Since the days of the global poker boom, when online poker became immensely popular in nearly all parts of the world, gaming industry analysts have been predicting that the next surge would come from Asia. And after the US anti-online poker laws created a snowball effect that hurt the entire industry, the speculation has been constant and strong that Asia would spark poker’s resurgence.
While a number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region have been targeted by that anticipation, some of those hopes have waned in past years with a growing crackdown on internet gaming in general. Philippines lawmakers are trying to sort out what its new president will allow, China has had a love/hate relationship with gaming, and Australia is now trying to go the way of many European countries by banning online poker from offshore operators. India is slowly opening to online poker but only by way of individual regions.
However, the constant in all of the speculation through the years is China. No matter its official laws, the Chinese population is intrigued with all types of gaming, from eSports to video games and even poker. Companies like the World Poker Tour have worked for years to host tournaments there, and Alex Dreyfus recently established a Chinese version of the Global Poker League in China that seems to be immensely popular.
So how is online poker getting past the seemingly unfriendly laws of the lands?
Laws? What Laws?
For the most part, online poker operators have ignored the mostly-ambiguous laws involving internet gaming. And if players find the opportunity to compete on a website, they will take the chance. Governments around the world have never chosen to punish individual site users, so there is no danger of trouble without a warning that would come through the prosecution of an online gaming operator first.
While the major global online poker companies still offer services to most areas of the Asia-Pacific, the sites are usually in English and don’t cater to the players by way of individualized currency or language. From that, new operators took it upon themselves to provide those services. New networks like GG Network and IDN Play have entered the scene in the past year or so with a strong presence and a base in Asia. Players can identify with the sites aimed at the Asian population, and they are flocking to the hundreds of sites that have recently popped up on those networks.
Per Online Poker Report’s analysis of PokerScout data, the latest information shows that IDN Play is the second largest poker network in the entire world behind only PokerStars. The cash game traffic on its sites surpass that of operators like 888poker and PartyPoker, and that is only with the data available, as many of the sites on the new networks have yet to be located and tracked.
While sites like PokerStars have enlisted the help of country-specific Team PokerStars Pros from nations like Japan, it seems that sites on the IDN and GG networks already have the full attention of the majority of Asian players. Those sites offer the micro to small stakes that most players crave, with local currencies available for payment processing, and all information on the sites written in Asian languages. Players may feel as if they are patronizing a local operator by using those online poker options.
Asia’s Affinity for Gaming
In an overly simple generalization verging on a stereotype, many Asians work hard and play hard. They are very serious about school and work, but when they have free time, they thoroughly enjoy their pastimes. Gaming is one of them, which is why eSports was popular in countries like Korea long before it caught on in America. And people that have a penchant for games are easily lured to online poker. Look at the number of players in the broader poker world who got their gaming starts with backgammon, chess, and Magic: The Gathering. Those players seek a mental challenge wherever possible, and when they discover that online poker is a skill game, they don’t hesitate to give it a try.
Put that mindset together with a young generation of people who are constantly on their computers and mobile devices, looking for communities of people with whom to socialize (albeit virtually), with the rise of online poker options for Asian players, and that equals an unprecedented growth for the game.
And it seems that the popularity of poker in Asia is just getting started. A boom could be in progress.