Click here to read more about how and why poker has experienced such a remarkable evolution to its unique position in the digital sporting world.
Many years ago, the concept of sports being able to cross the divide between the offline world and the one that was, at that point in time, just beginning to grow within the digital realm would have been considered laughable to all but the most technocentric and creative minds.
After all, while some things were just beginning to show their potential as digital experiences – from socialising to working – we were a long way away from being able to bring an entirely physical experience, such as sport, into the world of pixels, code, and cathode ray tubes.
Of course, to a certain extent, making such a clean departure from the real world to the digital one still remains a distant possibility, reserved only for the wildest of daydreams. Football continues to play out on the grass and, while pong is close to celebrating its 50th birthday, it has still yet to rival Wimbledon as a genuine summertime event.
Still, we have seen remarkable progress in two key areas pertaining to ‘digital sports’. In the first, the once niche-interest that first coined the term eSport has grown into an industry that is predicted to be worth more than $1.6 billion by 2024. In the second, we have the development of increasingly immersive technology that utilises far more than the players’ fingers and thumbs. From the development of virtual reality to the use of motion sensing technology, playing video games can easily cross the boundary into a full body experience.
Where does Poker Fit in?
Poker, however, represents an entirely different kettle of fish. In the real world, poker existed long before its digital counterpart – a fact which separates it from popular eSports like League of Legends, and mostly non-competitive digital iterations of existing sports, like golf.
In many ways, the internet was able to stand as a perfect complement to the world of competitive poker and transform it into a renowned, global sport. Massively influential sites like GGPoker.eu have come to operate in tandem with the biggest names and events that occur within this discipline, from their team (which currently features players as world-renowned as Daniel Negreanu and Fedor Holz) to their high-profile tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker (which just last year broke a world record).
In this way, our modern definition of poker has been able to straddle that boundary between ‘table game’ and eSport, and to bring professional competition to a global audience.
Like any sport, it boasts a long line up of casual, semi-regular players who enjoy experiencing the same sense of competition on a smaller, more informal scale – and without the monumentally high stakes found within professional eventing. These same non-professional players comprise the audience of professional tournaments, where that is poker, online gaming, football, baseball or any other competitive entertainment.
With the 2021 World Series of Poker fast approaching – and yet another online schedule to act as complement to the ‘offline’ tournaments – it is clear that the evolution of online poker as a digital sport is continuing on at pace.
Of course, its unique rise to online acclaim means that it will always bear some notable differences to eSports and the sports we practice exclusively in the physical world, but that is no doubt part of its allure – both for the players themselves, and for the spectators.
With 2020 representing a landmark year for online poker after the breaking of a Guinness World Record, hope is high among hosts, players and fans that this sport is locked firmly into an upward trajectory, and that we can expect plenty more from it as we move forward.