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At the beginning of May 2017, CardRunners announced the end of its paid video content and all new premium material. Subscriptions were cancelled and refunds were in process. The message had a depressing feel, as one of its authors, Taylor Caby, was the company’s founder in 2005.

“Starting June 1st,” the blog post on the CardRunners website read, “CardRunners will stop the production of paid video content and move a portion of our library to YouTube. The website in its current form will remain online for at least a few months. Over the coming months, we will periodically release new training content on our YouTube channel…We would like to thank all of those who have been a part of the CardRunners community over the years.” It was signed by Caby, Andrew Wiggins, and Alex Huang.

The shutdown of CardRunners is indicative of the state of the online poker industry. Numerous online poker training sites emerged during and after the poker boom, and customers were everywhere to consume the content and become better players. Internet poker was everywhere, poker television shows aired on various channels every day, and there was money to be made. Most have since closed their virtual doors, however, as the online poker industry has fallen victim to a form of nationalization that consumed the online gambling world in the past few years. Considering that CardRunners was one of the premier training sites in the business for many years, its closure is a telltale sign that the industry is in desperate need of another boom.

All Good Things Come to an End

The poker boom was not going to last forever, but many people hoped it wouldn’t end like it did. When Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event after winning his $10K entry on PokerStars, a once-niche game grew into a massive industry. Online poker sites, media outlets, training sites, blogs, and poker merchandise were everywhere. But when Black Friday happened on April 15, 2011, and the largest online poker sites in the world were seized by the United States government, everything stopped.

The ride was over, and the following weeks and months led to much uncertainty. Some businesses were immediate victims of Black Friday, while others hung on to see what would become of the industry. It eventually became apparent that online poker wouldn’t be returning to the US anytime soon, and other countries were taking the same road, as nations like France and Spain were regulating the industry within their own borders.

All of that led to the death of many online poker training sites. With most American players off the market and some European players unable to access the dot-com tables, the number of people willing to spend money to improve their online poker skills diminished quickly. Some like Leggo Poker and DeepStacks University didn’t last long, but others took more time to close their online doors, like Deuces Cracked.

CardRunners was wildly successful in poker’s heyday, with tens of thousands of subscribers and millions in revenue in peak years like 2007 and 2008. Several members of the original CardRunners team even had sponsorship deals with Full Tilt Poker at one time. It was the preeminent training site of its time.

The end of CardRunners signifies the end of a poker era.

A Different Market Emerges

While massive sites like CardRunners are no longer viable, there are options for new training sites. Doug Polk and Ryan Fee launched Upswing Poker, which is a combination of training and social content. Drag the Bar does offer coaching but has branched out to offer backgammon strategy as well as insight into the mental game of poker.

The state of online poker today requires entrepreneurs to think outside of the box and create training sites with more diversity and appeal to a wider audience. Whether they can sustain their current business models or be forced to change to survive remains to be seen. But in order for the online poker training and coaching business to thrive again, poker is going to need another boom – the good kind.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.