Many have speculated over whether the poker boom in the early to mid-2000s can ever be duplicated.
The stars aligned perfectly back in 2003 and the cards fell into place when an accountant from Tennessee captured the WSOP Main Event and $2.5 million thanks to winning an online poker satellite at PokerStars. Chris Moneymaker prompted tons of wannabe poker stars to reckon that if an amateur can do the improbable, why couldn’t they too find fame and fortune at the poker tables.
Fast forward thirteen years and the online poker landscape is entirely different. The UIGEA (2006) and Black Friday (2011) knocked thousands of U.S. players out of action. And players who remain at the tables have gotten so much more skilled at poker that your average schmuck with a bit of poker knowledge who was crushing the action in 2004 and 2005 but doesn’t take the time to work on his (or her) game and get better in 2016 may soon become what the industry likes to call a “net-depositor.”
Those net-depositors, a/k/a losing players, tend to get discouraged and stop depositing. That leads to empty seats at the poker tables, vacancies that need to be filled by new players in order for the game to prosper and grow.
So where will new players come from to fill those seats and inject some life into the game that you and I love? Several signs are pointing toward mainland China.
Beijing Millions and Match Poker
The possibilities of a poker boom emanating from China began to come into focus in 2014 when the Asia Pacific Poker Tour and PokerStars sponsored the Beijing Millions and set a record for hosting the largest tournament outside of the U.S. It was mainland China’s first major poker tournament series.
That focus became clearer last month when China-based Oceans Sports and Entertainment entered into a partnership with Alibaba Sports in hopes of promoting Match Poker to the 1.3 billion people residing in China. Match Poker is the brainchild of the International Federation of Poker and relies on team competition for points instead of money.
A goal of two million Chinese Match Poker players in five years is the target, with international teams and leagues part of the strategy. Match Poker is a non-gambling poker model with revenue to come from pay-per-play and subscriptions.
GPL and Martin Jacobson
Speaking of non-gambling poker that centers around league competition, the Global Poker League teamed up with China-based Sina Sports earlier this month in a deal that will provide hundreds of hours of GPL action to the masses in China. A new GPL team representing mainland China will enter the league in 2017.
Also this month, 2014 WSOP Main Event champ Martin Jacobson visited China to appear on a poker show and reported that he was treated somewhat like a rock star. Girls may not have been swooning, but poker fans apparently were, requesting autographs and selfies by the dozens.
All that’s needed now to create the next poker boom is a player from mainland China to win a major title such as a WSOP, EPT, or WPT event. All the more better if his (or her) name is something like Yuanmaker.