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The Economic Downturn and Online Poker

19 May 2010, By:
The financial crisis has permeated the world. Over the last year or so, people have simply had less disposable income.

They aren't buying as much as they used to. Prices are going down but people still aren't opening their wallets. Naturally, as a poker player one wonders what effect this financial crisis is having on the online poker world.

Poker Sites have Other Problems

Ironically, online poker is not suffering as much from the financial crisis as from government interference. Since 2006, when the U.S. government passed the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), lots of poker websites have withdrawn from the U.S. market.

Although the act did not make playing online poker technically illegal, many players withdrew from online poker rather than risking the specter of criminal activity.

Effect of the Financial Crisis

For the sites that remained, the economy has had some effect. Professional online poker players survive by preying on the weakest players. When these players eventually go broke, new players must inevitably crop up to replace them. Due to the financial situation in the world and the reduction in disposable income, that pool of weak players is not being replenished at the same speed.

High Stakes More Demanding

This means that the general skill level at most online poker websites is higher, which means that the pros must work harder to earn less. That being said, at the height of the poker boom, the best players were making money hand over fist from the weak ones, who were often playing well above the limit dictated by their skill.

So if they were able to exercise any financial prudence away from the poker table, they should still be doing okay. However, online poker is not the cash cow that it once was for some players.

By and large though, there is still plenty of high stakes online action in spite of the financial downturn even if the number of fish is dwindling.

Although some of these players may have invested part of their bankrolls in losing securities, most seem to have kept their bankrolls intact and are happily trading hundreds of thousands of dollars back and forth with each other every day, usually over a pot limit Omaha table.

Opportunities for Recreational Players

Fortunately for poker hobbyists, there will always be a place for the low stakes player at online poker sites. Today's online poker sites offer microstakes games of as low as 1 and 2 cent blinds. That means even if you have five dollars of disposable income you can enjoy online poker.

And, of course, there are always freerolls and play-money games. The question for the middle-stakes gambler or semi-pros is what has happened in between - what has happened to those player's meat and potatoes?

Unfortunately, this type of player has been hit hardest by the financial crisis. Many losing players who were just barely hanging on have been forced to drop out from the poker websites, and newer weak players may have decided they just don't have the cash to risk.

What this means is that while there will always be losing players online to take advantage of, the overall skill level online has risen.

Shifting between Poker Sites

If you were hoping to make a living playing poker and have just been a modest winner so far, you should probably not quit your day job. If you've been enjoying a healthy win rate, you may have to accept that it could decline, and you will have to adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

With any luck, if you hang on long enough, the global financial picture, and hence the poker economy, will bounce back again. Once the economy gets back on its feet, things will almost certainly change.

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