PPA Survey: The US Poker Paradox

PPA Survey: The US Poker Paradox
Is US poker better or worse since Black Friday?

A recent survey by the Poker Players Alliance attempted to take the temperature of the current poker climate in the United States. The questions ranged from the popularity of poker to expectations of the PPA itself, as well as opinions about the lobbying organization expanding to include things like daily fantasy sports (DFS) and sports betting.

The PPA tabulated the results and released some of the most interesting questions to the public. While the group has yet to reveal any changes to focus or tactics based on the survey, it will likely consider some of the responses in its overall mission going forward.

This is the third of several articles (the first can be found here, and the second can be viewed here) dedicated to revealing and analyzing the survey results.

Current State of US Poker

There was one question on the survey that specifically addressed the state of poker today, as it relates to the days of the “poker boom” before Black Friday, when the last of the major online poker sites were forced out of the United States market.

Question:  How do you feel about the current state of poker in the United States? (Choose all that apply.)

  • Poker is as popular as it has ever been and continues to grow = 44%
  • Poker’s popularity has been on a decline in the US since Black Friday = 44%
  • Other = 11%
  • Poker has reached its peak and is now on a plateau and will soon decline = 7%



Focusing on the two opposite thoughts that received an equal percentage of the vote, it is extraordinary that equal parts of the poker community view it in entirely different ways.

It seems that the survey respondents may have viewed the question from opposite points of view. Those who feel that poker is as popular as ever and continues to grow may not be in full touch with the online poker world and its rise and fall in the past two decades. They could also be players who weren’t involved in poker during the boom years or were simply unaware of how the boom broadened the game in so many ways. Those who feel that poker has been declining since Black Friday must remember the rise and fall of the game as per its connections to the online poker world.

The live poker scene is doing well, and for players and fans who view the game through televised World Series of Poker or World Poker Tour episodes, they may see that poker looks as popular as ever. Players who compete in tournaments on the WPT, WSOP Circuit, or other tours that traverse the US may see that the games are well-attended and competitive, and many big names in the game still play. The likes of Hellmuth and Negreanu are still big parts of the poker world.

Online poker took the hardest fall after Black Friday. And combined with other markets regulating and fencing off from the global player pool, online poker suffered greatly. Many sites simply folded, big companies acquired smaller ones, and liquidity was down significantly without most US players and those from countries like Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. Many former poker pros have left the industry altogether while some remain on a part-time basis, as they chose not to move out of the US for various reasons.

Moreover, all of the changes in the past half-dozen years have changed the online poker environment at the virtual tables, as the volume of players decreased to the point that the remaining operators had to devise new methods to attract new players. As sites have transitioned to more rewards for recreational players and fewer perks for regulars and high-stakes players, pros have become frustrated and moved on to start new careers. These changes also severely decreased the number of online satellites available to win entries into live tournaments.

Of course, for those who didn’t or don’t follow the online scene as closely as others, poker seems fine. PokerGO launched with all of the old poker shows and new tournaments to showcase the popular players and high rollers. Twitch has brought many poker players into the limelight, and numerous pros still find sponsorship opportunities. For the casual observer, poker seems fine.

The survey question may have also caused people to vote on a platform of hope. Some may have chosen the box that indicated poker continues to grow because they have optimism about the growth of live poker and regulated markets. Conversely, others may have indicated their pessimism about poker’s popularity based on their personal experiences or their views of only certain aspects of the industry.

Overall, the question shows that there are two general categories of poker players and observers. There are those who see the game with potential and those who feel the best of the game is gone. Both have a fair amount of points to their claims.






About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

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