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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Paradise poker

When was launched in August 2001, Paradise Poker dominated the on-line poker world. A year later, however, had won over 15 per cent of the world's on-line poker business and within three years - the end of 2004 - it had a staggering 55 per cent of the market.

"We were in the right place at the right time and we did a few things well," said Bhargava. "But none of us could ever have predicted what has happened to the business - it has grown faster than we ever thought possible. We have never had a dull day - it's been exciting and fun all the way."

In 2000, there were just a few thousand registered players. Today and its linked websites have 5m registered players who are able to play around the clock. At peak times, 75,000 people play on the site.

"We had a unique launch plan where we hired a cruise ship for 100 players and we promised that one of them would leave the ship a week later with a £1m first prize. That generated huge interest," said Bhargava. "People like because it is fun, easy, it involves skill and people can play for whatever stakes they want to - high or low. Unlike poker played at a table, you don't have to sit down and have someone blowing smoke in your face. When you play, you can chat on-line to other players or you can play poker in silence."

In 2003, PartyGaming switched its headquarters from the Dominican Republic to Gibraltar. Today, 100 staff work from an non-descript first-floor office on Gibraltar and a further 900 staff work in India, where the customer service department is based.

Today the future for PartyGaming looks rosy. In January this year, it announced it had retained the two investment banks, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and Investec, to look at its "strategic options". A float on the London Stock Exchange is not the only option open to PartyGaming. A rival poker internet company may launch a bid for the company: last year Sportingbet paid $297m (£156m) for its rival website Paradise Poker, a move which saw its share price double. However, few, if any, rivals could afford to buy PartyGaming outright.