Live-tourney proliferation marks three-way battle for global poker domination
The World Poker Tour made its Chinese debut this weekend at the MGM Grand in Sanya. That’s some 400 miles down shore from Macau, where PokerStars recently hosted the inaugural “Asia Championship of Poker”, and next month will hold something similar called the Red Dragon. These events come just as Caesars, unable to get properly licensed in China, is officially retreating from the Communist gamblers’ promised land.
Meanwhile, Stars is apparently trying to get (back?) into North America by buying a distressed brick-and-mortar casino in storm-ravaged New Jersey — this according to an announcement that may or may not have been conveniently timed to steal buzz from a WSOP circuit event going on in Atlantic City.
Game of Risk: Live Poker in an Online Age
Redrawing the Battle Lines
Check out how the three biggest brands in poker (and the online gaming sites behind them) stack up against each other. I make no claims of these maps being to scale nor anything more than “pretty accurate, I think,” but look past my amateur cartography to see how three Poker World superpowers — the biggest American casino corporation, the biggest European internet gaming company, and the biggest “offshore” online poker operator — have been competing fiercely to corner your neighborhood tournament market.
WSOP / Caesars / 888
WPT / BwinParty / MGM Resorts
PokerStars.net / PokerStars.com
See below to for some historical perspective on how the current live-tourney landscape took shape over the first decade of the 21st century.
Era of Aggro-Expansion (2010-11)
Cold War Brewing
Harrah’s had yet to become Caesars in the Fall of 2010 (when I first started making these maps), but you could already sense a renewed commitment to imperialism from the American casino giant. Back then we were hearing about new events and poker-tour developments weekly … new circuit stops, regional championships, million-dollar overlays, unprecedented alliances with Indian tribes … and suddenly name-brand biggish-time tournament poker destinations were popping up in places like Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Florida … and Bogota?
Presumably agitated by the WPT in Europe and growing tired of serving as de facto satellite provider for the WSOP, PokerStars would try to crack through the United States’ poker iron curtain with the North American Poker Tour. But the ill-fated NAPT would quickly be snuffed out (with no luck in Canada either) only to have Nevada and California gaming authorities now taking a closer look at the dot-net loophole that for years had allowed “offshore” poker sites to maintain an American presence. The WSOP, meanwhile, was going online for real money in the UK full force … but would surrender its live holding in London to set up shop in France (with stated designs on future incursion into Italy).
Post-UIGEA Epoch (2007- )
Testing the Waters
UIGEA, Shmuigea … The effort to stop online gambling in the United States left an opening for online poker-only sites willing to brave legally uncertain seas. Buoyed by American liquidity, PokerStars would quickly dominate live events in Europe — and then Asia, and then Australia, and soon Latin America, too. With seeds of global online footholds planted, a casino interest trade war would begin to percolate.
The Pre-Harrahzoic Period (2002-04)
It’s the dawn of the 21st century, and the World Poker Tour takes sail, bringing poker to new horizons shortly before PokerStars would send Chris Moneymaker to the World Series of Poker; the first phase of the “poker boom” starts off with much fanfare and in a state of relative detente.