Online high-stakes poker: its rise and fall

Several casinos, both online and land-based, offer poker in their lineup. Here it is mainly the game where high stakes are required. The amounts can be as high as €10,000.

In online casino poker these high stakes were mainly there when various websites started. The stakes, however, have declined considerably over the years.

Online and land based casinos with poker
You can play both online and land-based poker with your chosen budget

The First Years of Internet Poker

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the first online poker rooms appeared on the market. At that time, many people did not trust them and therefore did not want to transfer money to the website. The mistrust was mainly due to the offshore poker sites.

These were linked to the websites and the money had to be sent thousands of kilometers away. However, the players started to become more and more curious so that people started to play anyway and the popularity of online poker continued to grow.

The high stakes on the internet also became more and more prominent. One of the favorites of the big names in poker became Ultimate Bet poker (UB). The tables were mainly for the elite grinders and attracted many people as spectators.

After all, everyone wanted to see the best in the world compete against each other in a tournament. In 1994, Russ Hamilton, a UB insider, cheated several high stakes players with a superuser account, ending the success of the platform.

The account he used allowed him to see all the opponents’ cards in advance, which could be used to his advantage. It is not clear to this day how much money he won with this tactic. In a report by Kahnawake Gaming Commission, the amount would be about €22,100,000.

The fine of €1,500,000 and compensation from some of the players had to be paid afterwards. This was done from the UB and not from Hamilton himself. In the mid-2000s, thanks to this scandal, the high rollers from UB moved over to Full Tilt Poker.

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The peak of online poker

The first tables, those at UB, were for the high stakes. These were the tables where you could bet €100 or €200. These bets seemed high at first, but it could be much higher, as was the case with Full Tilt Poker. Because of the slogan “Learn, chat and play with the pros”, there were therefore high expectations.

Especially the last one, play with the pros, was pretty well observed at the provider. Several famous pros, including Phil Ivey, Antonius, Gus Hansen and Matusow, attended the tournaments. Later on, a lot of big names were added to this list.

At Full Tilt the stakes were immediately a lot higher. These could go up to €500 and €1,000. As a highlight there were even games up to €6,000 available. This was the point where the real high rollers could get started.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 did nothing to stop these amounts. This gave the richest players free reign to make even more money from a game of poker. The games that were held were therefore considered professional.

Spectators therefore came out of curiosity as well as for entertainment and strategic purposes. In this they were rarely disappointed. The pots that could be won were not disappointing either. For example, Blom was often involved in pots that ran to over €1,000,000.

Blom was someone who quickly became famous for his hyper-aggressive play. Despite this, he came to be ranked as one of the best players in the world, leaving everyone confused.

The end of high stakes

As of April 15, 2011, the high stakes event at Full Tilt came to an end. This happened on the event Black Friday. In fact, the US Attorney’s Office in New York saw several indictments against the websites.

In the middle of the event, the board members, Chris Ferguson, Ray Bitar, Rafe Furst and Howard Lederer were sued by American lawyer Preet Bharara. The moment this happened, many players panicked. The money could no longer be withdrawn from the account.

The estimated €360,000,000 could not be paid out by Full Tilt because there was nothing covered. However, the site tried to keep running until 2012, but soon lost its license from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission.

Even with the highest stakes, players could not be persuaded to stay and it ended up going the same way as UB. PokerStars, however, managed to strike a deal with the US Department of Justice.

Full Tilt was bought out, which meant that the €731,000,000 default fee did not have to be paid. As a result, the players’ money was immediately refunded and the company was able to start over. Meanwhile, PokerStars had already become known for its high stakes.

Not the same as at Full Tilt, but the stakes went up to €400. The high stakes were kept in and Full Tilt was reopened. Online poker was never the same after this scandal. For recreational customers it was no longer attractive to transfer money to a website.

The high stakes were changed from then on at the Stars Group. The highest limits at Full Tilt were abolished and some of the big games were no longer available.

Where can you still place high stakes bets

There is a good chance that you will not find any high stakes games in the online poker world. The bets of €1,000 or more are no longer there. However, there are still many places where you can place bets up to €200.

The best players can still win the high amounts, which can run into the millions. There are still enough places for the best in the world to have enough entertainment.

However, there is still a problem here. There is not enough liquidity to keep the big games in the air. For example, several licenses must be held by strict authorities, which is not feasible for every website. Also, several countries are not allowed to participate in online gambling through the websites.

In doing so, websites today focus on amateurs. The high stakes are now largely skipped, which also makes it not always interesting anymore. Most of the big players who placed their high stakes bets at Full Tilt have now moved on to Aria and Macau.

Here the highest stakes games are still allowed. In addition, there are several tournaments where buy-ins can run to amounts between €100,000 and €1,000,000.


The most famous players competed in online poker to be able to win the pot of around €1,000,000. For example, Ivey was able to earn €8,500,000 from online poker in 2008.

Thanks to the Black Friday scandal, the high stakes were soon abolished and online poker was not even popular anymore. The market leaders at the moment prefer to attract recreational players, so the tables have been given a maximum bet of €100. Even though the stakes have been lowered significantly, it still attracts high rollers. After all, serious amounts can still be won.

The richest players can now only be found in Vegas and Macau and at various tournaments where the entry fee is serious. Despite this, high stakes online poker will remain an interesting topic within the history of the game.