The gambling market
Online gambling is a massive market and is set to grow. In 2019, the market was worth US$58.9 billion, and is expected to be worth in excess of US$92.9 billion as soon as 2023. Technological advances, changing player habits and changes in legislation in key areas (in particular the US) have driven this growth.
The poker industry is growing at a similar rate, and is predicted to yield 11.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2020 and 2027. Increased disposable income in the Asia Pacific Region is driving this growth, and online poker has garnered attention from a new demographic of players, in particular college students.
Why is online poker so popular?
Poker has always been popular. The nature of the game has seen it remain popular for many years. The move online has reached a whole new demographic and the ability of being able to play anytime, and from anywhere, has increased the popularity of the game.
Skills, not luck
Many have mixed opinions about whether Poker is about chance, but some have argued it is a game of skill and many enjoy playing it because they are able to show off against their opponents.
Improved technology means that one of the key considerations when playing online has been dealt with: money safety. It is now easier than ever to make sure sites are secure, and players can be sure that when they are entering their details their information is secure. Some operators offer cryptocurrency payment, which is in many ways even more secure.
Poker is a sociable game, with players being able to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends. The online aspect means that people are not limited to geographical locations and time zones as they would be in land-based casinos, but can instead meet players from around the world.
Poker has become a big part of our culture, whether it be films about or featuring poker, music and music videos, as well as common every day phrases including ‘when the chips are down’, ‘to go all in’, and ‘poker face’.
For the most talented players, there is the potential for high returns on investment. Those with the necessary skills can make a fair amount of money, be it on online games or in the bigger tournaments, all the way up to the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Online poker has become so popular that some players have even gone as far as turning their hobby into a full time career. These online poker players have been hugely successful, with wins and sponsorship deals mounting to many millions of dollars
Top five career poker players
By the age of 15, Blom, who is only 30 now, had already amassed US$275,000 in online poker winnings, and was to win much more under the pseudonym Isildur1 before revealing his identity to the rest of the world in January 2011.
By 2009 he was often playing the biggest poker pots in the world, against some of the top players in the world, including Tom Dwan, Phil Ivey and Brian Hastings to name but a few, and reached peak career earnings in November 2009 at just 19 years of age with just under US$6 million. However, he lost US$4 million to Brian Hastings in one day setting a record for the biggest loss and gain in poker history.
Over the last decade, Blom has been in and out of the poker scene, playing occasionally, and with US$3 million in winnings, Blom remains a legend in online poker.
One of Isildur1’s opponents, the player known as ‘Durrrr’ online has gone on to find considerable success at live cash games and tournaments. His prowess and playing style is feared by his opponents, playing multiple high stakes tables at once.
Dwan has US$3.4 million in tournament winnings, and plenty more in cash games, and regularly plays in Southeast Asia, in particular Macau, the regions foremost gambling haven.
Dan Cates: Jungleman12
Yet another young player who started his career online as a teenager, Cates had over US$11 million by 2014. Originally studying Economics at the University of Maryland, Cates dropped out to pursue a poker playing career, which so far has panned out well. As well as online tournaments, he has had considerable success in live poker rooms and cash games.
With two WPT high roller titles in 2013 and 2014, a Triton Super High Roller win in 2016, a third place in 2017, Cates has over US7.4 million in career winnings, making him one of the most successful players in the world.
As recently as September 2019, Tollerene won over US$1 million at the British Poker Tournament, a culmination of over a decade of high stakes wins and tournaments galore for this native Texan.
Starting out with a US$500 online deposit, Tollerene has advanced his game considerably, and won over US$10 million in the early 2010s. His overall tournament winnings are said to be around US$3.5 million, with live tournament and cash game winnings of over US9.5 million.
Another Texan on the list, Benefield lived the poker boom of the 2010s, playing poker online to the extent that his poker exploits were documented in the book Ship It Holla Ballas! Along with a group of college drop-outs, the 33 year Benefield won millions in the 2010s playing under the name ‘Raptor’.
He now has US$4.5 million in live tournament winnings, including almost US$1 million for placing eighth at the WSOP Main Event in 2013. Having initially struggled with losses, Benefield has been open with his struggles; ‘Poker is incredibly stressful on an emotional level, which negatively impacts the physical. In my earlier years playing professionally, I was not good at dealing with large monetary losses. They hurt me a lot mentally, and I would tend to turn inward. I wouldn’t want to hang out with friends or hit the gym. Instead, I would sit at my computer and figure out how to avoid losses in the future. I have gotten much better about this over the years.’