The days of poker played by shady-looking men in smoky back rooms are long gone. Today, almost anyone can play poker online, and the industry is growing rapidly across the globe. New markets in India, the Far East and Africa are helping online poker rooms, and online casinos to grow, with some figures predicting that the amount of money spent on online gaming will match the spend on all other online products and services by 2021.
Online poker got off to a slow start, with the first site, Planet Poker, arriving in 1998. However, most experts trace the real success of online poker back to the famous win by Chris Moneymaker in 2003. His story was a real rags to riches tale and showed that it was possible for an ordinary ‘everyman’ poker player to make it big. After winning a $86-qualifying tournament, Chris went on to make the final table at the tournament, walking away with no less than $2.5 million.
As a result, the number of online poker players skyrocketed, and today, there are millions of players across the globe, and around 600 different poker sites from which they can choose. In fact, industry watchers, PokerScout, track over 100,000 live players at any one time on the top 68 sites.
The United States has the most online poker players by numbers, but Hungary deserves a mention for having the highest percentage of players. According to research, as many as 1 in 50 Hungarians with access to the internet use it to play poker online.
Statistics show that regionally, Asia has the lion’s share of the market, accounting for around half of all online gaming, with North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounting for around a quarter each. And online gaming is growing all the time. Juniper Research says that the total online gaming market is now worth around $550 billion, but is expected to soar to $950 billion by 2021 as new markets come online and legislation changes in established markets such as the U.S.
Now online poker rooms have to work harder to impress potential customers and offer something different. For example, the revolutionary new online poker room CoinPoker operates using a cryptocurrency called CHP to make playing easier and payouts faster. It also uses blockchain technology designed to make the games more open and fair.
The future of online poker is even more exciting, as features like virtual reality come into play. Instead of having to choose between the convenience of an online game and the atmosphere of a live table, players will soon be able to enjoy both at once. Faster, friendlier mobile apps are also growing participation, taking poker away from the desktop so you can play cards as you commute.
Who knows what other exciting developments await us in the future. But one thing is for certain: with an estimated market of $1 trillion for which to play, there’s plenty to drive the online poker industry forward and inspire the best and brightest to make our online poker even better. Watch this space!