I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there will not be a second poker boom.
Don’t get me wrong. I feel like there can be a resurgence in poker (live and online) if more U.S. states and markets around the globe legalize online poker, but the idea that poker will recapture the public imagination like it did in late 2003 is wishful thinking.
Here are ten reasons there will not be a second poker boom.
Reason #1: There are other opportunities for would-be poker pros
In 2015, the young men and women who would have been attracted to online poker during the poker boom can now choose from any number of competitive and potentially lucrative gaming options.
In 2004, online poker was far and away the best choice, money-wise for people with a specific skill set, which is why competitive video gamers made the move from StarCraft to the more lucrative pursuit of online poker. But in 2015 it’s much harder to make a living playing online poker, and at the same time, other lucrative ventures in similar but not identical fields have presented themselves.
Reason #2: Casual players have more online entertainment options
Aspiring professional poker players aren’t the only people who have more options to choose from; so too does the casual poker player.
When you went online in 2004 there were several time sinks available. You could (slowly) surf the Internet, download pirated music and hope you didn’t get a virus, or play online poker.
In 2015, you have millions of apps to choose from, streaming video and television (that doesn’t buffer for 30 minutes), customizable music channels, social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), podcast, vlogs, Twitch, you name it.
The point is, in 2015 I don’t need online poker to be my online time sink.
Reason #3: Poker pros are more skilled
Speaking of the casual player versus pro player dynamic, in 2015 pro players are far more skilled, while new players come to the tables armed with roughly the same knowledge – maybe slightly more thanks to poker’s exposure – as they had in 2004, which is also known as next to none.
A completely clueless player was sure to lose in 2004, but over the years these players have started losing faster and faster as the pros have gotten better and better.
How good are the professional players in 2015? Just consider for a moment that anyone using the strategies employed by pro players in 2003 would be a loser in today’s game.
Reason #4: And more apathetic
In addition to being better players, today’s poker pros are less interested in keeping a game going (a necessary talent before the poker boom) and are far more willing to break Amarillo Slim’s axiom that you can shear a sheep many times, but skin him only once.
This open disdain for lesser players and desire to not just take their money but to utterly destroy them in the process isn’t universal, but it’s far more pervasive in the modern poker world, and makes poker far less fun for casual players.
Reason #5: Most of the untapped markets have been tapped
Back in 2003, the chances of stumbling upon an above the board poker game outside of the U.S. or in certain pockets of Europe was close to zero.
Nobody was playing poker in Russia, or in Brazil, or in India.
But in 2015, most of these markets have been opened up, including South America, Asia, and Africa. These markets haven’t been penetrated 100 percent, but in 2003 virtually every market was virgin territory, and this is no longer the case.
Despite globalization, there is simply less room for growth in 2015.
Reason #6: Online poker benefited from a lack of regulation
Online poker sites were making money hand over fist during the poker boom. A big reason for this was the lack of regulation, at least a lack of regulation with any teeth.
With tiny tax burdens and licensing fees, online poker operators had minimal operating costs and were able to offer some enticing promotions and spend heavily on their marketing campaigns. In 2015, sites are forced to offset the rising cost of doing business by increasing rake and cutting back on promotions and marketing.
Because of this, modern online poker is less player-friendly.
A second benefit from the lack of regulation was the creation of a global player pool. Now that countries and states are legalizing online poker and ring-fencing their markets, these markets have been splintered which makes them less appealing to potential players.
Reason #7: There are a lot of victims in online poker’s wake
Lock Poker. Ultimate Bet. Absolute Poker. Full Tilt Poker. Forum scammers. Degen players who owe everyone and anyone money.
Point is, a lot of online poker players were screwed over by online poker sites and their fellow players and this has left a bad taste in their collective mouths.
Reason #8: More land-based options
Online poker isn’t that old of an industry, but believe it or not, the industry is approaching its eighteenth birthday. And since online poker came on the scene, there has been a massive expansion of land-based gambling in the United States.
In 2004, at the dawn of the poker boom, you could basically play legal poker in a couple of remote pockets of Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and Las Vegas. There were other areas with legal poker rooms (Casino Arizona for instance) but for the most part poker players were concentrated in the four aforementioned locales.
In 2015 there are thriving gaming and poker economies in Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and states like Massachusetts and New York are well on their way to having booming poker rooms as well.
This expansion undercuts one of the prime benefits of online poker, the convenience of not having to drive or fly hours to play poker in a casino. If live poker is available right around the proverbial corner, it lessens the need for playing online.
Reason #9: The perfect storm of 2003 cannot be recreated
Contrary to popular belief, when poker exploded it wasn’t just Chris Moneymaker’s doing.
There was the advent of the hole card camera – a complete game changer for televised poker.
There was the recently released best-seller Positively Fifth Street chronicling writer James McManus’s fifth place finish in the 2000 WSOP Main Event.
There was the ascendancy of Rounders to cult status when it was released on DVD and watched by every college-aged male in the country.
There was the rise of the Internet and websites and forums where poker enthusiasts could get together and talk shop, and poker noobies could accidentally happen upon.
There was the creation and rise of online poker.
And yes, there was ESPN’s decision to broadcast the 2003 WSOP Main Event and the improbably named winner who captured the hearts and minds of viewers.
This perfect storm is simply not going to be recreated.
Reason #10: The novelty is gone
Most importantly, poker was pretty much unknown in 2003.
The average person had certainly played poker, but the chances they had played no limit Texas Holdem was next to nil, as was the understanding of how professional poker worked.
Furthermore, if you wanted to find strategies about poker online, you’d come across the same ten or fifteen “tips” at every site.
When the fuse for the poker boom was lit, the few longtime poker players spent a lot of their time painstakingly explaining the most mundane aspects of the game to their friends and family members who were suddenly smitten with the game.
But now, pretty much everyone knows a thing or two about poker.