It has been a big couple of years in poker. March 2020 serves as a defining line for poker that is almost as impactful as Black Friday was a decade before. Essentially all of the poker rooms in the country shut down that month (or soon thereafter). It took months to years before poker rooms opened back up (many never did) and it is not an exaggeration to say that everything’s different now. So how has poker changed as a result? These are the poker trends that we see in 2022.
A Significant Reduction in Poker Rooms
In March 2020 there were approximately 210 poker rooms in the United States sporting ten or more tables. Today, 159 of those have re-opened. Yes, we lost close to 25% of all sizable poker rooms in the country over the past two years. That fact alone is mind-boggling. To be fair, there are a handful of new poker rooms (Resorts World Las Vegas is a shining example), but these do not come anywhere close to making up for the sheer loss of venues caused by the pandemic.
To make things worse, many of the casinos that continue to operate in 2022 have lost a significant number of poker tables. In 2019 Encore Boston Harbor contained 72 poker tables. The room finally reopened in January of 2022 with 12. While few rooms contracted quite as much as Encore, many removed tables over the past two years and appear to have no plans to add them back. As a result, we have found that Poker Atlas (our go-to site when we are researching poker rooms), now frequently over-reports the number of poker tables in any given room. (By the way, whenever we discover such inaccuracies, we correct them on our Map of US Poker Rooms. So you can always cross-check here).
This reduction in rooms, and the even larger reduction in poker tables, is one of the most disheartening poker trends we are seeing in 2022.
Poker Tournaments are Both Rarer and More Expensive
We recently researched the current state of poker tournaments across the United States. In doing so we discovered that the rooms that are still operating are generally holding fewer poker tournaments per week than they did in 2020. This is particularly true in certain regions of the country, such as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Some venues which used to offer both cash games and tournaments now only offer cash. Others, such as Foxwoods in Connecticut, have gone from offering up to four tournaments per day to a mere two all week.
In certain parts of the country, the price of tournament poker has risen. Once again, in our region of New England almost all of the low buy-in tournaments have simply vanished. Three years ago, you could find a $40 tournament in New Hampshire or a $60 tournament in Connecticut any day of the week. Today, tournaments in New England generally range from $90 to $400 (Foxwood’s weekly Sunday tournament).
Fortunately, tournament prices have not increased throughout the country. You can still find plenty of low buy-in tournaments in Florida or Las Vegas, for example. But for those of us in hard-hit regions, the price of poker has definitely gone up.
Poker Trends on TV
Back in the day, you could watch Poker After Dark on NBC, an edited version of the Main Event of The World Series of Poker (WSOP) across several months on ABC, and the World Poker Tour (WPT) on Fox Sports throughout much of the year. In 2022 you will find none of the above. After Black Friday (in 2011), many advertisers pulled their support of televised poker, and these shows dropped one by one. Poker After Dark disappeared that year. ABC slowly pulled its support of the Main Event, first dropping the long editing process and reformatting it as a live event, reducing coverage over time, and finally ceding the event to CBS in 2021. Which, by the way, was a disaster. CBS’ broadcast schedule was so extended and so random that our DVR could not even keep up. We ended up missing out on the final table entirely.
Likewise, the WPT has become more and more difficult to find over the years. We have variously accessed it on Fox Sports, the Travel Channel, and even the Game Show Network. Today, if you want to watch the iconic broadcast in the United States, you will need to stream it on Club WPT.
As it turns out, if you want to watch just about any poker content today, streaming is your answer. PokerGo launched in 2017 and has become the home for “televised” poker content. From the World Series to Poker After Dark to the relatively new Poker Masters, PokerGo is your best bet for traditional poker content.It has been a big couple of years in poker. These are the poker trends we are seeing in 2022.Click To Tweet
Of course, the biggest of the “TV” poker trends today don’t have anything to do with your television. Poker vlogging and Twitch streaming have exploded in the past five years. Millions of fans follow their favorite players through their YouTube videos and Twitch streams on a daily basis. Personalities like Andrew Neeme, Lex Velduis, and Jonathan Little are turning out poker content at a stunning rate.
Online Poker is Seeing a Resurgence
While the pandemic took so many things away, it also helped to revitalize online poker. After 2011, when online poker essentially shut down in the US, a few sites worked their way around the new reality. Some went offshore while others (such as WPT) created a subscription model. Then a few years ago, states slowly began legalizing online poker. So if you were lucky enough to live in Nevada or New Jersey, you could legally hop back into the game.
While this trend continues (at a glacial pace), the pressure of the pandemic shutdowns led to another poker outlet. Players began playing virtual home games, using venues such as Poker Bros, PokerStars, and Advanced Poker Training to set up games among players who may have previously played together live. Payment would then be arranged via another vehicle and coordinated by trustworthy game runners. These games operate in a grey area of the law (as most do not take a rake), but nonetheless have become very popular. While the pandemic is over, participation in virtual home games has not waned.
We have said it before, and we will say it again. It is time to legalize online poker in the US and cut out all of the middlemen.
Poker Trends at the WSOP
The biggest news at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) this year is the move across Las Vegas Boulevard. After 17 years at the Rio All-Suites Resort and Casino, the WSOP is moving to Bally’s and Paris right on the Las Vegas Strip. While it is early days yet, players appreciate the wide variety of food options on the Strip (thinking the WSOP Cafe may struggle this year with its over-priced sandwiches and ridiculous additional fees). Players are less happy about the price of parking on the Strip.
The WSOP is always seeking new tournament formats to include in the series. This year we will see the return of the, frankly insane, Flip n Go that started last year. The WSOP is also hopping on the mystery bounty bandwagon. In a mystery bounty tournament, Day 1 proceeds as a normal tournament, with everyone who advances to Day 2 in the money. On Day 2, bounties are awarded every time a player is knocked out. Rather than a set bounty amount, however, bounties vary widely. You may get a $100 bounty or you may get $20,000, depending on a random assignment. In the case of the WSOP, there will be one lucky player who receives a million-dollar bounty!
Now, that’s a poker trend we can get behind.
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