Live Destination Events and Emerging Markets Drive the Globalization of Poker

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	Poker cruise ship tours are a growing segment of the poker tourism industry

Poker cruise ship tours are a growing segment of the poker tourism industry

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May 29, 2018 —  Texas Hold’em probably ranks just behind baseball and apple pie on a list of things distinctly American. Poker, after all, is a well-established pastime in the US and throughout Western Europe in both casinos and private game settings. But that certainly doesn’t mean the countries where poker has enjoyed a high profile historically have an exclusive claim to the sport. To the contrary, poker is thriving worldwide thanks to high stakes live events fueling poker tourism and popularity in emerging markets. 

A Holiday in the Cards: Poker Tourism

It’s never been easier to find a poker game. What was once the domain of land based casinos, club rooms, and casual weekend nights with friends is now accessible from your mobile device. Online poker apps literally bring the action to the palm of your hand. Given the ways in which player playing is closer and more convenient than ever before, it may seem strange to consider traveling a great distance for spot at an Omaha Hi-Lo game.

But that’s exactly what poker tourism is all about. The premise is simple: poker is the catalyst of your travel and becomes the focus of your itinerary.

International casino chains and online poker rooms increasingly sponsor tournaments in sought after destinations. As a result, hardcore poker pros and curious amateurs alike are turning up in places like Melbourne, Ibiza, and the Bahamas for live tournaments. A little sun, some intense poker competition, and the shot at big money jackpots make for a pretty awesome vacation.

Similarly, smaller cash games, usually with entry fees ranging from $50 to $250, held daily at venues in gaming hotspots such as Las Vegas and Macau, draw in the poker faithful. Each cash game might last for several hours. The required time commitment sets these participants apart from the casual gambling crowd who play a slot or table game for a few minutes before moving on. Players often string cash games one after another, extending their poker play for many consecutive hours.

Macau, a long time top destination for gamblers of all stripes

True to form for the strategic, analytical mind, seasoned poker tourists book accommodations that optimize their playing experience when traveling. Concentrating with laser focus for hours on end takes its toll on the mind and body.

To refuel, poker trip goers are apt to stay at hotels featuring room service or 24 hour dining options. On premise gyms or pools are sought after amenities for a good workout. The endorphins released by exercise refreshes the mind while flooding the body with a sense of confidence and positivity, two essential factors for success at the card table.

You can even find straights and bluffs on the high seas. In addition to live tournaments drawing poker tourists to exotic destinations and established gambling centers, there are an increasing number of poker themed cruises. Combining tournaments, satellite qualifiers, and instructional seminars with the cruise ship hospitality experience, poker cruises offer a unique way to socialize with fellow players while visiting several spectacular locations in a single vacation. The itinerary for many poker cruises includes ports in the Caribbean, but with a little searching you can find cruise options to Alaska, New Zealand, or South America.

Poker as a Cultural Force

Perhaps the sport’s global impact is best exemplified by the countries where you wouldn’t expect to find poker. Poker’s burgeoning popularity in developing nations and previously unassociated regions is bringing people together and opening new gates to international poker tourism. As strange as it may sound, playing cards and poker chips are a unifying force for good.

For example, Brazil has one of the fastest growing poker markets on Earth thanks to a large push by the mainstream media in recent years. Such promotional efforts have boosted a cultural acceptance of poker as a mind sport dependent on intellectual skill and strategy. This mind sport classification is critical for poker to break through in emerging markets. Too often, poker suffers a negative perception in countries where it's viewed as a game of luck or associated with corrupt gambling practices.

Mind sports pros discuss what it takes to succeed in mental competition

Although traditional casinos are currently banned in Brazil, organized poker often falls into a loophole, paving the way for live tournament events in-country such as the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) and the World Series of Poker Circuit Brazil. In fact, poker’s popularity may tip the hand of recent legal gambling expansion efforts in Brazil and open a potential $17.6 billion casino market.

India is another place where poker strikes as a cultural phenomenon. The world’s second most populous country leaves the decision on whether to allow poker up to each individual state. The offshore states of Goa and Sikkim, which account for 90% of India’s legal gambling activity, embrace poker and offer it in land based casinos.

An estimated 50,000 people regularly play poker in India. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the nation’s 1.252 billion residents, but a growing poker startup sector and an influx of internet casinos offering poker online prove there’s a bright future in India.

In addition to mastering the mind sport aspect of poker, successful players may possess a complex set of personality traits

Poker has undeniably become a world sport, and it’s an exciting time if you’re a player or fan. With this global reach, poker proves it has the rare capacity to transcend geographical boundaries and culture lines while connecting people through competition and camaraderie. Of course, poker tourism and the promulgation of poker as a mind sport in places like Brazil, India, and beyond are key components of growth.

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