2004 was a banner year in the poker world. All of us remotely engrained in the poker world probably had a pretty good year on, and off the felt. The coming year will bring more opportunity, more poker programming, and more certainty in the online poker world. Enjoy the following romp through the year that is about to come for us....2005.
The biggest issue facing online poker players is the issue of when the US government is going to choose to act with respect to the legality, and jurisdictional issues that make online poker so....well, complex for the US Government to deal with right now. 2004 saw the WTO (World Trade Organization) rule against the US government (the US is appealing), and in favor of the tiny nation of Antigua, who filed suit contending the US ban on online gaming violated the WTO charter, and represented an unfair trade barrier. About one in 20 resident of Antigua is employed in some form through the online gaming industry.
The problem of what to do with online gaming represents a real quandary for the government to deal with. On one hand, the sheer amount of dollars changing hands everyday at online gaming sites represents a possible windfall for the government coffers should they decide to tax and regulate online gaming, at a time when a windfall would be a welcome relief. On the other hand, the current administration would be facing a real divide among its core constituents with respect to the ethical issues that some feel strongly about in regards to any type of legalized gaming.
The real issue here is that no government can control the content of the internet, and as such any government trying to control internet content is going to run afoul of a good portion of its residents, and most of the other nations in the world. Logically, it seems the US Government must either back down, or figure out some type of regulatory policy. Given the way the current administration operates, one would assume backing down is not an option. There is no question that the specter of regulation looms over the online poker world; one would guess that in 2005 this issue will be decided one way or the other.
Predictions for 2005 - Legislation
- Some 22 year old in Paducah will file for bankruptcy stating that his "addiction" to online poker drove him to run up $20,000 in credit card bills by playing weak aces out of position. This young man's story will garner national attention, and the government will spring to action to protect its citizens from this addiction, and that is how the regulation and taxation process of online gaming will begin.
- The WTO appeals body will uphold the original ruling, and US lawyers will pout over their first real loss since the WTO was formed.
- The US government will introduce legislation (possibly hidden inside of another bill) to regulate, and tax online gaming earnings, possibly including stricter restrictions on US citizens having off shore bank accounts. The upside for players will be that funding online accounts will be much easier, as will cashing out.
POKER ON TV
2005 seems already certain to be the saturation point for poker programming on television. In the coming year, at least one gaming cable network will launch, and the plethora of tournament poker, and specialty poker shows will continue. ESPN will again expand on its already extensive coverage of the WSOP, and the World Poker Tour, (and the new Professional Poker Tour), and Celebrity Poker show no signs of slowing down in terms of ratings, or interest.
Still, one must wonder how much is TOO much in terms of poker on TV. The production values of some of the televised poker these days is bordering on insulting, and it seems only a matter of time before the good separates itself from the bad. At some point, people will begin to distinguish between watching tournaments with the stars of the game in them, and watching 6 random players go at each other. Any form of entertainment places high value on its "stars", and one of the ways those stars are made is through repeated exposure. It seems that much like the world of online poker (see below), in 2005 we will see the streamlining of the offerings of poker on television, and well thought out, sufficiently budgeted programming will continue to thrive, while some of the lower budgeted programming may fall away. In the end, I think maintaining a certain quality level for TV poker programming will bode the best for the long-term health of poker as a TV option.
Predictions for 2005 - poker on TV
- Steve Lipscomb will make more money than you or I (and many others) combined.
- Some TV type will be the first to use a 4-color deck in a televised tournament. Purists in card rooms across the land will riot (or at least grumble).
- Celebrity Poker will NOT replace a host.
- The first television poker "league" will form, and play to mixed results.
- I will make a television final table (maybe that should be under 'dream', and not prediction).
THE BUSINESS OF ONLINE POKER
2004 saw online poker become a billion dollar business, partially fueled by an online qualifier winning the main event of the WSOP for the second straight year. Online card rooms popped up faster than demand could possibly bear, and the end of 2004 saw the very first in the inevitable series of closures in these new online card rooms. The market leaders continued to thrive in this space, while the rest of the rooms battled it out for a very small piece of the pie.
2005 will once again be a banner year for this young industry, and it is clear that while the industry will undergo many changes, online poker is here to stay. New technologies will develop that will allow players to play for real money, in more places and ways than anyone would have thought possible. Creativity will begin to rule the competitive direction of this business, and online rooms will offer more and more unique and interesting trips, perks, and opportunities to keep its player base interested, and returning.
Predictions for 2005 - The business of online poker
- By my closest (very unofficial) count, there are currently 33 established online poker rooms operating globally. By the end of 2005, that number will be cut in half. The business of online poker will be a healthy one in 2005. As with any new business, however, many startups will fall, and others with a player base worth having, or some kind of proprietary technology will be gobbled up by one of the market leaders.
- The number of players playing real money poker online will peak this coming year. The number will eventually stabilize, but 2005 will be online pokers biggest year.
- Online poker rooms will send 1,800 people to the main event of the WSOP.
OTHER PREDICTIONS FOR 2005
- The main event of the WSOP will have 3,600 - 4,000 participants.
- Matt Savage will need glasses, and develop carpal tunnel syndrome from checking Ids, as one third of the participants in the main event will be under 25.
- A known player (yes, I said it) will win the WSOP main event. This person may not be the biggest star in the poker galaxy, but will be a known commodity in the poker world.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
- The players that play a lot of events, and have a well-rounded game will compete for POY.
- The POY will see its first significant prize attached to it via sponsorship
- A previously unknown player will be in the mix until the very end.
Those of us who have been loving this great game for years have been blessed with the great developments, and many opportunities this poker boon has provided. 2005 will be another banner year, and the new world order of poker will continue to shape itself. Many people in the TV, and sports world will try to make the game more & more of a "sport". Those trying to make the game a sport will find that poker is a game, and the wild variances and luck factor associated with tournament poker make it difficult at best to have the best (and most recognizable) faces at a televised final table every time. Poker will fit into the sport mold in some ways, and be a very poor fit in other ways. A pile of gold awaits the man or woman that figures out the way to bridge the gap, and make poker fit well into the televised, sound bite world of modern day sport.
In 2005, more and more people will discover the joy, and the highs and lows of playing this great game. Socially, poker will become more accepted, and will eventually gain an (reluctant by some) acceptance into the fabric of our society. Online pokers social woes in the US will be largely solved, and we can look forward to years of sitting in our underwear, staring at a computer screen trying to figure out if "BigDoggg418" is bluffing or not.