Online poker is the game of poker played over the Internet. It has been partly responsible for a dramatic increase in the number of poker players worldwide. Christiansen Capital Advisors stated online poker revenues grew from $82.7 million in 2001 to $2.4 billion in 2005,while a survey carried out by DrKW and Global Betting and Gaming Consultants asserted online poker revenues in 2004 were at $1.4 billion.
From a legal perspective, online poker may differ in some ways from online casino gambling. However, many of the same issues do apply. For a discussion of the legality of online gambling in general, see online gambling.
Online poker is legal and regulated in many countries including several nations in and around the Caribbean Sea, and most notably the United Kingdom.
In the United States, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill in February 2005 to legalize and regulate online poker and online poker cardroom operators in the state. The legislation required that online poker operations would have to physically locate their entire operations in the state. Testifying before the state Senate Judiciary committee, Nigel Payne, CEO of Sportingbet and owner of Paradise Poker, pledged to relocate to the state if the bill became law.
As with other forms of online gambling, many critics question whether the operators of such games - especially those which are located in jurisdictions separate from most of their players - might be engaging in fraud themselves.
Internet discussion forum are rife with allegations of non-random card dealing, possibly to favour house-employed players or "bots" (poker-playing software disguised as a human opponent), or to give multiple players good hands thus increasing the bets and the rake, or simply to prevent new players from losing so quickly that they become discouraged.
However, there is no more than anecdotal evidence to support such claims, and others argue that the rake is sufficiently large that such abuses would be unnecessary and foolish. Any attempt at manipulative dealing would run a significant risk of third party detection due to increasingly sophisticated tracking software that could be used to detect any number of unusual patterns.
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