Of the games which made the jump into the digital world, few have been as historically popular as poker. Starting slowly as the technology evolved and moving into a multibillion-dollar industry, online poker caught the attention of the world. Despite this initial growth, people's attention towards poker has seen a definite downward trend over the last few years.
So how did online poker take off in the first place, and what has caused it to lose its place in the sun?
The initial rise of poker came about through two fronts, the popularity of the original game and the strength of how well it lent itself to the early online environment.
While the game of poker is so old that its roots have been lost to time, there are indications it started around 1000 years ago, possibly in China. Constantly evolving over the centuries, poker would go through many different incarnations within the mainstream. Today, Hold’em is the most popular variant of the game, but previously that title has been held by Three Card Brag and Five Card Draw.
As with many casino games, the strength in poker laid in a system which was easy to learn, but nearly impossible to master. This simplicity is what made it so versatile in the software space. Translating the simple rules of these games into limited early online systems proved a huge hit, and allowed this and many other similar games to succeed.
Poker then grew alongside many other online casino games. Some of these, like video poker which was first developed in the 1970s, would go on to have an enormous dedicated following with casinos and players both, which is maintained to this very day. Smartphones and tablets helped continue this trend but, for traditional poker at least, this trend wouldn’t last forever.
With poker being one of the first international super-hits in multiplayer online gaming, it was only natural that developers would take notice. What originally began as communities based around a few dedicated hubs expanded to become much, much more. Soon, online poker had hundreds, then even thousands of places to play. This made it easier for people to find specialized and preferred tables, but it also created an issue of splitting the community into smaller groups.
Over time, players had grown tired of this issue, instead choosing to return to the more directly personal games which could only be played in physical casinos. The final nail in this coffin of shrinking popularity came on April 15, 2011. Now known as Black Friday (unrelated to shopping), a civil suit against some of the biggest names in online poker caused them to close their digital doors to US patrons.
Combined, all of these elements led to a steady decline in what was once one of the most popular forms of gaming in the electronic age.
Despite this decline, online poker is not a game which will ever fade completely. The game itself is still very popular by many standards, just not the highest standards reached at the game's peak.
There are always those who prefer playing online or have no other option, and this, combined with the base appeal which has lasted for a millennium, ensures online poker will always have a place.