mind.

LH: What role would you like to play in these changes in the years to come?

MS: I enjoy my status as The Ambassador of Poker and am proud of it. I would like to continue to help develop poker in a positive way for a few more years before heading out to pasture.

The Quick Rise of Internet Poker
By Bob Pajich

The Internet enabled the creation of thousands of new ways to do business and spawned entire industries that take advantage of the convenience, ease, and power of technology.

And whether the federal government likes it or not, online poker has grown into a multibillion-dollar business in just a decade.
Online poker has its roots in the early corners of the Internet when a poker application that was used with the granddaddy of all Internet instant messengers, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), was released in the early '90s.

This very earliest version of online poker was spread purely for fun and used play chips. But a few players took the game seriously and used the play chips as real chips, settling up their debts through the mail or in person. One of those players was Chris Ferguson, World Series of Poker champion and one of the brains behind Full Tilt Poker.

The first real online poker site, Planet Poker, premiered in 1998 and was followed by Paradise Poker within a year. The first games spread were cash-only, until the sites got the ability to run collapsible tournaments without crashing their systems in 2000.

It was also around this time that the husband-and-wife team of Ruth Parasol and Russell de Leon formed the backbone of PartyGaming LLC, which opened PartyPoker to the public in 2001. They built a company that would eventually go public on the London Stock Exchange in June of 2005, and attained a market value of $9 billion within the month. On that June day, Parasol and de Leon instantly made the list of the Forbes 500 richest people in the world.

The company that would spend the first part of the 21st century as its main competitor, PokerStars, also launched in 2001. PokerStars is now the biggest online poker room in the world, averaging more than 16,000 real-money players a day at any one time. PokerStars also is the leader in bringing its online players to live events. This year, 2,008 players won $12,000 WSOP main-event packages through PokerStars; 1,063 of them played, and 130 cashed. And the site started its own poker tours: the European Poker Tour, Asia-Pacific Poker Tour, and Latin American Poker Tour.

Although PokerStars had plans to join PartyGaming and 888 Holdings on the London Stock Exchange, it decided to delay its IPO (initial public offering) indefinitely after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006.

Currently, there are seven poker sites that still do business with Americans and also average more than 800 players a day at any one time. Full Tilt, which was launched in 2004, is now the second-most popular online poker site, and averages around 8,200 players a day at any one time. Only four of the top 10 busiest poker sites are open to U.S. customers.

Win at Poker and Get Sponsored
Each major event leads to sponsorship opportunities for players
By Bob Pajich

Twenty years ago, when Card Player first hit casinos, it would have been a big stretch to imagine a time when poker players would live lives as sponsored players shuffling to and from million-dollar tournaments.

But, thanks to a heavy rotation of poker TV shows and online poker, "several hundred" players a year (according to a leading poker agent) get a taste of what it's like to receive sponsorship dollars, which is becoming a large part of being a professional poker player.

Money on the Table

In 2008, between the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour alone, 20 final tables were scheduled to be filmed for TV broadcast in the United States alone (13 WPT tables and seven WSOP events). That doesn't include the WSOP main event, where producers rotate the TV table throughout each and every day, sending poker agents and representatives of online sites scrambling to lock up players who have a chance to get some airtime to wear online poker logos.

The amount of money that players receive for wearing the "dot-net" logos of poker sites is tied directly to the estimated number of people who will watch the final table. For WPT events held this year, agents and online sites are estimating that about 350,000 people will view each episode (that figure came from the number of viewers who watched the now defunct Poker Superstars III series that aired on FSN, the future home of the WPT, two years ago).

Although deals vary from player to player, the amount that sites have been paying players to wear their logos on-camera at final tables this year is around $7,000 per event. At 2007 and 2008 WSOP events, players generally were receiving at least $10,000 to wear poker site logos, with bonuses going to players who finished in the top three.

Needle Movers

Marketable players - that is, players who transcend poker and carry a marketing power that bleeds into non-poker industries - have the potential to make a lot more than what is essentially renting out oneself as a billboard in events.

James Sullivan, president of Poker Royalty, a large poker player agency with roots in PGA player representation, says they look for "needle movers," players who can transcend the poker industry and be able to sell products in other fields.

Sullivan said, "Obviously, tournament results are important, but that is only one facet of sponsorship. Sponsors are looking for players who can move the needle, meaning they have a large, loyal fan base that will bring new business to the site. Again, sponsors want players who reach a specific, important demographic. At the end of the day, it comes down to return on investment for the sponsor, which will be judged by the increase in traffic or business that the new sponsored player will generate."

Players who have this quality include Daniel Negreanu, Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Johnny Chan, et al. These players have millions in winnings, memorable personalities, and multiple TV final-table appearances. These players have appeared in movies and commercials (Chan in Rounders, Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen, and Negreanu in a Pepsi commercial, and about a dozen other pros in the poker movies The Grand, Lucky You, and Deal).

Poker Teams

Away from the TV tables, players also strive to do well enough to be invited to be on the rosters of poker "teams" that online sites use to promote themselves. Full Tilt Poker lists 14 members of its elite "Team," and has relationships with well over 100 more players it considers "pros" or "friends" of Full Tilt, while PokerStars has a roster of 30 "Team PokerStars Pro" players.

But like quarterbacks and specialty players on an NFL team, not all team members are created equal, and the amount of money they receive depends solely on the player.

Top-tier players could expect to earn seven figures to pitch an online site, but there are many other players who are paid to play on the sites for much less than that, but it still could account for a large portion of their bankrolls.

For example, certain Full Tilt Poker players receive a monthly retainer of $5,000 to $20,000, wages of $35 an hour, and 100 percent rake-back to play online and wear its logos at live events. "Lower-tiered" players receive no monthly retainer or hourly wages, and get only rake-back.

Who gets invited to these sponsorship parties depends on many factors, with perhaps nationality being the most important. After the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed, Sullivan says it became more difficult for American players to receive sponsorship deals, since the Act reduced the number of sites operating in the U.S. "However," he said, "the Act did increase the sponsorship opportunities for international-born players, because several online sites went with a regionalized marketing approach. Current hot markets include Russia, Brazil, and any country in the Asia-Pacific region, most notably China."

To get into line for all of these bonus dollars, perform at the tables. Be consistent and do well enough, and a poker agent will come knocking, and soon, checks will follow.