The Global Pandemic is Creating a Poker Boom – But Will it Last?

The Global Pandemic is Creating a Poker Boom – But Will it Last?

We are heading into unknown waters with COVID-19 spreading around the world, affecting absolutely everything – and poker is not an exception.

Whether we like it or not, we are spending much more time at home. Online activities are gaining traction, and more players are going into online poker than we have seen for years.

I want to take some time and think about what it means for the poker community and whether it can have lasting results.

Are We Already Seeing a Poker Boom?

Everyone can have their own opinion on what defines a “poker boom”, but the numbers don’t lie – we see the massive growth of interest in online poker.

Here is a graph from Google Trends indicating the popularity of search term “online poker,” which reached an all-time high for the last five years with quite a significant margin.

Image: Google Trends

You can see similar stats if we filter out specific countries and some other related keywords, so it is clear that the interest is growing, and that actually looks like a boom at the moment.

However, you might think that search alone is not indicating all that much, but it does.

This clearly transitions into more players at the tables, and famous Sunday Million tournament proves this to be true by breaking all of the records both in attendee numbers and prizes as well.

  • The 14th Anniversary Sunday Million that recently ended attracted 93,016 entries, which transitioned into $18,603,200 prize pool.

It is the biggest tournament event on Pokerstars so far in regards to payouts, including events on well-known poker boom in the USA back in the days when everyone could freely enjoy online poker.

On top of that, it just smashed last year’s record by quite a big margin, where there were “only” 61,342 entries and $12,268,400 in prizes.

As you see, the difference is enormous, so we can’t say that this is just a coincidence that happened without any influence of the coronavirus.

I would say that we clearly see an online poker boom in front of us, but the biggest question is if it can last when we finally deal with the virus.

What Does it Mean For Poker at The Moment?

While COVID-19 is forcing everyone to cancel live events around the world and closing down land-based casinos, it’s clear that interest in online poker is rapidly growing, with more players joining the scene.

So who is coming into the games, and why the online industry is skyrocketing at the moment?

Live poker pros

Anyone who played live poker for a living pre-pandemic will surely transition to online games, as this is the best alternative.

Of course, some of the players will simply wait until all of this mess is over, and only start playing when casinos are open again.

However, most of them will join online action and start playing some tournaments and cash games for some income, entertainment, and to keep their skills sharp.

Recreational live players

Apart from poker professionals, there is a large group of recreational players who mostly play poker for fun either with their friends or occasionally visit casinos.

These players already love poker, and they are now stuck at home for an extended period of time.

I guess it is not that hard to predict what they will play when they want to have some fun and take thought away from everyday problems.

It is likely that instead of playing once per week, they will do it more often and will play a significant part in sustaining growing interest in online poker.

General population looking to have some fun

We’ve already seen how people who who don’t usually play poker are now joining the tournaments to trytheir luck.

As previously mentioned, Sunday Million is the perfect example  since the room needed to attract new players to break the previous record.

The winner of 14th Anniversary Sunday Million was by no means a professional player. He qualified from $11 satellite to $215 event and then took it all down, raking a total of $1,192,802.

Poker rooms are trying to take advantage of this situation and offer cheaper tournaments and satellites that are perfect for new players, and it is one of the reasons why some are joining the table.

Of course, there are many other players in between these groups, who will also play their part in this boom. Until we come out the other side of the pandemic, there is no way that online poker could start declining.

How it Might Affect The Poker Landscape

However, the biggest question is how it will change the poker landscape in the future.

No one knows for sure, but we could already be almost certain that WSOP will not take place in the same form and amplitude as before.

Some WSOP events will likely be moved to an online setting, and players will battle it out while sitting at home. Many players are placing bets on whether the WSOP will kick off on May 26 as planned.

I would not be surprised if other avenues would follow this switch and organize more tournaments in an online setting, even when isolation is over.

While that does not mean the end of live events, it could significantly boost the number of participating players, so it sounds like a logical step to take.

While more and more players are trying out online poker, it’s likely that some of them will take advantage offered by this setting and never return to playing in live casinos.

After all, online poker could be much more convenient for most:

  • You do not need to get ready or travel to a casino
  • You can play whenever you want because the action is available 24/7
  • You can play shorter sessions and adjust it based on your needs
  • You can control your environment and remove all distractions
  • You can play way more hands in the same time frame
  • You can take advantage of various software to progress faster…and many more reasons!

While online competition is tougher, all of these benefits can easily outweigh it if you are ready to work on your game and take poker seriously.

Of course, everyone will decide which path they are going to take after isolation is over, but I think online poker will be standing tall in this situation.

Even though we can see a temporary boom in live games interest because everyone will need to get out after sitting at home for so long, we might also get many new players in the online games.

What Opportunities It Creates

While it is not easy to talk about opportunities in such a moment, there are ways you can use your time to have lasting results, so why not take advantage of that if you are sitting home either way.

For online players

First and foremost, if you are already a keen online poker player, you could use this time to play as much as you possibly can while all of these new players are floating into the games.

This will surely make games much easier, so you might even use this time to move up in stakes and build your bankroll for your further career.

It also opens the doors to playing poker professionally.

While you can’t do most day to day jobs sitting at home, you can surely play poker as much as you want, and it can even become your primary source of income.

If you been considering this move, I doubt you will have a better time than now.

Editor’s Note: only fully-professional poker players should rely on poker as a source of income. Only gamble what you can afford to lose and always practice good bankroll management, especially during this time. Please read our message on responsible gambling.

For other players

If you are not currently used to battling at online tables, you should not jump to these games blindly.

Without a doubt, competition in online games is much stronger, so you should first work on your game.

Of course, this does not mean that you can’t play whatsoever, quite the contrary. You can play poker to gain experience and put your knowledge and training into practice.

That being said, you should direct a significant part of your efforts to studying and only then jump into playing.

While the best option is to join one of the training sites where you can get all of the needed info at once, you can also work on your game yourself, and I want to share a couple of ways how you can do it.

Visit a poker forum

It is probably the quickest and easiest way to get some information and learn a thing or two. While you should take everything you find in a forum with a grain of salt as you won’t know who wrote it, you can surely find useful hand analyses and strategy advice.

Read a strategy book

Many players think that books are outdated, and it might be true to some extent if you choose a book written 20 years ago, but there are a lot of new ones that can be very useful for learning the game.

What I recommend is to choose the book based on the format you play, so if you play multi-table tournaments (MTTs), find one that talks about it so that you could learn the most relevant information for your exact situation.

Mark and review your hands

When you start playing, the first thing you should learn is to mark questionable hands and review it later on. If you just play without noticing any leaks, you will continue committing the same mistakes over and over.

When you mark your hands while playing, you can review it later using training software, or even post on the forum to get feedback from other players. This way you will learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them in the future.

Record and review your session

It is one of the most efficient tools that you can use to spot mistakes in your play. You simply record your session using one of the available screen capturing tools and then review your game when it’s over.

You’ll be surprised how differently you see all the action when you are not caught in the heat of the moment, and I am confident that you will notice some mistakes that you weren’t even aware of. 

So What’s Next?

Now you know that the online poker industry is booming at the moment due to many players sitting at home and searching for new ways to have fun.

You can surely use this time to work on your game or play a lot and enjoy a weaker competition. How you use this situation depends only on you, but you should try to make the most of this time.

Last but not least, do not forget to have some fun on the way.

While today’s situation might not look too pleasant, you should surely enjoy your time at home with the family and do something exciting for you.

Even if you decide to give poker a try, do not make it a grind and learn to enjoy the game and have fun at the same time.

Tadas Peckaitis poker coach

About The Author:
Tadas Peckaitis is a professional poker player, published author and poker coach. He writes for a range of online publications and helps other poker players to excel. He can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.