The Online Poker Boom is Over

The Online Poker Boom is Over

The boom in online poker is over. This statement may sound harsh, but corresponds to reality. How did we come to this conclusion? Read our analysis about the end of the online poker boom.

Search Volume for Online Poker

One way to measure the hype about a topic is the number of search queries for it. If something is searched frequently, it is a popular topic. If something is searched less often, this means that the public interest for that topic has decreased. And this is what is happening regarding online poker.
Have a look at the following graphics. They were taken from Google Insights for Search. This is a free tool from Google that shows how often certain terms have been searched. In late 2006, the public interest about poker reached its peak in Germany. Around Christmas, shops were running out of Poker cards, chips and cases. Since then, the interest in poker has fallen steadily:

Interest in online poker in Germany

A similar picture emerges for the U.S. The interest in the country with the most active poker players has been declining since 2004:

Interest in online poker (USA)

At that time, the Chris Moneymaker caused a sensation when he won the main event of the WSOP (World Series of Poker) and became the “world champion of Texas Hold’em “. He won 2.5 million U.S. dollars while investing a buy-in of only 39 $ at a qualifier tournament on PokerStars, where he won an entry ticket to the WSOP. Many others tried to realize this dream, too. But shortly afterwards, the interest in poker declined.

In other countries, the situation is similar. The number of search queries for “poker” reached its peak at different times, but the interest is declining since then. Also in Italy, where online poker was legalized in 2008, the interest is fading:

Online Poker in Italy

Does this mean that “everything is lost” and that professional poker players have to find themselves a new job? No. Looking at the global searches for poker, the interest is declining only slightly:

Interest in poker worldwide

This means that the declining interest in poker in some countries has been offset by an increasing interest in other countries. Some Eastern European countries, Japan and emerging nations like India or Brazil still show a high interest in the game of poker.

And: search queries are only one indicator of whether the interest has fallen in something or not. After all, a person who already plays poker is maybe less interested in searching for the term “poker” than someone who is just beginning to play Texas Hold’em. On the other hand, with Zynga Poker, the song Poker Face from Lady Gaga and the Flash Game Governor of Poker some popular search terms have popped up that are not related with the playing Texas Hold’em for real money. These terms distort the statistics.

Number Poker Players

Thus, the number of search queries for “poker” is not necessarily a good indicator to measure the popularity of online poker. Things get interesting when looking at actual numbers of players who play poker online. One source of such statistics is PokerScout. They are reporting a decreasing number of players at the poker tables. However, the decrease is not dramatic. From March 2010 to March 2011, the entire global traffic (excluding Italy) decreased by only 1%. Thus, it is wrong to speak of the end of online poker. Only the poker boom – the period of strong growth – is over.

Effects of Reduced Number of Online Poker Players

First, the decline is small and shows rather that the new market “online poker” has reached its saturation phase. This is nothing else than we have for example witnessed a few years ago in the mobile communications industry. The days when mobile operators reported growth rates in the double-digit percentage range are long gone. But are cell phones dead? No. Today, almost everyone owns a mobile phone and uses that device regularly. The same insight can be transferred to online poker: also in five or ten years, still millions of players will be playing online poker.

The end of the boom, however, has some practical impact on you as a player:

  • The games are getting tougher: Without the high influx of fish, the games become harder to beat. Besides the recreational players, more and more regular players can be found at the tables. These guys play online poker to make a living from it. Because they are multitabling, you will find at least two, rather three or four of them at each 10-handed poker table. This makes table selection, the search for fishy tables, more and more important
  • Training: In order to continue to make money in online poker, continuous training and the analysis of the own played hands and handhistories becomes essential to compensate for the increasing level of skill at the tables
  • Multitabling: If you are multitabling, then you can compensate lower win rates at the tables by adding more tables. This can result in roughly the same hourly wage. This is also what many professional players do already for years: They play at eight, twelve or more tables
  • Selecting the best poker room: which is the best poker room? This question cannot be answered easily and depends on your needs. If you play on low limits, then a great poker bonus and a low skill level of your opponents is important. If you are multitabling on higher limits, then a high player volume and a stable software is very important

Overall, we can therefore draw the conclusion that while the poker boom is over, you will still find for the next five or ten years millions players how play Texas Holdem online.