The poker industry Poker

Poker, the great survivor

Written by Ben Blaschke

The wonderful game of poker finds itself at an interesting point in its global development at the moment. An exciting point. From the uncertainty that plagued both the online and offline worlds just a few short years ago, poker is on the move again as it looks to expand into new markets.

This year saw the inaugural running of the WSOP Asia-Pacific at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, which proved a huge success with hundreds of players from the local region rushing to take part and the best players from around the globe glowing in their praise of the five-event series.

The launch of the new PokerStars LIVE Macau room at City of Dreams in April saw a record 891 players take part in the Red Dragon main event at the last Macau Poker Cup – a massive 256 more than the previous record.

And even at the WSOP main event in Las Vegas, numbers over the past three years have stayed steady at around 6,500 entries when many were predicting dramatic falls.

Why is all of this important? Because it is coming up to two-and-a-half years now since poker’s infamous ‘Black Friday’ had the poker world in a state of disarray. When the US Government blindsided the industry by shutting down the three major poker sites in the Unites States – PokerStars, Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet – the stakes changed. American online players were banned, organizations were crippled and players across the globe felt the impact as the game they loved was left on its knees.

At that point, the future looked terribly bleak. Did online poker have a future? How would this affect the hundreds of live tournament tours that had popped up around the globe? What of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) and Australia New Zealand Poker Tour (ANZPT)? What of the European Poker Tour (EPT)? Even the WSOP? We all feared the huge strides poker had made since Chris Moneymaker’s win in the 2003 WSOP main event would be lost overnight.

But poker has made a stunning recovery. Although most American players remain banned, some states – led by Nevada – have introduced legislation allowing residents to play online provided they are within state boundaries. Others are following suit.

PokerStars quickly recovered from being temporarily shut down and after purchasing troubled former rivals Full Tilt Poker, they relaunched this once popular brand too.

The steady numbers at the WSOP over the past few years are significant because so many Americans had previously qualified online for the main event. Numbers were supposed to take a huge hit, but they haven’t. People, apparently, are still determined to take part in this glittering poker extravaganza.

Chinese players could be the ones to lead poker to a bright new future

Chinese players could be the ones to lead poker to a bright new future

And although there are mumblings of legislation changes in Australia that could bring another significant setback, the Asia-Pacific region is where poker will look to in the future for the next great poker boom. Already mainland China has begun picking up on the trend with more players flooding over the border to play and India expected to follow suit. Given the huge populations of both countries, this represents a giant untapped player pool that will see poker shoot into the stratosphere once the levee finally breaks.

All this just goes to show how resilient the game and those who love to play it can be. Black Friday might have been a crushing blow but with Asia leading the way there will be a lot to look forward to for poker in the coming years.