Online poker is an industry that’s enjoying impressive growth at the moment, with major platforms reporting an uptick in revenues over the past 12 months.
This isn’t just good news for the operators themselves, but also for players. More money spent means a bigger, better experience, as well as a higher likelihood that big tournaments will receive broader coverage and offer higher jackpots.
Whether you are an armchair amateur who enjoys the occasional game or someone who takes things a little more seriously and actually earns a living from online play, there has never been a better time to be part of the poker scene.
But what does the future hold for online poker and how will changes around the world influence the trajectory that the industry takes over the coming years?
Fresh Game Types
The core poker experience will always be available for people who are committed to the classic variants. But the advantage of online play is that it’s easy for operators to mix things up, create something different and give veterans a break from the norm.
In the future, it seems certain that there will be even more new additions to the market. If these follow in the footsteps of earlier efforts, then the changes are likely to be to the way that wagering is handled, or perhaps to the pace of play. With more people playing poker on their smartphones, it makes sense to create a more bite-sized experience for on the go gaming with these new archetypes.
Latest Technologies Embraced
Online poker operators have always been quick to adopt cutting-edge hardware in order to offer their services in varied, exciting ways. This was true when smartphones first rose to mainstream prominence a decade ago, and today applies to a number of new technologies.
Virtual reality (VR) headsets are being embraced by a small niche of the poker community, with the Oculus Rift-based Poker VR generating a lot of cash for its developers' thanks to its free-to-play model.
Of course, at the moment these multiplayer experiences are not played for actual cash, so it will require one of the big operators to create their own VR poker games in order to entice customers who want to put their money on the line to get involved.
Indeed once online casinos jump on the VR bandwagon in earnest, it could help to boost the sales of the headsets and hardware that make this type of experience accessible.
Growing Streaming Audience
Millions of people love to play poker online, but a growing number are also eager to watch how the professionals play via streaming services like Twitch.
The appeal of this as a way to pass the time is similar to that of watching any game of skill. You get to enjoy the action, criticise the decisions made from the comfort of your own home, see how others respond to events and avoid having to actually undergo the stress of playing yourself.
Televised coverage of poker tournaments has been around for a while, but in the age of game streaming, it is now possible for players to create their own communities of fans and supporters outside of this traditional infrastructure.
Just as YouTube has helped to create a new generation of stars without the need for media gatekeepers to give anyone the go-ahead, so too streaming services could boost the profile of up and coming poker players without the need for tournament success.
Wider Legal Access
While playing poker online is perfectly legal in the UK and a number of other countries, it remains an outlawed practice in most states in the US. Recent changes to the law are helping poker advocates to argue the corner for wider legalisation, as sports betting is now well on the way to becoming accepted across America.
This change will happen slowly, and it could be many years before a full regulatory revolution occurs, but the wheels have been set in motion and now this seems to be the most likely future change to impact the world of online poker.
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