Anurag Dikshit: Early Member of PartyPoker
Anurag Dikshit (pronounced dik-sit) is an Indian billionaire who played an instrumental role in developing Party Poker and turning it into one of the first mega poker sites in the world. There were plenty of poker sites before Party Gaming came along, but Party Poker was the first to take online poker mainstream.
Anurag attended college in India where he majored in computer science and engineering. He moved to the United States after earning his degree and worked at CMC, Websci, and AT&T. In 1999, the 26-year old was approached by Party Gaming founder Ruth Parasol and was asked to develop the software for her brand new poker site.
Although he didn't know it at the time, this new job set him on the path to becoming a billionaire. Anurag accepted the offer, took an ownership stake in the budding poker site and got to work. In 2000, he asked his friend Vikrant Bhargava to join him. Vikrant would also go on to earn a fortune with the company.
Party Poker officially launched in 2001, and it was obvious fairly early on that this was a special poker site. The software developed by Anurag and his team was light-years ahead of what was offered by any other poker site at the time. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, poker software was cheesy, slow, and sluggish.
Party Poker's software was fast, responsive, and easy on the eyes. Instead of trying to recreate brick-and-mortar poker rooms, Party Poker went with a simpler design that made it easier for players to see their cards and manage their wagers.
At the same time, Party Poker took a lighthearted approach to poker. In those days, online poker appealed to a more serious demographic. You had to really want to play online poker to find out about these sites, play for real money, and deal with the sub-par software that was the industry standard.
Party Poker went on a massive advertising campaign and grew quickly. The ads brought players to Party Poker and Anurag's software kept them around. The site was easy to use and responsive to button clicks. This made it a newbie-friendly poker site, which also appealed to the sharks who fed off of new players.
Party Poker eventually became the largest poker site in the world. It accepted players from around the world, including the relatively untapped US market. The fact that Party Poker accepted customers from the United States would later cause big problems for Party Poker, but it made Anurag and his cohorts very rich.
Anurag sold off a large portion of his shares in Party Gaming during the company's London IPO in 2005. In 2006, he stepped down as a director and took over as head of the company's research and projects division. He left Party Gaming for good in 2006 but retained enough shares to still own 28% of the company.
It was also in 2006 that the United States passed the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and started targeting online poker sites. Party Poker and its founders were named in the indictments that followed. Anurag Dikshit answered the charges, came to the United States, and paid a $300 million fine. He served no prison time.
The details of Anurag's decision to return to the United States are unclear, but it seems to have been a long-term strategy on Party's part to get back into the DOJ's good graces in anticipation of legal online poker in the US. In any case, it seems to have been a smart move. When New Jersey legalized online poker within state borders, Party Poker (now known as "bwin.party") was authorized to team up with the Borgata to open a fully legal poker site.
He sold off the rest of his shares in 2010 and is now completely out of the online poker game. There's not a whole lot of information out there about his personal life, but he is married and has at least one child.
Anurag and his wife Dr. Soma Pujari are big into charity. They set up the Kusuma Trust in 2008 and have donated hundreds of millions of British pounds to charity via the trust. One of the organization's primary missions is to provide education and training to the most disadvantaged people in the world.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015
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