The Online Poker Boom of the mid-2000s might have just been a blueprint. In 2023 with a wildly different world in front of us and more people connected to the web (with much faster speeds) and more online casinos than ever before, Online Poker might be more popular than it’s ever been and competition between sites is more intense than ever as you can see from the quality on offer from this list of the top 10 ranked online poker sites for 2023/24.
An American pastime?
Despite the US having a hot-and-cold relationship with both live gambling and online gambling, the American market remains to be the majority of the global online poker player pool. In 2023, they equate to around 60% of the 100 million players worldwide. A staggering accomplishment considering that some states don’t allow any form of gambling. The popularity of course comes from the ardent contrast as places like Las Vegas, Nevada simply thrive on the impetus to gamble and base their economy on casino tourism.
When the COVID-19 virus took away Americans’ liberty and rights to go to Vegas and casinos, it was the online option that benefitted greatly. While bettors couldn’t go to the bricks-and-mortar casino or invite friends around to play cards, players could take to the internet to play poker.
Michael Oliver, a head researcher in IT at GAMMASTACK, a firm that helps deliver gambling software reported that prior to the virus-enforced lockdowns, only 40 million people (worldwide) played online poker, meaning that the other 60 million users have entered the marketplace since. This was attributed to a 255% uptake in new users during the initial US lockdown period that Oliver also references in his report. After the world returned to ‘normal’ the number of users continued to grow, suggesting that new players enjoyed the experience while classic land-based players also were keen on the digital version of poker.
At present, the World Series of Poker (WSOP/888) is reported to be the most popular site in America for online poker. This is because it is widely available where gambling is allowed in the US and has agreements with the concerned governments to share their entire player pool across the platform.
The Global Appreciation of Poker
While the US market holds a large portion of the overall global poker player population, there are some interesting geographic hotbeds where online poker is rife. Indonesia regularly sits alongside the US as it is seen as the destination with the second-most uptake for online poker, despite gambling having a hazy legality status in the country. Loopholes involving VPNs and international licensing tend to circumvent the law here as around 4000 sites operate in Indonesia. However, the government is actively trying to outlaw the pastime so don’t expect to find too much in-depth information on how many people are gambling here.
While Brazil is more commonly associated with football (soccer), around 60% of the contemporary population has expressed an interest in either playing or watching poker. This number is only expected to rise as the iconic Neymar Jr has a passion for poker and is even employed by PokerStars as a cultural ambassador for the brand. I.e. making it more appealing for the Brazilian and South American markets as well as general soccer fans. In 2018, it was estimated at least 4 million unique users had used online gambling, when contemporary Brazilian figures are released, this number will only rise with the advent of both the global pandemic and Neymar’s contributions.
Wherever online poker players are logging on from, there is a general upward surge in popularity that around every year there are 34% more online poker players than before. Of course, this may teeter with global economic challenges but on the whole, the game is still growing at a good rate.
To illustrate this point, market research states that in 2022 the global market for online poker was worth $76.7 billion. Yet the projected value for 2030 is more than double as it stands at around $170 billion. Factors contributing to this forecast are the growing number of internet users (as classically disconnected regions are now getting online) as well as European users now tending to spend more on the pastime.
While the number of Online Poker players isn’t predicted past 2030, the information would only suggest that the 100 million user mark will soon be surpassed with 200 million players not too far away given the current trends. This number could be achieved overnight if several key American states legalize the pastime, given that the country already commands the majority of the market even with rather restrictive legislation.