It’s safe to say that, like every other vertical of the gaming industry, poker had its highs and lows in 2022; but given the drama, excitement and huge sums of money involved, it maintains a consistent level of popularity. Despite a lack of headline-grabbing amid the ever-present verticals of sports betting, iGaming and land-based casino, poker is by no means a small fish in a big pond, with countless companies seeing the value in a strong poker offering. Gambling Insider delves into an eventful 2022 for poker to say the least, as well as predicting what 2023 could look like for the vertical.
The Good/Pocket Aces
As is true within all gaming verticals, cooperation is key, and poker was no different in 2022 as countless deals were signed by various companies. Playtech led the way in this regard, adding AdmiralBet, Lottomatica and PokerMatch to its iPoker network. Money is, however, very much the name of the game when it comes to poker, with 2022 proving more than ever that huge volumes are up for grabs for the most talented players across the globe. Venom Fever guaranteed 1,000 seats to its $5m Venom PKO, for example, while the World Poker Tour World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas involved a $15m guaranteed prize pool, the largest single live tournament guarantee in the history of poker.
Global expansion was another high point for poker in 2022, with the likes of EvenBet Gaming launching the Teen Patti online poker game on its turnkey platform; the game has been a huge success in India, having grown from over 150 million active users in 2020 to over 200 million in 2022. PokerStars, meanwhile, went live in Greece, with the Flutter Entertainment group also making its long-awaited homecoming in the Canadian province of Ontario. Both the partnerships and the global expansion, coupled with the immense sums of money on show, prove just how popular poker remains and how much potential there is within the vertical.
As is true within all gaming verticals, cooperation is key, and poker was no different in 2022 as countless deals were signed by various companies
The Bad/Drawing Blanks
As mentioned, however, 2022 wasn’t all smiles within the poker world. As has been the case in the land-based casino vertical, Australia is proving itself to be a constant issue of negative press; that has also extended into Australian poker.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority commenced civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against a handful of well-known local poker identities, who had allegedly been running illegal poker services in contravention of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001.
Australia hasn’t been the only region to bring the poker vertical into disrepute lately, with Los Angeles taking some of the heat in September when professional poker players Robbi Jade Lew and Garrett Adelstein were embroiled in a cheating scandal during a high-stakes game at the Hustler Casino. And one of the biggest issues was undoubtedly the £672,829 ($742,000) fine handed to GGPoker by the Gambling Commission for social responsibility and anti-money laundering failures, proving all doesn’t move swimmingly in the glamorous world of poker.
An October inquiry led by the New South Wales Crime Commission found that pubs and clubs were being used to launder billions of dollars through poker machines
Looking back to look forward
To see what lies in store for poker in 2023, it makes sense to once again venture into 2022, with various companies and individuals perhaps providing a glimpse of what is to come. The glitz and glam looks set to continue in the next 12 months, following on from the likes of award-winning DJ Steve Aoki and actor and comedian Vince Vaughn featuring in poker-related roles in 2022. Athletes also played their part and will no doubt continue to do so, with poker very much having its own rules when it comes to endorsements from sports people.
For example, football superstar Neymar Jr. was sighted at the 53rd edition of the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) last summer, and boxer Chris Eubank Jr joined 888poker as its Cultural Ambassador. Thanks to the likes of PokerStars and Ape In Poker, the hot topics of virtual reality, cryptocurrency and Web3 technology may just be the major talking points of poker’s near future, while WSOP has ensured that the sensational world of influencers will continue to spread its wings. Celebrities aside, will poker see a continuance of industry leaders heading into the vertical? August saw Heath Cram leave gaming giant Flutter Entertainment for a COO role at start-up 4Poker, with others potentially following in his footsteps in 2023. So how will the year ahead look for poker once all the cards are dealt?