Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Could the COVID-19 Virus Be the Springboard for a Renaissance of Online Poker in the US?

Blog hero playing in a 2009 WSOP event

Oh, so many years ago, online poker life was sweet. I had over 30 poker room icons on my computer screen, I was part of several online poker groups (, the Shark Poker Tour, the K-9 Poker Tour, the Online Poker Tour, and the WPBT - World Poker Bloggers Tour), had tons of great online poker buddies, played waaay too much online poker, and basically had a blast. As I look back, I can't believe that my wife didn't divorce me, throw me out on the street, or send me to live in a distant area of the house. My kids would routinely hear me scream as I took a bad beat late in a tournament. Yes, those were some glorious years!

I loved online poker, likely because I had always been a sports junkie and competition junkie and, let's face it, life, stress, age, responsibilities and injuries take their toll on the body and mind. Online poker was my outlet, my security, my refuge. I was relatively new to the game, having fooled around some in my younger years, but having no real concept of what poker was really about. I clearly identify myself as a member of the Moneymaker Generation, having really become enamored of poker beginning with those marvelous ESPN WSOP broadcasts.

Everything seemed to be moving swimmingly along when that terrible day hit: April 15, 2011. We know it more commonly as Black Friday. I remember (the details may be off here) that I had had this great month right before Black Friday, cashing out something like $5,000 from several sites, but mostly from my favorite,, via $1/2 NL and other cash games. I had an $1,800 withdrawal that got caught right when Netteller payments stopped. Suddenly, the fun I had been having for many years just stopped.

With few outlets for online poker (watching sites suddenly disappear), I shifted my play to brick and mortar poker rooms. I must say, I love playing live and next to people just as much, if not more, than I loved playing online.

In the years since Black Friday, I occasionally played in some play money games and, via, played some freerolls just on a whim. I used to be one of the "loyalers" on Cardschat, but I had that taken away since I didn't participate much in its forums or accounts. I played some on ACR and Bovada, but I never really felt the same way about online poker that I did before Black Friday. Which brings us to 2020 ...

I am amazed at how COVID-19 kicked major ass around the world and then finally, in the United States. Who could have ever believed that our society would be shut down so much? As for Las Vegas and other gambling destinations, could we ever have believed that casinos everywhere would be shut down? I remember being on The Strip one year when a torrential downpour suddenly came. Water was up to the seats of the bus stop shelters. I waded my way from the New Frontier back to Harrah's. When I got into Harrah's Casino, there was some water near the entrances, but otherwise gambling was going on like nothing happened. Ha - nothing could ever shut ALL those places down!

As many of us poker players began to jones with poker rooms shutting down and shelter in place and similar situations happening across the US, suddenly something began to look appealing: online poker! The fortunate residents of Nevada and a few other states might sometimes be critical of, but hey -- it's in this country and is LEGAL there. I became envious of my Las Vegas friends who could still play on a totally legit platform online. But ... the lure of poker began to suddenly make places like Bovada and ACR look more attractive, and even play money games (sometimes with private deals among players) are starting to become popular. Friends who play at different online poker sites started reporting that regular tournaments were suddenly having bloated fields. COVID-19 had become the impetus for increased traffic at online poker sites. Bazinga!

As we (US residents) collectively make our way through our struggles the next several months, it will be interesting to see what happens to online poker. My prediction is that the number of players will increase and continue to do so in the short run. It is hard to imagine what the US will be like once we largely move beyond COVID-19, but at that point, when casinos and poker rooms reopen, is when the rubber will hit the road. Will there indeed be an online renaissance in online poker, or will old habits return once our in-person options reopen? Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous Flynn said...

The F&O Chronicle would like to remind you that we have renamed on-line poker to "Cozen" to avoid confusion with real poker. That being said, someone please please let PokerStars run in WA for play money. Flynn is bored.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Thanks for this thought provoking piece. You reminded me how much fun it was back in the online/blogger heyday.

12:03 PM  
Blogger AyeCarambaPoker said...

I’m quite ambivalent about online poker - I rarely play online as it bores me to tears being glued to a computer screen considering most of my job entails that as well. To me poker is as much about the experience (read beer and enjoying myself) as opposed to just playing the game against a faceless opponent. But live poker is ultimately going to be driven by the number of online players so if players walk away from the game, never to return, because they aren’t able to play online then the live game will suffer.

But I can’t see widespread legalisation happening any time soon - there are so many vested interests on the negative side plus add in the multiple jurisdictional issues and it’s pretty difficult to push even popular issues through quickly. Land of the free my aargh I’ve run out of space!

2:29 AM  

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