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Online Rooms Kept the Poker World Running

As the pandemic started, in the early months of 2020, when cities went under lockdowns and people had to comply with social distancing restrictions, many industries took a significant financial hit. But the online poker industry was able to thrive during this period, attracting interest from both lapsed and new players.

With many people spending more time at home, and the lack of entertainment alternatives, online poker rooms were under the spotlight again, as many companies recorded a surge in new accounts and an increase in deposits made to previously inactive accounts.

According to a report by PI Datametrics, the volume of Google searches for online poker in the United Kingdom increased by more than 3,000% in 2020.

But apart from being a refuge for people seeking distraction from the world news, online rooms hosted a number of circuit tournaments and kept the professional poker world running. As a result of most brick-and-mortar poker rooms being closed due to lockdowns, and many tournaments being cancelled, GGPoker held multiple World Series of Poker events and qualifiers, including bracelets and ring events.

With a lot of inexperienced players joining online rooms, and pots increasing exponentially, veteran players were able to make more money than before the pandemic.

A new poker boom

Since the early stages of pandemic lockdowns, poker websites experienced a surge in new accounts and deposits made, and as stated by Paysafe, an online payments company, the average of consumers making deposits with online poker operators rose by 50% between March and April 2020.

In the US states of New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Pennsylvania, where online poker sites are legalized, record revenues were reported in the same period.

Operators in New Jersey, for example, netted almost US$4 million in March, which represented a 90.0% increase in comparison with 2019, according to a report by New Jersey division of gaming enforcement.

Even though online poker is not yet legal in the whole country, these US friendly poker sites are currently available for players in different states, and some other states recently passed new legislation that regulated online rooms, therefore are also expected to also make a profit in 2021.

Veteran players are also profiting from this rise in online poker gaming. As the number of players increases, so do pots. In May 2020, GGPoker beat its US$500,000 guarantee pot for the first time, after 3,662 players joined an online tournament.

Earlier in the year, WSOP.com launched the Super Circuit Series, an online event to replace a live tournament that was due to happen in Las Vegas. The prize money rose from US$1.24 million to US$4 million following an unexpected increase in the number of entries.

But bigger pots weren’t the only reason veteran players were benefited by this new boom. Most of these new entries came from inexperienced players or newcomers to online poker, leading to a large aggregation of weaker competition. Therefore, professionals were able to win more money, more often.

Official tournaments

In 2020, major live poker tournaments were mostly cancelled or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from an event in Sochi with fewer entries than expected, the European Poker Tour cancelled all of their live tournaments. The World Poker Tour, which was recently acquired by Element Partners in a deal worth almost US$80 million, held only five tournaments in the early months of the year before shutting down live operations in March.

Three of its tournaments, which began in last year’s first quarter, had their final tables scheduled to be played in April 2020, but were postponed, and to this date haven’t been played.

Finally, the World Series of Poker, the largest live poker series, shifted their schedule online, with GGPoker hosting most of these tournaments.

The WSOP splitted the start of its main event into two online tournaments held by GGPoker, one in the US and one in Europe. Each competition’s final nine players gathered in person for the final tables.

The European final table was held at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, finishing with Argentinean Damian Salas as the winner. The US final table was played at the Rio Casino, in Las Vegas, and was won by Joseph Herbert.

The two winners met in Vegas on January 3, when Damian Salas was crowned the 2020 champion.

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