2021 already off to a strong start for the online poker economy
Poker players around the world hope for a return to normalcy for the live poker tournament circuit in 2021. With the exception of a handful of live events in Las Vegas, Florida, and a few other locations, live tournament poker came to a complete halt when COVID-19 shut down casinos around the world in March.
That reality led to unprecedented success for the online poker economy in 2020. Platforms like GGPoker, partypoker, PokerStars, and even the regulated U.S.-facing sites offered big series after big series throughout 2020.
Even the 2020 WSOP Main Event ran as mostly an online affair, with only the final table from each side of the tournament played as a live event.
Bolstered by the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine, some of the world’s most prominent live tours already plan to get back to business in 2021. With that in mind, will the 2020 success of online poker carry over into 2021?
Big money January kicks off 2021
If the first week of the new year gives any indication, online tournament poker is still thriving for now. A pair of major tournament series are in progress on the world’s two biggest poker sites.
The GGPoker WSOP Winter Online Circuit series ran throughout December, and the final events of the $100 million guaranteed series play out this week. The series crowned a pair of six-figure winners on Jan. 3, and the guarantees in many of the Winter Online Circuit events were far surpassed.
The PokerStars Blowout Series kicked off Dec. 27 and runs through Jan. 19. The $60 million guaranteed festival is highlighted by four different $5 million guaranteed “BIG BLOWOUT” events and the final half of those big-money tournaments play out on Jan. 10 and Jan. 17.
Not to be outdone by PokerStars and GGPoker, partypoker offers the World Poker Tour Montreal Online from Jan. 15-27. That online series is capped off by a $2 million Main Event.
The GGPoker Super MILLION$ High Roller, perhaps the world’s most prestigious regularly-occurring weekly tournament, continues to pull some of poker’s biggest names. The first Super MILLION$ tournament of 2021 saw 222 entries for the $10,300 tournament, a sign of that event’s continued success in drawing high-stakes players week after week.
Will the return of live poker tours stall the surge of online poker?
The WPT Montreal Online event marks the second time the WPT has offered an online version of a Main Tour event. The first took place in December, with the WPT Online Poker Open running on the partypoker US network.
The WPT announced that the Main Tour will return to its traditional live format for at least a few events in the first half of 2021. The Venetian Las Vegas poker room continues to draw big numbers for live tournaments, including those operated in partnership with the Mid States Poker Tour.
These scattered events bring hope for players looking for live tournament opportunities in 2021. The live tournament economy still looks nothing like it did at this time last year, however.
The online poker boom almost certainly marches on this year, at least in the first half of 2021. If and when live tournament poker returns at full capacity, online poker tournaments should still retain much of the momentum they enjoyed in 2020.
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