Everywhere you look online, you read about the certainty of poker’s demise. Poker is a casino loss leader they say. There are no dealers. Poker rooms are a losing proposition. People point to the rapidity of poker room closure during the pandemic and the delayed reopening of many rooms. And it is true that poker rooms tend to have lost a few tables in the mix. A few have even closed down. But we believe that, rather than waiting for poker’s demise, we are on the verge of the next poker boom. Here is what we see.
The 2023 WSOP was Record Breaking
Sure, the WSOP had to go online in 2020 due to the pandemic, and when the series was moved to October in 2021, the return was low. But the rebound was huge. 2022 saw 8,663 Main Event players, the second largest in history at that time. And 2023 yielded 10,043 Main Event entrants, by far the largest field ever. In addition to the Main Event, The 2023 WSOP broke attendance records in another 10 events. This year’s WSOP also set the record for the number of events with million-dollar or better prize pools. One hundred and fifty-two different events offered prize pools exceeding $1 million.
Numbers of Cash Poker Players Across the Country
We track and regularly update the numbers of live cash poker tables at poker rooms across the country. Just this summer, we completed our most recent update and observed that cash poker play is booming across every region of the country. This summer, when we last measured, there were more live cash poker tables running in every region across the country as compared to 2022.
The increases in cash poker tables across the regions vary fairly significantly, from a low of a 4% increase in Florida to a high of a 26% increase in Texas. Other notable regions include California (17%), and Michigan/NY/Ohio (also 17%). Note that Florida consistently has the largest number of active cash tables in the country in both years. However, the point is that the number of active cash poker tables has increased everywhere.
The Rebound in Poker Tournaments
Similarly, the rebound in tournament play in games both small and large belies poker’s demise. A quick visit to PokerAtlas will reveal the vast number of poker tournaments being held across the country on any given day. And each month more poker rooms that stopped offering tournaments in 2020 are adding them back into their poker schedules.
On a larger scale, organizations such as PokerGo, the WPT, and WSOP are adding new tournament series into the poker year. Last December the World Poker Tour added the WPT World Championship to its schedule, exceeding all expectations for player participation. The PokerStars Player’s Championship series is rapidly becoming a mid-winter staple. And even the venerable World Series of Poker is adding a new series this fall called WSOP Paradise. The new series will run from Dec. 3-14 at Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
New Poker Rooms Opening at a Rapid Rate
Poker’s demise is also countered by the number of new poker rooms opening across the country. If casinos don’t want the drag of poker players, then why are they including poker rooms in their new properties? The state of Virginia has recently approved casino gaming, with four new casinos going live in the next year. Three of those four new casinos will offer poker (the first room is already open!) From Mississippi to Michigan, new poker rooms are opening every month.
Even Las Vegas appears to have shifted from shutting poker rooms down to opening new ones. In 2021 Resorts World Las Vegas opened the first new poker room on the Las Vegas strip in over fifteen years. This year, a mere two years later, The Tropicana opened a new poker room. And the Mirage, which shut its storied poker room in 2020 is currently being transformed by the Hard Rock casino group and will sport a 20-table poker room as soon as late 2023.
Bottom line: poker is back in full force and braced for another peak in popularity.
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