A Comprehensive History of Paradise Poker
We would consider Paradise Poker a true pioneer when it comes to the online gambling industry, as they have been around since the late 1990s and have played a significant role in the further development of online poker.
In 2004, things changed drastically for Paradise Poker, as they were bought out by the up and coming company, Sportingbet PLC. Since that change, Paradise Poker has had a series of ups and downs, including the unfortunate events of UIGEA that forced the company to close their doors to US customers. To take a deeper look into Paradise Poker's history, please continue reading.
When we write site histories, we typically like to start off by walking you through the people behind the online gambling empires, but we unfortunately won't be able to do that with Paradise Poker, as the identities of the founders of this site remain a mystery.
Although not much information has ever been released on the founders of Paradise Poker, we do know that three Canadian men were responsible for the site's launch in 1999, but their names have never been released to the media, even to this day.
Paradise Poker launched its website at just the right time, as the only other poker site in existence at the time was Poker Planet, which was developed a year prior but had recently gone through a major security crisis. Hackers had breached their system and were able to determine what cards were going to be dealt next, making winning combinations inevitable for them and causing innocent players to lose a substantial amount of money.
This horrible tragedy for Poker Planet was just what Paradise Poker needed to rapidly increase their customer base, as Poker Planet's former customers were on the prowl for a fresh, alternative poker site that would make them feel more secure. When Paradise Poker first came out, they quickly became the world's leading online poker room for these reasons and more.
Paradise Poker's initial software was much more reliable than Poker Planet's; it didn't freeze nearly as much and it was much easier to use. Paradise Poker was the first poker site to join Google's pay-per-click advertisement scheme, which benefitted them greatly, as after awhile, no one could search for "poker" without being first linked to Paradise Poker in the sidebar. Google no longer sells advertising space to internet gambling companies of any kind, but it was the perfect marketing tool at the time.
Paradise Poker was consistently improving their software and offering new features such as multi-tabling options and informational statistics charts that documented the average pot size and other valuable information for players who wanted to further advance their skills. They also began offering higher stakes for their increasing number of high-rollers, which is something their competitor, Poker Planet, had failed to do.
Unfortunately, as more and more sites started popping up in the early 2000s, Paradise Poker's popularity started to fade. Ultimate Bet, PokerStars, and Party Poker were among these sites, each bringing new, innovative ideas to the industry that Paradise Poker just couldn't keep up with and before they knew it they were on the verge of going out of business.
A New Owner: SportingBet.com
Paradise Poker was soon looking for a buyer and that's when Sportingbet PLC stepped in and acquired their site in 2004. Sportingbet decided to keep the Paradise Poker name though, as it was a trusted name that could allure their previous loyal customers to join their new site under Sportingbet.
Bonaire, a company located in the British Virgin Islands and owned by the three mysterious Canadian men that we mentioned earlier, was offered $160 million in cash and $88 million in shares, which they happily accepted to finalize this deal. To this day, Bonaire remains Sportingbet's second largest shareholder, owning just over 11% of the company.
In an interview with Poker News a few months after Sportingbet purchased Paradise Poker, Scott Wilson, Director of Poker Operations for Sportingbet said this in response to being asked how they intend to keep players devoted to the new Paradise Poker website, "We do have a loyal group of players and that has come from our commitment to customer service, superior software (in my opinion) enhancing the playing experience, and a number of exciting events."
Bruce Stubbs was the marketing director for Paradise Poker at the time. He graduated from the Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurship. He led the marketing team for Paradise Poker from 2005 to 2008 and was crucial to the advancement and increased popularity of the site.
He's most famous for helping develop the million dollar free-roll tournament, but he also brought a variety of other fresh new ideas to the table including the very first team of professional poker players, the first hybrid online/offline tournament, and much more.
One year after the big purchase, Paradise Poker became the first online poker room to host a $1 million free-roll tournament which an unprecedented 3,900 players competed in worldwide. It was the first time in online poker history that any tournament was offering a $1 million prize, so this definitely turned player's attention to Paradise Poker.
Stubbs had this to say after the $1 million dollar free-roll tournament had been announced, "ParadisePoker.com is a great experience at the best of times, but throw $1 million in to the pot and make it a free-roll for amateurs and you discover a whole new crowd able to challenge the best of the pros."
In less than two years from the change in ownership, Paradise Poker had reached over $150 million in profit thanks to these changes. Paradise Poker seemed to be on a steady up-rise until the U.S. Congress announced they had passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Dealing with the UIGEA
On October 30th, 2006 the UIGEA was officially passed, greatly hindering the further development of the online gambling market. This act forced many of the leading online gambling sites to close their doors to all US customers, as transaction to and from these sites would no longer be processed.
Paradise Poker under Sportingbet PLC suffered severely from losing so many of their valued customers. How badly did this affect them? Let's just say that over 60 percent of the company's profits in the year prior to the release of the UIGEA came from their U.S. players alone.
In hopes to overcome these significant financial losses, Sportingbet re-launched Paradise Poker, making it only available in Canada, Europe, and a few other countries around the world. Sportingbet gave existing U.S. Paradise Poker players a one month notice to cash out all of their assets to avoid losing their bankroll forever. Although this was a major setback, Paradise Poker pressed on and below we'll take a deeper look into what they have to offer today.
Paradise Poker: Game Selection
Paradise Poker has a wide selection of games including Texas Hold'em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Seven Card Stud, and Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo to name some of their most popular options. All of these variants come in Limit, No Limit, and Pot Limit formats.
Paradise Poker offers both cash games and a variety of different kinds of tournaments. Most revolutionary are the satellite tournaments that can earn your entrance into bigger live events such as the World Series of Poker. Paradise Poker has even won accolades for their tournaments, with their most prestigious award being when they were named the Poker Site with the Best Poker Tournaments by Casino Player Magazine in 2006.
What Else Does Poker Paradise Have to Offer
Paradise Poker offers quality customer support 24/7 via e-mail and telephone for your convenience. A FAQ section is also available and may be able to answer any of your questions right away. Paradise Poker also offers a myriad of different deposit and withdraw methods to meet their customer's individual needs: bank wire, check, credit cards, Neteller, and PayPal are just some of their more well-known options.
Paradise Poker offers a Players Club loyalty program where players earn points for every real money hand they play, of which these points can either be cashed in for money value or for seats into various tournaments.
One aspect that really stands out about Paradise Poker is how customizable they make their site. Players have the ability to control the sounds, the animations, the color of the deck, and several other features that allows you to personalize your gaming experience according to your own specific needs and preferences.
Paradise Poker and Sportingbet have hosted several charity poker tournaments, which celebrities participate in and all of the proceeds go to various charities that they select prior to the event. They also sponsored Championship football team Wolverhampton Wanderers from the 2009-10 season until the 2013-14 season, providing them with the necessary funds and equipment needed to make their season a success.
Nigel Payne, pictured above, is Sportingbet and Paradise Poker's Finance director and has been in that position since June, 2000. He and seven other team members from various online gambling companies teamed up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in February of 2011, raising over $55,000 from their sponsors.
They split the money they earned to three different charities: Breast Cancer Care, the Injured Jockey's fund, and the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled.
Still More Changes to Come
William Hill recently acquired Sportingbet and Paradise Poker towards the end of 2012. So far this change in ownership hasn't had a huge impact on the Paradise Poker website, but there has been talk about a possible remodel for the site in the near future.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: January 2016