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When someone conjures up the image of an “online poker player” in their mind, the picture that normally pops into their head is one of a young (college age) white male, sitting behind a computer, and clicking away at pot after pot for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

However, you might be surprised what the average online poker player looks like – most are well past college age, as virtually every study places the average age of online gamblers in their 40’s.

In addition to discovering that online poker players are generally middle aged, you’d probably also be surprised to find out that most online poker players play what are known as, micro-stakes games, or penny-limit games.

We know this based on the tables available at an online poker site’s lobby. The overwhelming majority of games have buy-ins under $100, with many as low as a $1-$5. These are the popular games online, not the $25/$50 No Limit games with $5,000 buy-ins that are so rare that they only run on a couple of sites.

The fact of the matter is, the typical online poker player is over 40 years old and plays for extremely small stakes.

More evidence

A poll by Commercial Intelligence (CI) found the average age of an online gambler at New Jersey’s licensed online casinos to be 46. Two separate studies verified these findings, one in Canada by AlixPartners and another in the U.S. conducted by Ipsos, and also came to some very interesting conclusions about the education and income levels of online gamblers.

The findings from the two studies were examined during a panel discussion at G2E by John Bonno, Director at AlixPartners, and Paul Lauzon, Senior Vice President of Lottery & Gaming at Ipsos Reid.

The Canadian study (conducted by Alix) found 1/2 of online gamblers to be 35-54 and 30% to be over the age of 55. The study also found that 36% of online gamblers had a degree from a University, most were employed full time, and a full 40% had a yearly income of $80,000 or more.

The U.S. study by Ipsos found the average age of an online gambler to be 41 and of a similar financial and educational background.

Hardly the basement dwelling college kid losing his tuition money opponents of online gaming like to depict.

Fun players

These are what I will refer to as “fun players.”

Fun Players are players who risk very little when they gamble online, and players whose ambition is simply to unwind by playing a little poker without all of the pomp and circumstance associated with going to a casino – not to mention the much higher budget needed to play in a land-based casino.

These are the online versions of the group of friends who congregate in a basement or around a kitchen table every couple of weeks to play a $20 game of cards. For these players, risking $20 at an online poker table is no different than playing Angry Birds, or streaming a movie on Netflix.

To a fun player spending a few hours online and firing up a handful of $5 Sit & Go poker tournaments is no different than spending $20 to go to the movies, or $40 to go bowling. Online poker is their entertainment, and people are trying to take that away from them under the guise of protecting them.

Unfortunately, opponents of online poker would have you believe these players don’t exist or are the minority. They would have you believe that online poker is a cesspool of degenerate gamblers haplessly hooked on the game and being victimized by a group of cutthroat professionals.

Fun players starting to become more vocal

Up until now, it’s been the professional poker players and the serious poker enthusiasts who have raised bloody hell about a potential online poker ban, commenting on articles and taking to social media. But the debate has garnered a lot of mainstream attention and the “Fun Players” are starting to take notice and make their voices heard.

Such as this comment made under former Denver mayor turned lobbyist Wellington Webb’s recent op-ed declaring online gambling to be the work of the devil himself:

I deposited $50 into an online poker site and started playing $1 to $3 tournaments. I enjoyed the idea of playing against other players instead of a game against the house. The card room down the road from where I live has a poker tournament on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s that has a cost of $55 and is structured nowhere near as well as what I was able to find online. I decided that online poker was the way to go for a beginner because of the inexpensive price point.”

Hardly a hardened gambler and hardly a self-serving statement by a professional poker player.

Or how about this one which explains who is hurt by an online gambling ban (hint: It’s not the problem gamblers who will gamble regardless):

You know what I miss? I miss being able to fire up my computer whenever I want to enjoying myself for an hour before work in a $5-20 one table tournament (a Sit-N-Go for Mr. Webb’s info). I also miss turning my $50 deposit into $200 and advancing in buy-ins, only to get knocked down a couple of pegs and retreat back to a “safer” level. You know, realistic and enjoyable gambling! I am the person that an Internet gambling ban hurts, not someone that is intent on wasting all of their money or life on gambling it away, which they will do with or without the Internet. I am not a chump! The chumps are those that I pass on the way to the Poker Room, those that spend their time at a losing proposition, where the “house” (such as Sheldon’s house) has an overwhelming edge over the player (e.g. slots, blackjack, craps, etc.) Those casinos don’t pay for themselves!”

Or this one, which perfectly summarizes the difference between playing in a brick & mortar poker room and an online poker room:

“If I want to play a live no limit cash game… smallest stakes is $1/$2 blinds with a buy in of $200-$300

 

“If I want to play an online cash game… they would have blinds as low as 1cent/2cent with a buy in of $1

 

“If I want to play a live tournament, with a decent structure, I will have to pay at least $200 with a rake going to the casino of $30-$50

 

“To play a decent tournament online, I can play a $5 tournament with $0.50 rake

 

“For new players, there is no intimidation, and can make mistakes, and learn the game for $50 online with the same experience that they would have to pay thousands live….

 

“This article is such a joke, and the tribune is a joke of a paper, proven by the fact that have to publish this trash”

So the next time someone tries to warn you about the devastating effects of online poker, and how these young college kids are bankrupting their future, keep some of these comments in mind, and remember that the vast majority of online gamblers are over 35, with full time jobs, and just looking to have a little fun and play what amounts to a $20 poker game in the basement of their friend’s house.

 

 

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.

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