Is Online Poker Becoming Serious Economic Force
Long gone it seems are the days when poker was confined firstly to western bars frequented with outlaws, bounty hunters and prostitutes and then to an underworld of gangsters and con men. The modern game is an ever-increasing portrait of young, college educated and intelligent players, doing battle on the web with tools comprising of statistics, strategy and aggression.
Everybody Wants to be a Moneymaker
A revolution took place in the world of Poker in November 2003 when, after qualifying as a sports betting amateur through an online poker room, Chris Moneymaker, an accountant from Tennessee, shot to poker superstardom when he won the World Series of Poker.
Since then poker and predominantly online poker have grown to mammoth proportions as more and more would-be professionals attempt to replicate Moneymaker’s achievements on the world stage. While the game is still played by many long term professionals, more and more amateurs are taking up what is now being considered the “sport” of poker. There has been no better place than online, as games can range from as little as $1 entry and up to as much as $1 million in prize money and sometimes even more, the incentives are there for players to make a living from the game.
Since Chris Moneymaker’s historic win, unknowns on the world stage have risen to fame and fortune in the World Series of Poker with Greg Raymer, Peter Eastgate and 2009 winner Joe Cada all winning the competition from seeming obscurity. And while the big-money players such as Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonius and Tom Dwan come along for the ride, in the most coveted prize in the world of Poker, fresh faces are making the most impact; as can be seen in 2009’s runner up, Darvin Moon, a logger and amateur poker player from Maryland.
Market Saturated Online Poker
The online poker industry has seen exceptional growth with a predicted value of $6.2 billion. The larger poker rooms have profited most with more and more players visiting the rooms, plus a wider scope for marketing, which now sees Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars finding their way onto F1 cars and snooker competitions. Yet while these two biggest online poker rooms, with a combined market share of 60%, continue to turn a handsome profit, the smaller rooms are struggling under the weight of increased competition and offers of free money from the larger companies.
Poker, just as in all forms of gambling, thrives on a constant turnover of visitors as the strong continue to take from the weak. Reducing numbers of visitors hits the smaller rooms in particular, as gaming analyst Paul Leyland states; “The problem you face with poker…is that you need volume to make the model work. You have to bring volume in to supply your higher rollers with people to play.”
Moreover, US government legislation that could legalize internet gambling may come at a price as rooms may be charged a license fee. This would only hinder the industry more and may see some rooms fall off the map entirely. Yet for the big players who sustain high numbers of visitors, the online poker room doors will remain open for now.
Online Gaming Effects on Economy; Help or Hindrance
While many people have taken up poker as a recreation and some as professionals, the rise of the virtual casino may not have as many benefits as some think. The issue with gambling that may stretch as far as the entertainment industry in general lies in defining what creates wealth.
The argument for the development of online gaming and in particular poker comes from proponents of its legalization in the US who claim that, among other things, jobs are created which can only be a good thing. The growth of the city of Las Vegas is used as an example of how communities profit from gambling.
Here again, by way of a number of examples, Grinols goes on to prove; “Anything that increases the value of social product leading to greater welfare of residents is economic development and anything that does not is not. Job creation is immaterial unless it happens to be a vehicle for increase in social value.”
In the January 1997 California Research Bureau report “Gambling in California”, Roger Dunstan makes the point; “Money spent on a gambling facility is money that already existed but was spent on other things… Building and running a gambling facility doesn’t create wealth, it merely transfers it.”
Aptly named as American’s favorite pastime, poker has built a sizable niche in the world of entertainment. In the UK gambling in the form of poker and sports betting has equally shown unprecedented growth. Whether the growth equates to benefiting the nation and adding value to society is another matter. Yet for now, while the thousands continue to visit the likes of Full Tilt and PokerStars, one thing is for sure; online poker is not going anywhere.
Where Americans Play Online Poker: A List of U.S.-Friendly Rooms
Since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was created in 2006 there has been a narrowing of U.S. friendly poker rooms for Americans to play on. Regardless, there are some great poker room options out there for Americans to take advantage of.
Biggest U.S. Friendly Online Poker Rooms
First off it must be explained what the difference is between an online poker room and an online poker network. A poker room can be independently run or part of a network of rooms that share players and software. The top four U.S. friendly rooms are a mixture of these. The biggest four U.S. friendly poker rooms are:
- Full Tilt Poker
- UltimateBet (Cereus Network)
- Absolute Poker (Cereus Network)
PokerStars is one of the largest online poker rooms. It has maintained a massive lead against Full Tilt Poker ever since the poker room PartyPoker left the U.S. marketplace. PokerStars has decent software and the biggest tournaments, but there aren’t a ton of perks for playing there other than the number of players. For players who want a serious number of players, great deals, and very good software Full Tilt Poker is a very solid place to go. Full Tilt even offers rakeback for players, which PokerStars does not do, which can be very profitable for many players.
UltimateBet and Absolute Poker are definitely good choices as they have been rising in the ranks in the poker traffic rankings. One of the reasons they’ve been doing so well is that they, unlike several popular rooms, offer free poker money to start playing on their rooms. There are a lot of places that offer free poker bankrolls and these two rooms that make up the Cereus Network are some of the more popular deals out there.
Mid-Sized Poker Rooms that Allow U.S. Players
Just because the four poker rooms mentioned above are the biggest does not mean they are the best. There are two poker networks, Cake Poker Network and the Merge Network, that are both U.S. friendly and contain an assortment of very good poker rooms. Here is a small list of great rooms from these two networks:
- Carbon Poker (Merge)
- PlayerOnly (Merge)
- Cake Poker (Cake)
- Power Poker (Cake)
- Doyles Room (Cake)
Carbon Poker is the lead room for the Merge Network that has been growing faster than any poker network in the world. In just four months they have seen a jump of over 100% in player traffic that seems to be increasing as the weeks continue to tick by. PlayerOnly is a very popular site that used to be part of the larger Cake Network and obtains a very popular set promotion. Cake Poker and Power Poker are also very popular rooms that have been creating a lot of attention as they attempt to keep their growth moving in a positive direction, especially given Power Poker’s newest free poker money deal.
Doyles Room is the namesake room of poker’s most famous player, Doyle Brunson. Doyles Room is a very popular room on the Cake Network as it keeps up a number of original promotions such as their Brunson 10 Bounty tournaments that reward players for knocking out Doyles Room sponsored poker pros. A very original and unique experience for any player, and they too have a rakeback deal through certain websites.