Poker Predictions for 2014
Since Black Friday and the US exit from the poker world, each subsequent year has so far been fairly predictable and unexciting. However, I believe we will see some good news this year in the poker world. Here are some predictions for 2014:
Legal Online Poker Expands in the US
While most US players are still unable to play online poker, we saw three states open their doors to legal online poker last year: Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The first two states are major gambling hubs and were the most likely candidates to have the first legal poker offerings, but Delaware came out of nowhere.
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I believe we will see more states implement legal online poker this year, and we'll likely see more sizeable states make the effort. Expect a major population hub like California embrace online poker this year and either implement it or set the stages for going live in 2015. I don't expect any federal move to allow legal online poker, but I don't think there will be anything to stop it from moving at the state level either.
A Woman Makes the Final Table of the WSOP
Believe it or not, a woman has made the final table of the WSOP Main Event before, but it happened only once and in 1995, when Barbara Enright made it to the final table and placed fifth, winning $114,180. There was only 273 entrants that year, compared to 6,352 this year.
I don't think it's likely a woman will make the final table, but I'm hoping at least something different happens this year. Perhaps a woman will make the final table, or we'll see old guy with a unique story win it all. Hopefully it'll just be something other than a bunch of no-name white guys in their mid-to-late 20's and early 30's. Of course, I fall flat within that demographic, so I'll rescind this wish if it means I happen to make the final table of the WSOP!
European Sites Begin to Gradually Share Liquidity
A major issue with the regulation in Europe is that poker rooms are often forced to have a dedicated poker room for each country and have to essentially 'fence-in' the site for that country. For example, French players can play legally but they must play only with other French players on a state-licensed French site.
It has been on the agenda for European regulators to move more towards shared liquidity, but politicians and regulators are pretty much terrible about accomplishing anything, especially anything quickly. Italy and Spain are supposed to allow their rooms to share players soon, but we'll see how that goes.
It has been reported that the French site's are struggling a bit and the market may have actually shrank last year. If it it is one thing that may scare regulators into doing something, it may be that they will actually get less tax money if they fail to act. I think we'll gradually see more and more liquidity sharing in Europe and fewer and fewer sites that solely serve one country.
Bounty Events Gain Popularity
I'm not sure why this is exactly the case, but it seems poker players are getting an extra thrill by busting people out more now than in the past. Full Tilt Poker has recently launched Adrenaline Rush Knockout, where you get points for busting out a player at a table. Party Poker has also launched some major bounty tournaments, which again reward players by knocking their opponents out of the tournament.
Something nice about bounty events is that a player who may not otherwise cash in the tournament can still get some money back if they happen to knock someone out. It also probably leads some players to play more recklessly since they attempt to try to collect the bounty and therefore play too many hands. In general, I like a move towards more bounty events in general and it can help make poker a little bit more fishy again.
WSOP, Poker World Sees Growth
While the number of entrants into the WSOP Main Event isn't the best factor by which to judge the poker world, it is certainly a telling indicator. Thanks to Black Friday and the steady contraction of the poker market, the number of WSOP Main Event entries has been steadily declining from 7,319 in 2010 to 6,352 last year.
I think we'll see an increase this year, perhaps even jumping over 7,000. Between regulated online poker in the US sending qualifiers to the Main Event to the daily fantasy sports industry in the US running satellites as a sort-of prize package, there will be a much stronger US presence this year than in the past few years, leading to a slight boost in numbers.