Casinos have spent millions on poker rooms in the last 5-8 years because of the demand to stay competitive. Everyone else was, so we need to as well to attract people for what they want to play. Obviously poker does not make a ton of money compared to other casino games. But its what the players wanted, and those players brought friends and family. This past December was the first month in 5 years where the industry actually saw not only a slow down in growth, but an actual decline in growth. Worse than the previous month. It has slowed.
So what do they do now? The fields in tournament poker have dwindled over the last year. 10k events are gertting smaller and smaller , and I spoke to several pro players who gave me some insight on what they think. For one, they feel that people are just going broke. They can't recoup the money they spent for travel, expense, and buy-in fees without at least a win AND a few cashes somewhere along the tourney schedule. Payout structure in those 10K events tend to pay less than you're buy-in in the first stages of cashes, and midway through you'll be lucky to break even after your expenses are paid to even get there.
The brains in the industry tend to think that the smaller buy-ins, like the $2000 and $2,500 buy-ins will be the wave of the future. A little less easier on the wallet, and almost as much value. The Borgata showed that when they had their recent 500k guarantee and had to turn people away. Over 1,000 wanted to play, and they handled 775. That turned into a 1.6mm prize pool. Not bad for three days work if you can avoid running KK into Aces, and catch your 14 out draw when you bluff into a set.
These lower buy-ins with huge prize pools will also attract those who play recreationally and those who play more seriously, but not seriously enough to want to plop down 10k to show that they can do well.
Internet quals have also subsided a little. Two years ago, the WSOP ME had 8500 players. 65% of those players qualified online. I expect some qualified for as little as $10, but the issue at hand here is the drop off they had last year. Now I don't know for sure how many actually qualified via online sites, but I do know that when they did qualify, they had cash, instead of a voucher deposited into their account. And obviously more decided to keep the money then dust off in the WSOP. For some, doing so would just be irresponsible. Pretty wide assumption there, but you have to agree that for most, winning 10k should be put towards household expenses and not a 1 in 6000 chance of winning huge money, especially if you play recreationally. The bottom line here is if you usually play $10-$24 tournies, you don't have the bankroll for playing a huge event. Furthermore you would be going for the experience, and maybe get lucky enough to cash. Lets not be dillusional here. Lucko played, and ran KK into top pair and the noob caught trips after the money was in. It happens. But guys like him, who are financially responsible, and win consistently online, aren't who we are talking about.
We are talking about the Snaksters of the world, the Skidoos of the world*, who have families, or are just starting out. I think 3-4 years ago there would be some justification. The poker world was just really coming into its (dare I say?) prime with the unknown of pros positioning for big scores in mainstream ad money and sponsorship. Something that hasn't come about at all. Back then when it was assumed that stuff like that would pop, maybe the lure of hitting some other jackpot from playing in the WSOP with all the media coverage would make it worth it. Plus, you didn't have the option to cash out either. The sat was the sat, and you had to take the seat. Which was known going in beforehand so who cared. You wanted the seat. You wanted to take your shot.
The question now becomes, how does the revision of the UIGEA, if it does become legal, effect the popularity of poker? Does it BOOOOOM again? Does it matter if the law changes or not? Will it happen anyway? When that law went into effect, 80% of the online market came from the US. Yet it lost only 15% of the market after the law took effect in the first year. Obv, Americans are still playing, but did the international community pick up that much slack? Or did US players just not go away like expected. Does the US gov see this and use it to push the revision through, or are we just to retarded as a country to ignore the potential tax revenue over morality? (like that has anything to do with it)
In 2006, "poker" was a top 5 search word. (I think it may have been the #1, just dont feel like fact finding), and in 2007 it fell below the top 10. Kids are playing more and more poker these days, but does it, and will it burn them out? How many will continue on to play almost full time when they finally figure out what they want to do with their lives? I know guys who played almost every single day, as you all do, who now hardly play once a month, if that, because of puchback from wives, families, and work or other obligations.
The point is, was this huge proliferation of poker over the last 4 or 5 years fabricated by the hype? Is it like any other hobby? When "A river runs through it" came out, it seemed everyone and their brother went out and purchased $3k worth of fly fishing equipment and took trips to all the major locales for the best the country had to offer. Now I'm lucky to see 5 guys on my local rivers with a flyrod in their hands.
Time will tell I guess, but I fathom that the overturning of the UIGEA will have a huge impact. Or in the very least, give us some sort of indication of what that impact will be.
*obviously I'm not advocating anyone NOT playing in the WSOP if they feel they want to. And I truly hope whoever wins the TOC does play. I think in this instance this is found money provided to us by Full Tilt because we show our loyalty, and I think there may be some sort of obligation to the comunnity to play (my opinion only). I only use Snakster and Skidoos names because I know both of them have families, (and I felt like pimping them). Both may have gazillions of dollars and choose to play. I hope you get my point.