Gaming Tech

Why more people are playing online poker than ever before

Photo credit: Unsplash / CC0

Caption – Forget the chips and cards – poker is moving online!

The game of poker has grown in popularity throughout the ages, but as technology evolves, we’ve started to move away from the traditional casino or home poker games. These days, poker players are hitting the online poker rooms in their droves as live casinos face stiff competition from their online counterparts.

This should come as no surprise given that there are currently 3.36 billion active smartphones in use. The fact is, we love the internet and now carry out the vast majority of our everyday activities online. From booking train tickets to paying bills, there’s very little that we can’t do online or on our smartphones. So why should playing a game like poker be any different?

Before we go a little deeper to see why online poker is becoming such a popular pastime, let’s first take a look at its history.

History of online poker

The very first game of poker held online happened on January 1st 1998, but it wasn’t until 2003 that the industry truly began to take shape. This was the year that unknown online poker player Chris Moneymaker made history by winning the 2003 World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event after qualifying through an online satellite. Until this event, online poker rooms were considered a playground for amateur-level players. Seasoned pros shunned the online community and rarely took its players seriously.

The 2003 WSOP changed all of that. Almost overnight, the online poker industry boomed with casual poker players realizing that online room and tournaments could provide the perfect springboard to success in the live game. Since then, the online poker industry has barely stopped for breath.

An image change

Photo credit: Wikimedia / CC BY 2.0

Caption – The WSOP main event table – poker’s new clean-cut image

The amateur’s success story also helped poker clean up its image somewhat. In the past, poker had been considered a game to be played in smoky casinos or backrooms at bars. Only seasoned pros played, whilst novices would be restricted to home games to hone their skills.

However, the 2003 WSOP win brought a great deal of publicity to the online game. People started to look at poker in a different light. You didn’t have to spend your nights in a casino or even have to invite your friends over for a game. Here was an opportunity for players (particularly novice players) to play at any time of their choosing and at very little cost to themselves.

In the years since, some of the world’s most successful poker players have come from, or spent their time practicing, in the online poker community. Games were televised and the WSOP became a serious sporting event, rather than the gamblers’ get-together it was once viewed as.

New ways to play

As the boom took hold, dozens of online poker providers set up shop and players were spoilt for choice. With so much competition in the industry, poker providers had to up their game considerably as they looked to first attract, and then retain their players. Many offered matched deposits or significant prizes in online tournaments.

These days, players want more than a matched deposit or a big cash prize, and providers have to become creative in their attempts to beat the competition. A good example of how a provider shakes things up can be found at online poker giant 888poker. 888 understood that one of the things that their players disliked about the online game was the waiting around for games to finish. So they developed Snap poker, a fast fold format that drastically reduces wait time for players.

Other providers have tried similar tactics by adapting the rules or setting timers on games. There are quite literally dozens of ways to play the same game online, whereas in the casino choices are limited.

Mobile gaming

Photo by Pexels // CC0 1.0

Caption: Smartphones have revolutionized many industries, including online gaming

Perhaps one of the most significant changes in the world of tech was the advent of mobile gaming. Back in 2003, online poker was limited to laptops and desktop computers. But remember what we said earlier about those 3.36 billion smartphones? The effect smartphone usage has had on the online poker industry (and many other industries for that matter) is nothing short of phenomenal.

According to the 2019 Gambling Industry Report, 70% of all online gambling activities are carried out on a mobile device. Although online poker won’t account for that full 70%, that’s still a pretty impressive statistic.

Image credit: legalsportsreport

While there are no definitive statistics on the effects of mobile gaming on the online poker world, it’s safe to assume that the introduction of smartphones opened up the industry to a whole new market. Gone was the necessity for an actual computer; now the ability to play poker was quite literally in the palms of billions of people.

The convenience factor

Now we come to the convenience factor. While poker’s new cleaner image has no doubt had a positive effect on the industry, the smartphone and its conveniences has had a much greater impact.

Now players can play a few hands, leave the table, have their dinner, and then come back again. They no longer have to invest as much of their time into playing poker as before. Where once they had to dedicate an evening or afternoon to a trip to the casino, they can now play poker in the bath, on the train, or on their lunchbreak at work.

It’s this convenience factor that has encouraged more people to take up the game than ever before. When all it takes is a quick download of the app and a small deposit for buy-ins, there’s very little reason not to at least give the game a go.

As people’s attitudes towards video gaming and poker continue to evolve in a positive way, it’s likely that the rise in popularity of online poker will continue further. In fact, we’d even go so far as to say that online poker could soon become one of the most popular games in history. At the very least, it rivals chess and beats any other card game in terms of popularity.

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