An Analysis of Poker’s Place in Online Casinos


Ante Up Magazine

Visit any online casino site operating in Canada, the UK or other countries with open gaming laws, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see any poker games prominently positioned on the homepage. Many new casino sites don’t carry any poker games at all, even including video poker. There is, of course, a decent rebuttal to this, as unlike most other casino games, poker has lots of sites dedicated to it, and it alone. There is also the argument about poker being dependent on the psychology in a real live game.

Yet, it’s strange that so many online casinos tend to overlook poker, or at least not promote it a bit more. Mansion Casino is a good example of a Canadian online casino with a strong poker showing – live dealer, virtual and video poker – but there is still more emphasis on Mansion Casino roulette and other games on the site. The obvious answer, then, seems to be that poker isn’t just as popular on online casino sites. Operators aren’t stupid, nor do they neglect trends, so they’ll know what is attracting players.

Players want to beat the person, not the game
We can easily reason why this is the case. There has always been something lacking with virtual poker, because anyone who takes the game seriously bases their strategy upon human qualities, i.e. you want to be facing another human across the table. You are good at poker because of psychology and math; taking one of those elements out of the equation changes the game.
One should, of course, distinguish between virtual poker and video poker. The former could be a virtual version of Texas hold’em, Caribbean stud etc. whereas the latter isn’t really a strategy-based game. Video pokers have remained remarkably popular at land-based casinos, despite barely changing in terms of graphics and gameplay over the past few decades. They have a simple charm, allowing players to play a few hands without thinking too much.

It should be noted as well, though, that video pokers have an exceptionally low house-edge in comparison to other virtual casino games, usually less than 1% (calculated in virtual games by an average called RTP – return to player). So, it follows that online casinos might indulge in a bit of nudge theory by placing games with higher margins of return for the casino. This makes sense, of course, using the same theory as putting products you want customers to buy at eye-level in a grocery store.

Live dealer tables evolving at online casinos
However, of most interest is players attitudes to live dealer poker games. This arguably could have been a game-changer for the industry, offering an experience that regular poker sites have not been able to replicate. To a degree it has worked, and experienced poker players enjoy playing everything from three-card poker to hold’em with real dealers. But it still feels that there needs to be a breakout moment in this area, a tipping point where players call live dealer poker the only choice, even trumping real poker games.

For the above to happen, it’s probably going to take some real immersive technology, effectively giving players the chance to look in the eyes of their opponents. Creating a virtual poker game with real players facing each other across the table. That kind of tech is not as far away as you think. And, when it does come along, poker might be front and center of online casinos again.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor