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Poker Could Be America’s Next Big Entertainment Trend (Again)

At this point it’s been about 15 years since the true heyday of poker in the United States. It was back in 2003 that Chris Moneymaker rose to fame as the first amateur player to win the World Series of Poker, and ignited a wave of interest in the game in the process. Moneymaker’s method showed “the way to a fortune” as one retrospective put it just a few years later, and countless players sought to follow that way. By the mid-2000s, the World Series of Poker was appointment viewing on TV, and internet play was rampant among amateurs aspiring to riches of their own.

This heyday wound up being short-lived, however, due to the fact that the U.S. government eventually cracked down on internet poker activity. There’s still a generation of people who grew to love poker, and the WSOP remains reasonably popular as a sort of fringe sport. But the simple fact that online cash poker games and tournaments are largely outlawed has kept the game from being the cultural sensation that it was.

Now, however, there’s the hope of a return to prominence. It is beginning to seem as if poker could once again be the next big entertainment trend in America.

This is becoming apparent partly through the enthusiasm Las Vegas casinos are seeing in the aftermath of pandemic-related restrictions. We stated recently in some facts about the USA that Vegas is still the gambling capital of the world, and if anything this reputation looks poised to strengthen moving forward. Vegas casinos have welcomed back eager crowds of guests this year, to the point that the recent July 4th weekend is said to have been one of the biggest in the city’s history. Now, this doesn’t mean everyone visiting is flocking to the tables to play high stakes poker. But when casinos and casino resort destinations are doing well, it’s safe to assume poker is drawing a crowd.

Even as casinos are seeing encouraging activity moving out of the pandemic’s darkest days though, there are also positive indications regarding online poker. Even now, with most of the country still restricting cash games online, there are numerous services that enable people to play online poker with friends, or even against strangers. These services — Zynga Poker, PlayWSOP, and even some paid sites with play-money options — made for ideal at-home entertainment during COVID lockdowns. As a result, there have been numerous reports of online poker platforms seeing increased activity. It appears that waves of players have discovered or rediscovered interest in the internet poker scene, such as it is.

On top of the existing trends of renewed in-person and online poker activity meanwhile, there are also developments positioning the game nicely for near-future success. First and foremost is the movement toward legal, regulated cash poker sites in many parts of the country. A few states have already authorized legal online poker, and more will almost certainly do so in the next two to five years. And beyond legal considerations, technology is also likely to play a role in turning poker back into mainstream entertainment. We’ve seen the advent of virtual reality poker games of late, and with some promising early examples, it’s only a matter of time before one such game takes off. Couple VR gameplay with legal cash games and you really can begin to imagine a second, full-fledged poker phenomenon.

Add up all of these factors and developments and the picture becomes surprisingly clear. Poker is enjoying renewed popularity both in-person and online, and there are ongoing changes on the legal and technological fronts that should speed that progress up even more. In another few years, we might find ourselves in the midst of a second heyday.

Photo by Moos-Media on Pixabay

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