Online Poker is a skill-based game that is played over the Internet. Players compete with players around the world to win prizes and cash. There are many different ways to play online poker, including tournaments, ring games and cash games. Players can also use software programs to help improve their game. These include programs that save, sort and recall hand histories; scan active tables for known players and display previous statistics from hands with those players next to their names (known as a heads-up display or HUD); and calculate odds, equity and variance.
While the regulated online poker market in the United States is relatively new, it has seen significant growth over the past few years. This has been due to the emergence of multi-state poker compacts, as well as the increasing acceptance of the game and marketing initiatives by regulated operators. However, the future of regulated poker is uncertain, as several factors could affect its potential for growth.
As with other forms of online gambling, a key issue is the prevalence of problematic play, which can be exacerbated by the fast-paced nature of the game. However, it is important to note that this study did not include a screening tool or proxy for problem gambling and, therefore, the data reported here does not necessarily reflect the true prevalence of problematic poker play in the broader population.
This study used observed behavior from the leading regulated online poker operator in the United States, Entainment Online. The data were collected for a longitudinal period of one year. The sample consisted of players who were active on the site during the study period and had an account with the poker room at least once in the past month.
The results showed that the overall poker playing behavior of this sample was similar to that reported in LaPlante et al. (2009), with most participants playing in moderation and spending less than a session of poker per day. However, the distribution of poker players by country was more concentrated in a smaller number of countries in this study than that of LaPlante et al., and the average spend per session was an order of magnitude higher for the most involved 1% of players in this study than for the 99%.
The emergence of multi-state poker compacts and the availability of a larger player pool are key issues for the future of regulated poker. However, these developments will likely take time to be realized. For example, it took almost three years for a fourth state to join the regulated online poker market when Pennsylvania passed legislation authorizing the game in 2017, and it has been another year and a half since virtual hands were first dealt there. The upcoming launch of West Virginia’s regulated online poker may be even slower, as the state passed legislation in 2021 but has yet to implement its regulated version of the game.