2020 was a difficult and stressful year for many, with the COVID-19 situation taking the world by surprise and abruptly changing life as we knew it. The harsh reality of this infectious disease is that it spread at an alarmingly swift rate – leaving governments worldwide to issue lockdowns, travel restrictions, and shutdowns in order to limit transmission rates. Non-essential businesses, including the gaming sector, experienced steep declines as live operations appeared close to non-existent throughout the year.
With nothing essentially moving and people confined to their homes, many turned to their phones and laptops to pass the time. In a sea of Netflix shows and TikTok videos, many also turned to online poker.
Online poker reached its initial peak back in 2003 when it successfully captured the hearts of players around the world. It appealed in many different ways: some saw it as a source of entertainment, some as a way to earn a living, while some just enjoyed the fierce spirit of competition. This boom, however, took a significant hit when “Black Friday” hit on 15 April 2011 – a day that saw the three largest online poker platforms stop offering real money games in the United States. The state of online poker never fully recovered, as the American market was completely left in the dark due to its new regulations on internet gambling.
And so while the pandemic resulted in a halt in live games, the online poker scene experienced a completely different outcome. Major platforms recorded a notable increase in traffic across all markets, likely due to the lack of other accessible activities and entertainment. Professional poker players – both live and online, recreational players and new recruits alike gathered in droves and took to these virtual games.
Major poker brand names such as the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and many others also shifted their attention to the online scene. This resulted in them forming partnerships with online platforms and moving their usual live series online. Huge exciting tournaments played out month after month across top sites, providing plenty more incentive for players to play online.
According to data presented by Global Poker, steep growth of about 43% in online poker traffic was recorded since early 2020. Google searches related to online poker also achieved a five-year peak during the pandemic. This reported increase was especially pronounced when the majority of sports leagues shut down in mid-March of last year.
Particularly in Asia, poker has been growing in popularity year after year. Live events in various countries have been met with success from the community, and experts at European Gaming have previously noted that the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing poker market worldwide. Online poker in the region has also seen its fair share of action, and the recent spike in online traffic has allowed established platforms in the market – such as Natural8 – to continue to provide an avenue for players in Asia to compete in the international field.
The Natural8 platform, founded back in 2011 by Run Good N.V., is the largest online poker room in Asia and has grown extensively year after year. A major skin of the top-ranking GGPoker Network, Natural8 primarily focuses on the Asian region and has acquired a sizable player base under its “making poker fun again” tagline.
This fully licensed and authorized site is a great choice particularly for recreational players, as it is available on all platforms (Mac, Android, iOS, and Windows) and its immersive gameplay features like Tournament Staking, Bubble Protection, Pokercraft, and Card Squeeze make the online poker experience even more enjoyable. With monthly promotions, tournament offerings of over $120 million in guaranteed prizes, bonuses for new users, 24/7 chat support availability, quick deposits, and efficient withdrawals, Natural8 makes it easy for new players to take the leap and plunge into a whole new field of gameplay.
Last year was a great one for Natural8, with record after record being broken by the influx of online poker players. The World Series of Poker Online (in partnership with GGPoker Network) raised the bar even more so, by breaking the record for the largest prize pool in online poker history. Its Main Event alone attracted a total of 5,802 entries and generated a prize pool of $27.56 million, topping partypoker’s 2018 MILLIONS Online Main Event which posted a $21.78 million prize pool.
While 2020’s online poker boom may have started to subside following the non-stop thrilling action throughout the year, regular games in top sites remain as exciting as ever. GGMasters, Natural8’s signature series, awards $2.5 million in prizes weekly with buy-ins for as low as $25 and satellites for an affordable $1.50. With handsome prizes and action available any time of the day, it appears the overall state of online poker will most likely maintain its positive outlook moving forward.