In an effort to reel in new players, many online poker sites ran unbelievably wild promotions. When the online poker industry emerged in the early 2000’s, there were absolutely no regulations. The UIGEA didn’t pass until 2006, which allowed over half a decade of untamed extravagance. With an impressive pool of 4.6 million players, the U.S. poker market easily exceeds $3.3 billion. This staggering amount of cash is only 27% of the global poker market’s yearly revenue. With such a high amount of players, the hunt was on to get them to play online.
Faced with a nearly unlimited potential for profits, poker sites did whatever they could to up the ante. In a market that had no regulations and insanely high budgets, the sky was the limit for promotions. This volatile combination led to poker websites continuously pushing the limits to promote their tournaments. The tactics used in these outrageous promotions ranged from hilarious to borderline illegal. While the ethics of these promotions are questionable, there’s no denying their effectiveness. By generating massive amounts of attention and controversy, these tactics convinced millions of players to convert to online poker.
In many ways, wild promotions paved the way for the booming online poker industry that exists today. Thanks to their profound impact, these advertising campaigns can’t be ignored by any respectable poker player. Their exploits revolutionized the industry, and the brashness of their approaches will forever live in infamy. To highlight this often overlooked chapter of online poker history, we compiled a list of the most outrageous poker promotions. Prepare to be shocked and amused by these tactics, since they would never be allowed today!
Most Outrageous Poker Promotions
Poker Promotion #3: Win Mike Tyson’s House – During the 2009 Ante Up for Africa tournament, things got personal at the tables. When English multi-millionaire Dominic Marrocco bought Mike Tyson’s $4 million house, he decided to incorporate it into the poker tournament. His initial plan was to create a reality TV show where hundreds of players would compete to win the mansion. Once it was narrowed to two players, they would play against Marrocco and Tyson in a final-four showdown for the house.
In this wild game, the stakes were high for everyone. Tyson could potentially win back his mansion while the other players flirted with living in luxury. Win or lose, Marrocco would make back his money from the revenue generated by the show. While it was a wild concept, it never came to fruition. Mike Tyson never got the chance to win back his house and had to play normal hands against Marrocco in Africa.
Poker Promotion #2: Become a Porn Star – When Swank Poker launched in 2008, it was the first adult-themed poker site in the world. Instead of offering normal prizes, this XXX site focused on their client’s wildest desires. From access to Austrian night clubs to year long VIP membership in sex clubs, everything offered by this site was unapologetically sensual. The top prize was the chance to direct and star in a porno with one of the Swank Poker models. This was an enticing offer, and it made this controversial site one of the most talked about platforms in the industry.
Despite having a novel theme and incessant promotion, Swank Poker failed to take off. After being exposed for misusing player funds, the site closed in 2013. Apparently this seductive site was hiding its gross negligence behind humanity’s most primal desires.
Poker Promotion #1: Play Against a Monkey – In an effort to gain international attention, Poker Share trained a monkey named Mikey to play poker. While the chimp’s skills were basic, Mikey was able to move chips and taunt other players at the table. Videos of the monkey playing poker ended up going viral and caused an outrage in the poker community.
Terrified of potentially losing to a chimp, multiple high level players appealed Mikey’s permission to enter the WSOP tournament. In the end WSOP found a clause in their rulebook that stated only humans could play. While this officially brought Mikey’s career to an end, it showed how creative poker sites were getting to gain promotion.