Upping the Ante

Growth returns to global online poker thanks to new, innovative game formats

by , Jan 27, 2018 | 12:58 pm

It is no secret; the global online poker industry has been in decline for several years. There is a magnitude of reasons for this downturn in play, from the introduction of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the USA to the emergence of ring-fenced markets, all of which has turned players away from the game.

Three Card Poker

But online poker operators have not given up, and in recent months have introduced exciting new game formats aimed at attracting a new generation of players. What’s more, these new formats have been designed with smartphone users front of mind, and are faster and easier to play than classic Texas Hold ‘em.

The state of play

While the online casino sector has been on a major upwards growth trajectory over the past few years, online poker play has been in decline during the same period. In addition to the factors mentioned above, another major cause is the rise in other digital entertainment options.

This includes video streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, as well as video and mobile games, and social networks – all of which can be consumed on smartphones and tablets. These alternatives are enticing players away from poker with quick thrills and high-quality entertainment. They are changing player expectations, too.

Smartphones have significantly impacted every industry on the planet, and online gaming is no exception. Players now expect simple games with fast-paced action they can access on mobile. They want to be able to get their phone out on a train or while waiting in a line to squeeze in a couple of games when they have some time to kill.

This is one of the reasons why online casino, and specifically slots play, has seen a huge uptick in participation. Games can be played in a matter of seconds instead of minutes and hours.

Many of these slots games also boast gamification features such as unlocking achievements for completing certain tasks, progress bars and rewards – just the sort of thing you would expect to see in a video game.

In addition, 3D graphics, detailed animations and cinematic sounds are also becoming an expectation of players, which has left many two-dimensional online poker products lacking the visual punch and engagement consumers are seeking.

A new era:

The good news is that some innovative online poker operators have identified this change in the market and are adapting their games accordingly. They are launching new formats that boast quicker and more rapid gameplay and use video game elements such as achievements and unlockables.

These features have been designed and developed with mobile front of mind, allowing games to be played quickly while still tapping into the psyche of new, younger players, through smart graphics and gamification tools.

An example of one of these newer formats is Three Card Poker; a version of poker that’s already popular in land-based casinos around the world. It’s essentially a simpler version of Texas Hold ‘em, with three card hands instead of five. This changes the gameplay and odds slightly. For example, straights are now ranked higher than flushes.

In Three Card Poker, a player is dealt three cards and plays against the dealer. There are a couple of different ways to play. If you are playing ante-play, you begin by placing an ante bet, then decide if you want to bet or fold once your hand has been dealt. With the pair-plus rules, you simply bet on getting better than a pair.

With these rules, you can also win many times your bet with a strong hand such as a straight flush or three of a kind. This aspect is particularly appealing to recreational players, as big wins of up to 40 times their original bet is possible.

888casino.com is one of those to have launched the game to its players on both desktop and mobile, and has created a full guide on how to play Three Card Poker.

The game is popular with new, younger players, because it ticks all the boxes, it’s fast, fun, and works really well on mobile. What’s more, it is simple to understand but still awakens the “achiever” lurking inside all of us and requires skills that can be improved. It also has a fairly slim house edge, giving players a good chance of winning.

Another example of a new type of game aimed at attracting younger players is PokerStar’s Power Up. It’s a variation of Texas Hold ‘em that allows players to use ‘power-ups’ to change a game to their advantage during play. There are nine different power-ups such as allowing players to peek at an opponent’s cards, choose the next card to be dealt, or even ‘disintegrate’ cards out of the game altogether.

New and exciting formats like these are starting to change the game for online poker. They are attracting new, younger players to the game which, in turn, is starting to slow decline and even drive growth. While the game may never return to its glory days, it can certainly appeal to a new generation of players and provide the same levels of enjoyment and accessibility as other entertainment options.


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