When poker was enjoying its halcyon days during the noughties, it appeared as though this vertical would drive the burgeoning online casino sector and become a major revenue source for operators in the regulated marketplace.
Fast forward to the present day, however, and online poker appears to be little more than a niche pastime, accounting for around 5% of the gross gaming yield (GGY) in developed markets such as the UK.
Conversely, online slots have come to dominate the iGaming space and account for 70% of the total GGY, while even table games bring in more revenue than poker.
However, poker retains cult status as an immersive game of skill online, and its demise has undoubtedly been exaggerated in the media. But can it still be a profitable endeavour in 2023? Let’s get into it!
Then and Now – The Rise and Fall of Poker
The poker boom began in the early noughties and around the time of significant online gambling growth, with Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win widely televised (it was broadcast live on ESPN) and capturing a global audience of aspiring players.
Moneymaker had also won his place at the WSOP table through an online poker site, so his victory lit the blue touch paper and sent players flocking to virtual casinos throughout the world.
The level of demand and publicity surrounding online poker boomed in the subsequent years, but events conspired to ensure that this was an outlier more than a sign of things to come.
First came the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, which didn’t expressly prohibit online poker or wagering but did crack down on the authorisation of financial transactions and interstate payments. This triggered years of uncertainty as some poker sites fled the US market, while so-called “Black Friday” on April 15th, 2011, saw several remaining operators charged with violating the legislation and money laundering.
At the same time, the initial poker boom attracted a litany of bad players, who were technically classed as ‘fish’ and made it relatively easy for skilled players to win tournaments and bank solid returns.
However, the current landscape is dominated by a much smaller number of players, the majority of whom are highly skilled and increasingly experienced. This means that it’s much harder to win and generate a profit, especially when playing for increased prize funds and at much higher stakes.
So, is Poker Still Profitable?
Of course, online poker is also categorised as a game of skill, making it immediately less attractive to casual players or individuals who are new to virtual gambling.
Still, popular sites such as Jack Poker Casino continue to see relatively high levels of demand, while players who are willing to hone their craft, study their opponent’s datasets and adopt a professional approach to gameplay are still able to achieve a profit.
When playing online, it’s also possible to boost your bottom line and earning potential by comparing and identifying the best ‘rakeback’ offers. Such bonuses allow for passive earning while playing poker online, as you’ll receive a predetermine number of coins or percentage of your stake back from every bet that you make.
This effectively reduces the house edge (which is usually around 1%), while the percentage of the rakeback that you receive will depend on your stake commitment and the precise terms and conditions of the offer that you opt into.
Some operators offer particularly generous rakeback offers to new customers too, so it’s worth shopping around for the best deals before you register and start to enter competitive games or tournaments.
The Last Word
Ultimately, the online poker landscape has changed markedly since the discipline’s halcyon days of the noughties, while it’s undoubtedly harder to achieve success in this vertical as the number of bad players has dwindled in line with wider demand.However, there remain a number of active poker rooms, sites and high-volume tournaments in 2023, and it’s possible to bank a viable profit through the vertical so long as you approach your career seriously and seek out the most suitable tournaments and rakeback offers.