COVID has put paid to live poker in a big way. Shutdowns, lockdowns, and social distancing are all hard to do at your local casino.
So players went online. For a while.
Disappointingly, the spike after the first lockdown went back to normal over time. Even so, most sites still have increased traffic year-on-year for 2020.
The uptick holds even when you dump the stats for iPoker (up 62% from a pro-rated 2019, which can be explained by migration from Microgaming’s shut down) and for GGPoker (up 208%, which can be explained by the WSOP Online).
Now, with the second round of lockdowns spreading like — well, a plague — there is some hope that it will give the poker industry a similar Q4 boost.
Lockdowns were a mixed bag this year, making us safer, but not 100% safer, and at a cost. There were some unexpected benefits of locking everyone up at home and junking a fifth of the economy though. A lot of people gained a lot of spare time. And a lot of them used it play poker.
Italy closed up shop ASAP. Then after a (un)healthy delay, Canada, the classier parts of the U.S., and the rest of Europe followed suit.
The result of these lockdowns was startling. From December 2019 through to March 2020 the global poker market was going steady. It had a seven day moving average of between 30k and 35k cash game seats filled concurrently. In the first week of April, that number went up to 55k.
From there it was a pretty straight decline back to the 30k-35k mark by end of August. By then, most places had opened back up and anyone who still had a job was back to work.
This time around it probably won’t be so sharp a spike. The poker boom the pundits promised last time didn’t materialize. And this time around people are more cynical about staying home.
The panic that drove people to stick with Lockdown 1.0 has been eroded by time. So, the likelihood is that more people will try and live their lives as normal. Fewer people will be locking themselves in with a laptop and trying to stretch their stimulus check to cover 600NL.
But Q4 tends to be a good time for poker anyway. The heavily populated, poker mad Northern hemisphere is diving headlong into winter.
Certainly, the European segregated markets (Spain, Portugal, Italy, etc.) have seen a jump in player numbers. The 7-day average of concurrent cash players leaped from about 3.3k at the end of October to nearly 4.3k a couple of days ago.
The unsegregated international market has seen a slower and more steady climb from about 14.3k in August to 15.6k this week. Even without a lockdown, long nights and cold weather are good for indoor sports like poker.
It seems that the combination of the earth’s axial tilt and the deliciousness of bats has put us on track for a Christmas this year of WSOPC rings, four-of-a-kinds, three-suited flops, two pocket-ducks, and a wheel draw in need of a three.
Talking of Christmas, follow our link if you’re trying to think of gifts for poker players.
Featured image source: Flickr