Online poker tends to be the main focus for us (and many of our readers), but land-based casinos still play a prominent role in the game.
The biggest tournaments in the world are played on real felt, and the biggest stars make their names playing in Las Vegas, Macau, and other real world locations.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on in the world of live poker even if most of your own play takes place on the Internet.
Here are some of the biggest stories and trends in the world of land-based poker from 2014.
Nevada Poker Tables Continue Decline
There’s no doubt that Las Vegas is still the center of the poker universe, and always will be as long as the World Series of Poker is the most prestigious tournament series on Earth.
But if you think that the health of poker is tied to the popularity of the game in Nevada, there’s some troubling news coming out of the state.
According to an ongoing study by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the number of poker tables in the state dropped to 691, the first time that number had dipped below 700 since July 2005.
That’s a trend that’s not likely to reverse itself anytime soon: many poker rooms in Las Vegas and elsewhere in the state have closed in recent years, including at Circus Circus, the Palms, the Tropicana and Fitzgerald’s.
Not only are the tables fewer in numbers, but they’re generating less money per table for casinos than they did during the poker boom as well.
However, it’s likely that many casinos will keep their poker tables in place even if the game doesn’t bring in a ton of money, as poker is an amenity that many gamblers are looking for when choosing a casino to play in.
And there’s always the seasonal bump that comes along with the World Series of Poker, which should keep poker alive and well in Las Vegas even if the game’s day-to-day popularity declines further.
Poker Continues Growth in Asia
There are other parts of the world in which poker is still experiencing strong growth, however. Poker continues to gain fans in South America, Eastern Europe, and most of all, in Asian nations, which are new to the game but are quickly coming to embrace it alongside other popular gambling options.
In recent years, tournaments like the Asia Championship of Poker, the WPT National China, and events on the Asia Pacific Poker Tour have picked up tremendous steam, with the Macau Millions shattering the record for the largest tournament field in Asia this March by attracting 1,804 players.
That popularity has plenty of companies looking for ways to expand their presence in Asia, both online and in brick-and-mortar casinos.
Just this month, the World Poker Tour signed a long-term agreement with Ourgame, an online gaming firm from China, to help grow both brands throughout the region. With the two already working together to organize WPT National China, it’s likely that even more major Asian tournaments are just around the corner.
One major trend in live tournaments has been the introduction of bigger and bigger guarantees in order to attract players who are hunting for major prizes.
Even the World Series of Poker has gotten into the act, as they guaranteed a $10 million first prize in the Main Event for the first time ever. Other tournament organizers are now regularly utilizing re-entry tournaments to boost their prize pools, sometimes allowing players to try their luck in several starting flights or even allowing for unlimited rebuys in major events.
Of course, big guarantees come with big risks for organizers, and on occasion, they pay dearly as a result. That’s what happened at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open this summer, when the tournament needed to attract 2,000 entries in order to meet its $10 million guarantee.
Instead, three Day 1 flights produced just 1,499 entries, which meant a massive $2.5 million overlay for players in the event.