To give you an idea of how many people are now playing with real-money online, have a look at PokerPulse.com. PokerPulse keeps tabs on the top online poker rooms and tracks how many real-money poker games are running at any point in time. Some estimates based upon these statistics suggest that online poker room companies are turning over in excess of $110 million U.S. every 24 hours, with hundreds of thousands of online players active any given evening.
So, with the worldwide inertia that poker has today, how far can it go? Will it be like the CB Radio – a brief flash in the pan and then suddenly – poof! Will it be just another fad and memory, with occasional reminders like Smokey and the Bandit? Hard to say for sure, but with the momentum, advertising and so many young people, including many teenagers and children playing across the Internet, it could be that the poker big bang has occurred and its expansion has only really begun…
As with many new, controversial phenomenon such as poker, there’s the social morality aspect and question: Is playing poker gambling? Is it really just a game of skill? The question of whether online poker rooms are just as much about gambling as traditional casino games and online bookie operations is certainly one that is shaping some industries, and creating some others. Before we look for the answers to those questions, let’s explore what the actions of certain parties might lead us to believe.
For example, the traditional credit card processors (MC, VISA, AMEX, PayPal, and others) decided to discontinue IDN Poker of their credit card services to fund player’s online poker accounts. Today, there’s a whole cottage industry that has sprung up to fill the enormous demand for transferring funds between bank accounts and online poker room accounts, processing untold millions of dollars each day.
Try advertising a poker-related item through Google’s AdWords or the Yahoo/MSN equivalent (Overture) and you’ll quickly find they have a category known as “Gambling URL” that’ll come into play. Any website that could be related to online poker rooms is considered a “gambling” site and advertising services are thereby refused. So, what happened as a result? Well, aside from these companies losing advertising revenues, it’s forced the poker industry into fierce competition for the poker-related search “namespaces”. Try searching for something using keywords like “Texas Holdem poker” and see what you find.