The Orbit discuss the "Saturation Point" of online poker

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: October 16, 2020 11:32 PDT

A panel of poker's biggest names discuss the state of the online game on The Orbit

The unique circumstances brought on by 2020 led to a surge in the popularity of online poker. The world's largest poker sites upped the ante on major tournament series and guaranteed prize pools, creating a year of opportunity unseen in the online poker realm for more than a decade.

Has the deluge of big-money tournaments pushed the online poker industry to a saturation point? The latest episode of The Orbit dives into that question with a roundtable of an intriguing panel of poker's most notable figures.

Host Robbie Strazynski leads a group that includes Daniel Negreanu, Rob Yong, Phil Galfond, and Alex Scott to discuss this very question. Episode 4 of Strazynski's new roundtable discussion show premiered Thursday, going live on Twitch, YouTube , and Facebook.

Strazynski, a poker media staple and the founder of the Cardplayer Lifestyle Poker Blog, brings in a panel of four poker industry insiders for every episode of the Orbit. Episode 4 became a highly-anticipated chapter of the series after Strazynski dropped an intriguing preview on Twitter Wednesday.

All-Star panel chimes in on the current status of online poker

Episode 4 starts out with Strazynski posing a question about the 2020 online poker boom to Galfond.

"Online poker has boomed this year, but perhaps we're maybe at a saturation point right now," Strazynski says. "There's obviously lots of value for players with tons of overlays, but are there enough players competing? Is player money running out?"

Galfond, a high-stakes poker legend who launched his own online poker site, Run It Once Poker, in 2019, kicks off the dialogue:

Phil Galfond (high-stakes poker pro, founder of Run It Once Poker)

Galfond, a significant figure in the poker industry from the poker boom to the modern era, gave one of the more optimistic takes from the panel.

"From my perspective, no I don't think player money is running out," Galfond said. "I think we have more players playing than in years past. While guarantees are not being met like they were, recently it's because guarantees have gotten so high, and it was kind of a reaction to all the new players."

Galfond cites year-over-year cash game and tournament traffic upswing, and overall brings a positive view on the future of online poker.

"I think the players are there, and it's just a matter of making the right decisions for the poker ecology with those players."

Rob Yong (partypoker partner and owner of Dusk Till Dawn Casino)

Partypoker partner Rob Yong adds his thoughts next, from the perspective of one of the highest-ranking officials in the partypoker hierarchy.

"You hear a lot of people talking about the number of players, ecology, and talking about the demise of online poker over the last eight or nine years since Black Friday," Yong says. " I think the biggest enemy of the money running out is regulation. Italians can't play against UK players. American players can't play against the rest of the world."

Strazynski then asks Yong if the current trend of massive overlays in big prize pool tournaments will continue.

"It's like last man standing," Yong says. "Effectively there's a battle at the moment between the sides, and it's a bit like a game of bluff."

Yong goes on to say that partypoker decided to cut down on the guaranteed prize pool because of not wanting to deal with massive overlays.

Alex Scott (former Managing Director of Microgaming)

Alex Scott, who spent 15 years in online poker operations before changing industries, held a more pessimistic view about the trajectory of online poker as 2020 closes out.

"It pains me to say, but I've got quite a bleak view on this," Scott said. "I do think we're at the saturation point at the moment. It pains me to say that because I think in the long term poker is a really compelling game. I think there will always be a place for it, people will always be excited to play some form of poker."

"The growth that we've seen this year because of the pandemic, that just shows what's always been possible. If we had really marketed well to players, we could have had all of these players all this time."

Scott continues after that with his view that an upcoming recession will hurt the online poker industry, as recreational players won't possess the disposable income to play poker.

Daniel Negreanu (Poker Hall of Fame member, GGPoker Ambassador)

Six-time WSOP bracelet winner has spent almost his entire career as an online poker ambassador. Negreanu joined the GGPoker team in 2019 after 12 years as the face of PokerStars as a sponsored pro.

"To echo what Alex Scott said, and I had it literally in my notes, the words that he chose, disposable income," Negreanu said. "And how uniquely tied essentially the global economy is to online poker. When the economy is doing well a lot more people have disposable income for various things, whether it's game shopping or in some cases online poker."

Negreanu explains that he's impressed with the competitive nature of the modern online poker scene and that the current landscape favors the player.

"As a customer right now, it's never been better for you in terms of options," Negreanu says. The poker icon finishes up with thoughts on today's online poker economy versus what he experienced in his time with PokerStars.

The potential saturation of online poker is one of six topics discussed on Episode 4 of The Orbit. The current edition of the program is currently available on YouTube .

Featured image source: YouTube