What are the Up-and-Coming Countries in the World of Poker?
Poker is one of the most popular card games on the planet, with 40 million people found to be playing the bluffing game in 2009. Since then, the amount of players has increased dramatically. The World Series of Poker is a good way to observe the current popularity of the game, with the number of entrants increasing year upon year. When Joe Cada won the tournament in 2009, there were 6,494 entrants. This number increased to 7,221 when Scott Blumstein won in 2017. Poker continues to grow thanks to the vast number of online poker sites making the game accessible to everyone. Traditionally, the USA has led the way in terms of major poker events, but some other countries are aiming to catch up.
World Series of Poker already Broke out into Europe
The World Series of Poker is the longest-running and best-known poker tournament on the planet but, for many years, it was solely based in Las Vegas. It has been held annually since 1970 when Johnny Moss was voted the winner out of seven elite players. The Grand Old Man of Poker followed that victory up the next year, besting five other opponents with a final hand of pocket 6s. It took thirty years for the competition to attract over 500 entrants but, after the poker boom in the early 2000s, the numbers increased dramatically. Up to this point, poker was way behind other games like blackjack in terms of popularity and notoriety, but televised poker games and online rooms helped bring the game to mass audiences.
Still, it took a while for the biggest poker event on Earth to expand outside of America. The World Series of Poker Europe was the first ever extension of the famous tournament, and its inaugural competition was held in 2007. This was around the peak of the poker boom, a year after the WSOP had its highest-ever turnout of 8,773 players. The initial WSOPE tournament was won by Annette Obrestad the day before her 19th birthday. This made her the youngest ever WSOP winner. Some big names in the industry have appeared at the event in London, including the Poker Brat Phil Helmuth, who won the main event in 2012 with a final hand of ace-ten offsuit.
South Africa Home to the Expansion of the WSOP
After breaking into a second continent in Europe, the WSOP expanded further by putting on an event in Africa. The first-ever World Series of Poker Africa was held in 2010 in the city of Gauteng in South Africa, at the Emerald Resort & Casino. There were two events at the tournament; a $1,100 Pot-Limit Omaha game and a $5000 No Limit Main Event. The winners of these were Filipe Ramos and Warren Zackey, respectively. In 2012, the WSOPA format changed and it became a circuit event as opposed to a traditional tournament. Winners received Championship Rings instead of bracelets. Both the 2012 and 2013 WSOPA competitions included numerous events with whopping prize pools. One of the most famous stars to have won a prize in the African tournament is Michael Mizrachi, who also topped the pile in the 2010, 2012, and 2018 WSOP $5000 Players Championship.
In addition to the WSOPE and the WSOPA tournaments, the WSOP broke out into the other side of the world with the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific in 2013. Kid Poker Daniel Negreanu won that Main Event and Scott Davies topped the pile the next year. In 2018, there were many countries added to the WSOP circuit, including Argentina, Morocco, and Russia.
Players in Some Countries Still Facing Difficulties
Despite the fact that poker seems to be spreading like wildfire across the globe, there are still some players in certain countries who are facing difficulties and finding it hard to play. Recently, the world’s largest online card room PokerStars, along with its sister company Full Tilt Poker, had to pull out of thirty countries. Due to strict laws being enforced in Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar, among others, PokerStars can no longer offer access to their sites to their residents. Fortunately for the players in question, they will be able to withdraw their funds. The bad news, though, is that any loyalty points they may have accrued in that time will be lost.
Interestingly, Nigeria, an up-and-comer in the online casino industry also lost access to the famous poker sites. Around 60 million Nigerian adults indulge in some form of gambling and the casino industry is thriving. In fact, it is expected to grow into one of the continent’s largest casino industries in the coming years. Despite the fact that online poker has been regulated in the country, there is still a chance that an event like the WSOP could decide to expand into the territory. There are two main cities in Nigeria where gambling facilities are legal. Lagos would be a prime candidate to host an event like the WSOP and, if it did so, it could force the government to relax their online poker laws.
With more and more countries having access to the WSOP, it seems that the poker world may be moving closer towards a fully global tournament. However, players from countries with strict gambling laws may have to hope for their respective governments to go easy on the card game in the future.
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