In years gone by, it was almost certainly true to say that very few poker players had never set foot in a casino. Yet today, in the midst of the meteoric rise in popularity of online poker, that is simply no longer the case. In most parts of the world, a poker player can discover poker and hone her skills over hours of play all from the comfort of her home. Indeed, today, it’s perfectly conceivable for poker players and casino fans alike to go their entire lives without ever hearing the click and whirr of a roulette ball against the din of an excitable crowd. Yet, for me, it has always been this social side of playing in casinos that presented the biggest draw. So, what are the online companies doing to respond?
I just love the social aspect of poker
I was recently at a leg of a popular tournament series in the U.S. in Baraboo, Wisconsin and one of the best things about the tournament was undoubtedly the community. Yes, they were all competing against each other, but there were several players who knew each other personally. They would chat table to table and buy each other drinks and I was reminded that the social aspect of poker is what drew me specifically to the game in the first place.
The same social aspect is what first drew me to blackjack. I sat down initially out of curiosity and wanting to bet, but eventually found out how fun it was to high-five a random stranger after the dealer busts and the whole table wins. The dealers are rooting for you, too, most of the time, so the experience of being face-to-face with the players and dealers was a big draw.
I started to play craps simply because it was often the loudest table on the floor. It looked exciting and I wanted to be a part of that. The first time I had a good string of dice rolls and someone placed on bet on my behalf, I thought it was the greatest thing ever.
When online poker rooms first started, they offered players the chance to play more hands and streamlined the entire process. There were some social aspects to the games, like chat features, but, for a while it took a fun, personal experience and turned it into a more robotic one.
Is Twitch the game changer?
If anything, the rise of Twitch.tv’s poker channels and popular streamers like Jason Somerville, is testament for this desire for the social in all aspects of gaming, both on and offline.
According to a Stanford University study, social enjoyment is a big reason why people travel to casinos, so it’s not just about the betting. The study found that the main reason people travel to casinos is entertainment. Movies and television shows have drawn on the allure of Las Vegas and casinos for years. There was even a popular show called “Las Vegas,” that followed the lives of a casino owner and his employees. Vegas is a popular destination, and even though there are casinos and gambling there, most people are looking for fun.
In the 2009 article by Alice LaPlante about the study, she wrote, “That is why Narayanan is personally convinced gambling is, for the vast majority of people, entertainment. ‘It's like going to the movies. They set a budget, and enjoy the time that passes while they spend it. It's not a completely irrational activity.’ Casinos are primarily entertainment destinations,’ said Narayanan. ‘After all, a lot happens there other than the gambling — there's the opulence to look at, the ability to sit and have a drink, or watch a show.’”
What if a webcam was the answer?
So, what are live online casinos doing to duplicate that entertainmen? Well, quite a lot. Some, for example, now offer you places to play against live dealers and even a chance to play against your friends as the dealer in blackjack. It’s a constant process of evolution in response to player preference.
As is the case with most casinos, the table games are always evolving and people are always coming up with new games, or variations on old favorites to bring to the floor. Live online casinos are offering some of those as well, creating a shift in the industry. New games, the ability to play against your friends online, and personalized settings and preferences are all ways the online gaming world is evolving in order to provide greater entertainment value to the customer. Plus, as technology becomes more and more advanced, the experience has much more of a live feel than ever before — with human-like dealer animations, artificial intelligence, and more.
So, grab your friends, and your real- or play-money bankroll, and hit the tables. As Effie Trinket says in the Hunger Games, “may the odds be ever in your favor”.