With the launch of the WSOP.com website in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware prepping for their own online poker launches, and with talks of interstate online poker compacts heating up, we are on the precipice of an exciting time in the world of poker, and it begs the question: Is there another poker boom on the horizon?
In the past I’ve been very pessimistic about the chances for another “Poker Boom,” as it seems altogether unlikely considering the amount of knowledge even causal players are armed with nowadays –if you think there are thousands of players who think poker is a game of “luck” and will call all-in bets with top pair weak kicker 2003 called and it wants its ridiculous win-rates back.
I’ve said this many times, but if you want to understand what a poker player from 2003 was like, just picture an athlete from the 1920’s who had no idea that strength training would help their performance –in fact they thought it would hinder them.
The Foundation of a Poker Boom
To have a Poker Boom you need one thing: An influx of new, ignorant players.
You won’t find too many poker players in 2013 who don’t understand the basics of the game like pot odds, position, hand selection, and even concepts like continuation bets are pretty much “common knowledge” at this point. And if you do find these players there is so much information available online that they don’t stay ignorant for very long.
Still, the early reports on the softness of the games during the launch of both Ultimate Poker and the WSOP.com sites seem to indicate that the seas have not been completely fished out, and there are still some of these players left. What we need to do now is bring them into the game.
So, while I don’t think we are going to come close to the “glory days” from about 2004-2006, I am now starting to come around to the idea of a mini-Boom, for the following reasons:
Networks and advertisers no longer have to worry about their associations with the game
For one thing, networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX no longer have to worry about the stigma of online poker advertising. And even more importantly, advertisers (actual mainstream advertisers and not slipper and beef jerky companies –no offense Jack Links and Dear Foams) will also be more likely to attach their names to a product that no longer has a government crackdown hanging over its head like the Sword of Damocles.
With poker’s audience chiefly made up of the all-important Male 18-24 demographic advertisers should flock to a legalized, regulated, industry.
If you recall, back during the poker boom, literally thousands of the participants in the World Series of Poker Main Event were there because they had won their seat in an online satellite. While this is still a possibility for players outside the US, the number of US players qualifying for the WSOP Main Event in recent years could probably be measured in dozens and not by the hundreds or thousands.
Somehow the WSOP has continued to pull in excellent attendance numbers, but could you imagine the buzz if the tournament could once again approach 2006 numbers?
And the key to getting to this figure is satellites –the only way for your average amateur player to play in the WSOP. Not only do satellites bring in more players, but they also make the tournament more appealing for professional and semi-professional players, since –on average—satellite winners are likely to be less skilled than a player who buys-in at full price.
Furthermore, pretty much every casino now hosts some sort of major tournament series, and with these casinos now controlling US online poker sites (especially in their local area) you can bet you will see tons of satellites into these events, not to mention the capability to direct-buy into these tournaments through your online poker account.
WSOP.com has already stated it will run satellites to WSOP tournaments, and bwin.party’s decision to move the WPT Championship to the Borgata (putting the number at three, when it comes to WPT events held at the casino each year) likely has a direct correlation with bwin.party’s partnership with the Borgata in the New Jersey online gaming market.
Worldwide satellites to these same events
While the stateside rooms are busy running satellites, the sister sites operating overseas will likely be doing the same, and as I stated above, when players from Europe, Australia, South America, and anywhere else you can think of, start to see the weaker fields heading to these events via online satellites in the US, they are in turn more likely to try to win their way in or make the trip on their own dime.
When Will the Second Boom Hit?
I’m still of the opinion that a second Poker Boom is still a ways off. It’s going to take a cycle of increased attendance, leading bigger and better advertising, which will lead to more exposure, which will bring in even more players, which will bring in even more advertisers, and so on.
It’s not going to happen overnight (remember, it took three years after Chris Moneymaker’s win for WSOP attendance to peak) and it will likely be on a smaller scale. But considering the alternative, which is a terrible poker economy where live tournaments are widely considered -EV for virtually all but the very best players, waiting a couple years for a mini-Boom doesn’t seem all that off-putting.
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