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Let’s get real, United States online poker players. The current situation is just not working. Black Friday absolutely demolished a once-thriving market, and rebuilding it has been a long, frustrating, and mostly fruitless journey.

There is Nevada, a small online poker market that never even reveals its results because it doesn’t warrant the time it would take to publish the numbers. There is Delaware, of which poker is only a small portion of its online gambling market. And there is New Jersey, which is widely considered a success but mostly due to the online casino side of the coin, as poker is a small part and one that looks to be shrinking even further.

Online poker players have held out hope for years that other states would join those three in legalizing online poker, and the states would then band together with liquidity agreements to share player pools and create a new and bustling market. While New York and Pennsylvania are poised to embrace the games this year, it will still be a slog toward site launches. And it seems that any truly beneficial shared liquidity is years in the future.

Not to come across as Debbie Downer, but it’s time we face the facts. Online poker is not a career for those living in the United States anymore, with the exception of a handful of pros living in New Jersey. It’s time to settle into live poker for the long haul or give up the dream.

New Jersey a Success but a Shrinking One

It is true that New Jersey has shown that online gaming is a positive and revenue-generating industry, one that pairs well with land-based casinos and has the potential to add bonus revenue to a state’s coffers. In 2016 alone, New Jersey online gaming delivered nearly $197 million in revenue to the state, which was an increase of more than 32% from the previous year.

The downside of that is the online poker contribution. Of the $476.8 million that the online gaming industry has collected since its launch in 2013, only $82.6 million has come from online poker, meaning the bread and butter of the business is in the online casino games.

The first big PokerStars live poker festival in New Jersey last year was supposed to broaden the market and show poker’s popularity, but it was largely unsuccessful in doing so. A trusted source tells Poker Update that 888poker is downsizing its staff and putting less effort into the New Jersey market going forward until something significantly changes the US market as a whole. And a new study projects the state’s online poker market will decline next year.

A Projection by Industry Experts

Eilers and Krejcik Gaming recently published its US iGaming Industry Update via Online Poker Report, and the overall projection is positive. The New Jersey online gambling market will grow by 17% in 2017 with more than $33 million in additional revenue added to its numbers. The trend of market growth in the past few years supports that estimate.

However, online poker will trend in the other direction. All of the projected growth will come from online casino games, with online poker expected to bring in $1.5 million less in 2017. With recent cash game traffic declines and the initial excitement of PokerStars’ entry to the market gone, the anticipated decline is not surprising to those who follow the industry closely.

Of course, the same study predicts that at least one more state will legalize and regulate online poker in 2017, with up to three states lingering as possibilities. Even so, there will be many months of establishing regulations and setting up the new framework, completing the licensing process, and beginning game testing. No new online poker will likely be available until 2018.

Live Poker or Bust!

The fact remains that the US online poker market is a dud and will continue to be for quite a few more years. Those waiting for it have likely moved on to other things since Black Friday but maintain hope that the industry will see a resurgence.

It’s time to give up the goat, throw in the towel, and muck your virtual cards. Either take to the live poker circuit, where tournament series are thriving in many parts of the US, or move to a city that offers a booming live cash game scene. There are still many lucrative games at casinos from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Atlantic City to a variety of cities in Florida. Get in there and make your money, or put poker in your back pocket as a hobby.

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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.