There has been a huge surge in the popularity of poker over the last year or two, which seems to be leading to a second poker boom.
Many factors have contributed, starting with the pandemic. It saw many physical casinos close, something which hit the gaming industry hard, according to AP News. Revenues were down as customers couldn’t get their fix of roulette and poker at a physical location. Instead, they turned to online providers. In some instances, those are free providers, such as Zynga Poker, but others turned to money games. The money that would be flowing into physical locations isn’t seeping out of the industry; it is heading to online providers. Market Watch confirmed that by the end of 2020, online providers saw a bulk of the traffic.
Of course, online poker fueled the original poker boom in 2003. Back then, long before social media advertising, poker thrived courtesy of a man called Chris Moneymaker. He was an average US citizen who qualified for the prestigious World Series of Poker online and won $1m. That echoed the implied future of Matt Damon’s character in the film Rounders; it ends by highlighting the top prize for the WSOP, held in Las Vegas. Dropping in 1998, it almost foretold the success of a random player breaking into poker’s elite, which got people excited. Players flocked to online providers, creating the first poker boom.
There are other factors at play that facilitate the move towards a second poker boom. Regulations are being relaxed across the US. Five states have legalized online poker already, and another, West Virginia, has scope for a provider if the market allows. This month, Connecticut has embraced new online gaming laws, which makes them potentially the seventh state to permit online poker. Again, due to the smaller market, providers may not rush there. However, if Illinois gets the nod before the end of the year, they’ll almost certainly be the sixth state to offer the provision; ironic, as they are also the sixth-largest state by population in the US.
Poker fans even have a film they can hang their aspiration on, just as they did in 1998. Molly’s Game has slightly different themes, showing the lifestyles of the rich and famous high-rollers, but it glorified poker, the thrill of the big-money games and the tension they held. It doesn’t offer the aspirational appeal of Rounders, but there it is a title in pop culture that acts as more kindling for the slow-burning thirst for poker here in the United States.
What could push the country firmly into a second poker boom? The World Series of Poker 2021 is taking place in Las Vegas this fall, and it could help. It’s being broadcast across the country, and all eyes will be on the November Main Event. There’s no suggestion a rank amateur will take that title, but with a whopping $7.6m up for grabs by the winner, it could be the spark that finally lights the perfect poker fire in post-pandemic America.
The first poker boom eventually died out due to a lack of regulation and distrust of major providers, but that won’t be the case in a legitimized and regulated industry. If there is a second poker boom on the horizon, there’s very little that could derail it, which is incredibly exciting for fans and players alike.