Online Poker: Can It Survive in the United States?

December 26th, 2014 | by Brian Corlisse
Poker tracker

Poker Tracker software is vital for a professional online player, but offering more anonymous tables is key to attracting less experienced users. (Image: pokertracker.com)

Since online poker dealt its first hand in the United States on New Year’s Day back in 1998, the game’s journey has been as unpredictable as the flop.

From legality challenges and political hurdles, to dwindling player pools and declining revenues, 2015 will be a crucial year in determining whether the Internet card game ultimately finds success or failure.

While many factors will dictate the outcome, the following approach would greatly increase its chances of triumph.

Disable Tracking

For those players trying to make a career out of playing online poker, employing tracking and analysis software is a must-have component. While these programs allow users to examine their historical performance, it also provides them with the ability to study their opponents’ tendencies, prey on inexperienced players, and find tables that favor their individual skills.

Those who don’t purchase tracking systems sit down at the table with a distinct disadvantage. In Nevada, tracking is prohibited at all regulated sites, however, you can see screen names as compared to complete anonymity. In New Jersey and Delaware, the other two states with legalized online poker, tracking is completely legal.

The notion of 100% anonymous poker is one way the game could attract new participants. Beginning with a clean slate every time you sit down gives the same experience as entering a land-based casino and finding a random table and opponents. An equal playing field is the fairest way for online poker to operate.

Embrace Lottery Sit & Gos

Whether you think it’s good or bad for the game, there’s no denying the surging trend of popularity the sit-and-go format has experienced since its introduction in August of 2013. These fast-paced three-player tournaments reward skill with an element of luck, as the prize pool isn’t revealed until the game begins.

Although experienced poker competitors often shun the lottery SNG due to its random prize pool and often smaller payouts than traditional games, these hyper turbo tournaments provide a truly exciting experience in a short amount of time – perfect for amateur players who can’t spend hours competing in a more conventional format. Embracing the lottery SNG layout will bring more clients to the card rooms, meaning more revenue and more tables being filled.

Create State Compacts

 State compacts

The continued growth of online poker will rely heavily on interstate player compacts, such as Nevada and Delaware’s recent agreement. (Image: espn.go.com)

All three states with passed online poker legislation are currently struggling to bring in the revenue they each estimated during the approval process. This is the result of many factors, but the foremost reason is due to lack of participation.

As Ultimate Poker left both Nevada and New Jersey in 2014 and Delaware struggled to maintain even a single table, it became clear that online poker in the United States was in dire need of a change.

Governors in Nevada and Delaware, respectively Gov. Brian Sandoval and Gov. Jack Markell, announced a compact to allow players from both states to compete at the same tables. 888poker will combine its pools and share liquidity with WSOP Nevada and Treasure Island. 888 is also in the process of releasing its own branded room.

Compacts are an obvious way to have tables filled on a more consistent basis. New Jersey has refrained from entering an interstate compact, a serious error according to most experts. Nevada and Delaware both indicated during their agreement that they hope additional states join their alliance, and it’s hard to argue that action isn’t required for the continued sustainability of online poker.

End Political Games

Wouldn’t it be great if our elected political leaders worked for us, the people who voted them into office? It’s a noble sentiment, but of course it’s also one far from reality. Unfortunately, too often politicians worry far more about their career than the constituents they represent. For online poker to survive, lawmakers need to end the political games and listen to the voters.

According to a recent poll by the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, 74 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they support individual states to decide whether to allow online casino gameplay. That’s an overwhelming majority of U.S. residents who want the issue addressed, but to date only three have passed laws allowing Internet gaming.

Republicans and Democrats should be able to find common ground on this issue. It brings in new revenues to each state’s government, and provides citizens with the convenience and excitement of online poker.

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