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It’s the question every grinder has been asking:

I know I can play online poker pretty much 24/7, but when my girl/boyfriend is getting ready to go out for a movie together, and I’ve got 25 minutes to sneak in a couple of hands, how can I do it without having to wait for my computer to load?”

Well, my fellow degenerates, good news. A number of poker sites have listened and have produced their software specifically for the use of Smartphones (primarily Android and iOS, including the iPad.)

Mobile poker, was an inevitable step, gaming and portability had already proven to be a major hit with the general public, the Game Boy is the third-largest selling console in history, even above the PS3 and Xbox 360, with over 118 million units sold, showing the interest for gaming entertainment to be able to be taken on the public’s travels. More recently, the use of smartphones and online gambling has been becoming engrained within the gambling community. Back in 2005, it was believed gambling on mobiles would reach more than $19.3bn, now, it’s believed this could rise to $48bn by 2015.

An attempt at mobile poker had begun much sooner than online players would expect, however. 2005 was also the year that PokerRoom, a site from the Ongame network before the site was bought by Bwin Party Digital Entertainment, was known for it’s innovative ideas, including the first mobile poker room. However, it never took off, and Pokerroom was shut down in 2009 by Bwin, due to increased competition. There were some setbacks to mobile poker at that time, mobile phones at that point were awkward to use for poker play, with the keypad controls so fiddly, it would cause players to make mistakes with their betting actions, costing them money. Phone screens were too small and too low a resolution and pixel count to produce a visually appealing interface, most mobiles were still using WAP technology to access the Internet, which was too slow and unreliable for a fast flowing poker game, and mobiles at the time had different operating systems, depending on the manufacturer that produced it. A separate program had to be created for a Nokia phone, then for a Samsung phone, and so on.

More recently however, phones have advanced in technology, with dual-core processors for more power, high-quality displays with touch-screens, allowing for a better interface and a method to play poker in a similar fashion to what you would on a computer, two more-or-less standardised format of operating systems for smartphones, and two new connections to the internet with 3G, which could come with unlimited subscriptions on mobile price plans, or the ability to connect to a Wifi network for even faster bandwidth, allowing for mobile poker to be re-born.

PokerStars recently launched it’s first mobile client in the Italian market. A sign of things to come?

In 2010, while Full Tilt Poker was once again not the first poker site to come onto the scene, it did manage to become the best, with a mobile poker room designed for their new poker game “Rush Poker”, called “Rush Poker Mobile  ”. It was a format that seemed to be made for mobile poker, allowing the player pool to instantly play another hand the moment you folded the previous one, maximising the number of hands you could play in any time period. Despite this success, Full Tilt is currently in hiatus after seizure by the DOJ and that’s left mobile poker market back up for grabs. Numerous poker sites such as RedKings, Switch Poker, Unibet, Speed Poker, and mFortune have already produced mobile-poker sites to establish themselves further in a now untapped market. Pokerstars have produced a mobile-poker platform for their domain, as a means of testing the platform out, and even Bwin have returned to take another stab at it.

So what does this mean for online poker? How will this be an influence to an already quite saturated market and benefit all those in it? The obvious benefit will be that you can play 24/7, anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection to your smartphone or iPad. This could potentially mean a higher average player count throughout the day, a benefit for the poker sites with a higher revenue in rake. This should be seen by the poker players at that site through better promotions, bonuses, point rewards etc from the site. For the more serious player, this could mean better, softer games available for longer, as those who like to play one table at a time (i.e. the fish) can play whenever they want.

Will this mean we’ll see an influx of new players? There are considerations as to why this could happen. With smartphone users coming closer to 50% in the UK, and with most smartphones on contracts with free internet bandwidth, the cost of playing poker online is going to crash down for many who find computers and broadband too expensive. It also becomes a useful application for those who travel regularly around the UK, to have a machine that can link to poker on them at all times. The easier method of just downloading an app onto their smartphone could bring back those who once played but now have dormant accounts. This doesn’t take into account that poker is still a niche market and there are still a large audience that can be tempted into giving it a go with the right advertising and by having the more recognisable players on T.V promoting the sites.

If the fact that software developers have already produced poker-tracking software similar to Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager for mobiles is anything to go by, mobile poker is beginning to boom, and for good reason. Mobile poker is fast becoming big business in the UK and Europe, add to that the USA currently out of the online poker scene, and with Asia still up for grabs to poker sites in the future, mobile poker exploding in later years, seems inevitable.

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Perry Garland