The Poker Bubble: When`s it Gonna Burst?

As with any trend, people are beginning to wonder how long the poker boom will continue. Many want to know, has it peaked already or is it peaking now? Is poker in fact a trend which will be replaced with another fad?

There is no easy way to pinpoint the crest of poker’s popularity. Right now it seems ubiquitous. If you live in North America, turn on the television at any point in the day and you`re almost guaranteed to find a program showing, teaching, and analyzing the game. The growth of poker is phenomenal, and you have probably heard all of the reasons for it: increased television coverage, the rise of online casinos, and poker’s new place among the average person?

In Canada, the rise in popularity of poker stemmed largely from the absence of an NHL season last year. As the hockey players were locked out and the entire season called off, Canadians needed to find new ways to wile away those long winter months. The television channels, particularly the sports channels, were responsible for finding something that would fill the void, and tournament poker fit in nicely. But now that the NHL has resumed play, Poker mania in Canada still shows no signs of slowing down. Or does it?

A quick survey of our friends and colleagues showed that more than half of them no longer play online poker, compared to a year ago when all but one were playing regularly. When asked why the decision to quit, a friend responded by saying “it was a novelty for me. I wasn’t making great sums of money and I realized there were better ways of spending my time”. Of course, this is merely the opinion of one person and not indicative of a changing trend. A recent survey conducted by the World Poker Exchange, and with a much larger sample base than my brief opinion poll, showed that 45% of people now prefer to play online poker rather than in a casino. And three out four US poker players play online at least once a month. This suggests that poker is at its height of popularity. However, the survey only questions those who currently play poker, and not the general populace. There is no evidence to suggest that more people are playing poker compared to say, two year ago.

So it’s anyone’s guess as to the future of poker, both online and casino-based. Clearly the supply of new players is limited. But how many will start playing in the following years? 10 million? 5 thousand? Or fewer yet? Poker is very fashionable at the moment, so when something else comes along, and it certainly will, the number of players will inevitably shrink.