The rise and rise of online poker
(Caption: Chris Moneymaker – the man credited with poker’s huge popularity)
The game of poker has been around for about two centuries and it has always been a popular pastime. But nothing in poker’s history comes even close to its huge rise in popularity in recent years. This is mostly due to the advent of online poker, where players can enjoy a hand anytime they want, wherever they want, without even needing a pack of cards.
Poker comes of age
Many experts trace poker’s recent surge in popularity to a single player, Chris Moneymaker. By winning the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003 as an amateur, he proved that anyone and everyone had a chance to make it big at the poker table. Inspired by Moneymaker’s success, millions of new players have taken up the game, creating an industry that is worth billions of pounds and is growing fast.
Industry experts Juniper Research estimate that the total wagered online worldwide each year is over $500billion. What’s more, they estimate that this will double to $1trillion by 2021. That will make online gaming as big as all other online spending. Profits from the industry are estimated to be around $50bn currently, growing to $74bn by 2023. In the UK alone, online gaming accounts for £4.7bn of profits, or 34% of the total gaming yield.
Why is online poker so successful?
There are many different theories as to why online poker is so popular. Some think that it is the skill element that puts it ahead of games of chance like roulette or black jack. Others think that people enjoy playing against each other, rather than the faceless casino. Some say it is just a fashion trend, with poker merely the game of the moment, which will soon give way to the next trend. Whatever the reason, more and more of us are playing poker online every day.
A competitive industry
With so many players looking for an online poker room, and so many poker rooms to choose from, the industry has become highly competitive. Fortunately, this works to the advantage for us players, with a whole host of bonus offers and promotions available to tempt us in. But it doesn’t stop there; some firms have upped their game in the hope of attracting new players, introducing a range of innovative new games that make online poker even more fun.
Power Up Poker
The first of these twists on the traditional game is Power Up Poker, from PokerStars. This is a bit like playing your dream game, because it gives you a whole set of superpowers that you’d kill for at a real table. For example, you can swap hole cards you don’t like, change the flop or destroy any community cards you don’t need.
You can even take a peek at the next card in the deck or see part of your opponent’s hand. It’s all a bit of fun, and not to be taken too seriously, but it will give you valuable experience in playing great hands, so you know what to do if you ever get one in a proper game.
Unfold Hold ‘em
Another novel innovation is Unfold Hold ‘em; a game designed to save your shins from bruises when you kick yourself for folding a hand that turns out to be a winner. In this fascinating variant, players all contribute to a separate unfold pot at the start of the hand. Anyone who folds pre-flop, only to see a great hand emerge, can opt to pay for the unfold pot after the main game has finished. The pot is decided by a straight show of hands between unfold players, with the highest hand taking the pot. Life doesn’t often give you a second chance but Unfold Hold ‘em does!
Image by PokerStars // Used with permission
(Caption – VR poker from PokerStars)
With the poker market so lucrative, you can be sure that poker rooms will continue to innovate and experiment to attract and keep customers.
The next big thing is thought to be virtual reality poker, where you can enjoy all the benefits of playing at your convenience, while still getting all the atmosphere of sitting round the green baize table. After that, who knows! In the same way that we could never have imagined the internet just a couple of decades ago, the next advance in poker could well be something completely new and different, taking the centuries old game into the future for the next generation.