Poker has gone through many changes in the past few years. Now we are primarily seeing early trends picking up speed and coming to roost. 

  • Women in poker
  • Vlogs
  • Texas

It’s all happening – with speed like never before.

Here are five things to look for in the year ahead - 

#1) WSOP Moves to The Strip

The landmark change is that, after more than a decade, the World Series of Poker is finally leaving the Rio hotel and, instead, moving to the Paris/Bally’s Convention Center. 

las-vegas-night-monument-paris

The general attitude seems to be one of excitement. It is no secret that the Rio was on a downward trend. Not only had the facility let itself go, but 2021 also brought the Rio to new lows. 

They knew they were getting sold anyways, so what was the point of upkeep? All repairs went to the wayside. Even during November at the WSOP, some of the hotel elevators made horrible screeching alarm bell sounds on every floor. This problem had been ongoing since July. 

Nostalgia aside, most in the poker community seem united in saying, “good riddance!”

What will the WSOP be like on the strip? In a word, busy. The Paris/Bally’s location is very central, which comes with its pros and cons. 

PROS:

  • On the one hand, there is excellent access to various hotels at different price ranges.  Bally’s makes for a natural, convenient option. 
  • Weekday rates in June are around $120/night – give or take – before climbing to $220 on the weekend.  (Don’t forget that resort fees are an additional $30/night, so budget accordingly) The Paris hotel is slightly more expensive. 
  • Then, of course, you can go all-out and indulge at one of the nearby ritzier choices, such as the Bellagio, Wynn, or Venetian. All are within walking distance.
  • The shift to the strip largely favours recreational poker players over pros. 

CONS:

  • Vegas residents won’t like that the parking is a mess, whereas tourists will probably go car-less and travel on foot. 

Travelling with non-poker playing family and friends becomes more effortless. They can entertain themselves at nearby attractions.

Having visitors come to the Rio without much to do was always a hassle. They would have to make the tiresome trek to say hello and then wander the halls aimlessly. 

Now friendly onlookers can pop in and out on a whim. Incorporating poker into your vacation has never been easier.

It is also possible that the WSOP gets more walk-ins with the foot traffic. Tourists who wouldn’t have planned their vacation around a tournament may jump into a cash game or sit-and-go.

#2) Drama With Lammers?

Speaking of sit-and-go’s, controversy emerged late last year that may make them a non-starter. If you’re not familiar, the WSOP is always complete with its signature live, single-table tournaments. 

Ten people line up, and they start a table. 

Poker Players

The events are winner-takes-all. But usually, players chop and place side-bets - especially “last-longers”. For example, you and another player both put down $50. Whoever remains in the tournament the longest gets the pooled $100.

But the WSOP doesn’t pay cash – instead, it rewards players with Lammers, which are tournament buy-in chips. Previously it was no big deal to sell your Lammers to other players in exchange for dollars.

Pro tip: If you win $500 in Lammers and offer to sell them for $480, someone will probably buy them off you instantly. It’s a win-win. You get the cash, and they get to buy in for their tournament at a $20 discount.

This system only works when Lammers are interchangeable. But the WSOP was rumoured to change the policy at the end of 2021. Some cashiers said players had to prove they won the Lammers themselves or were utterly unusable.

We say “rumoured” because the WSOP has never made an official statement. Twitter was ablaze with furious poker players getting their Lammers rejected at the cashier cages. 

But, some players were able to cash in their chips without a problem. 

These Lammers are essentially worthless for people not wanting or unable to enter another tournament (e.g., their flight leaves the next day).

Without a guarantee that these chips will be tradeable, it could very well mark the end of the WSOP’s staple sit-and-go’s. 

  • They were an excellent option for players that didn’t want to spend days in a multi-day tournament.
  • They were a tremendous starting point for recreational players looking to get their feet wet. 
  • And punters… lots and lots of punters who wanted to blow off steam in an hour-long event. Prices started at $125. So, they were a much more affordable option than hopping into a bigger buy-in event.

Winners of satellites also receive Lammers. Some people played satellite events not for a seat but with hopes of trading Lammers for cash. This practice would end too if the WSOP formally changes the exchange policy. 

They might not have a choice, though. Perhaps the reason the WSOP cannot accept Lammers is tax-related.

#3) Women In Poker Have Their Moment

Women in Poker

2021 was a landmark year for women in poker, starting with the unprecedented results of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Venetian Main Event. Three of the final table players were women. The buy-in fee was $5,000. 

Even in a local casino daily, a final table of three women is unheard of, let alone a $5K. One of the finalists was Kyna England, a previously unknown poker player who has had a solid breakout year. About one year earlier,  her best live tournament cash was around $4,000. 

Last year she earned more than $700K. Her 2021 ended with winning Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) $1,100 Main Event for $186,713

She finished second in the Global Poker Index Female Player of the Year race.

She is an instructor for Poker Power, a women's empowerment organisation. Its mission is to teach one million women how to play poker. (Amanda Botfeld, this article’s author, is also affiliated.) 

  • Two years ago, they taught the game to about 1,000 women. 
  • Last year they taught 5,000 adults.

Poker Power's numbers are only growing. The startup received funding from investment company Peak6 – led by female billionaire CEO Jenny Just. This year, the company landed high-profile clients, teaching classes to JPMorgan, Hubspot, and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business.

It is only a matter of time until these students become the teachers, and we see these women rise from the classroom to the casino.

It is hard to overestimate the impact even this one organisation could have. Poker demographics have ample room for improvement, But it won’t take many more women to start seeing the statistics shift. 

Less than 10% of Main Event entrants are women; a minimal number would move the needle. But more importantly, Poker Power’s pivot to focusing on more corporate clients– their spin is that poker skills are business skills.

So, we could have a plethora of high-powered, highly-intelligent female poker players on the felt very soon.

#4) Vlogger Explosion

The YouTube poker vlogosphere is booming. The platform used to be limited to a few key names – O.G.s Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen. Then came the second wave with Johnnie Vibes, Jaman Burton, Matt Vaughn, Mariano, and Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau. 

Now there are too many to count. A new poker vlogger seems to be born every day, with personalities for everyone. 

There’s even a self-described OLDMAN COFFEE channel! 

A refreshing and surprising breakout star last year was Ashley Sleeth. She seemingly cracked 10K subscribers overnight. One of her latest videos scored upwards of 100,000 views. 

Ethan ‘Rampage’ Yau also had a rockstar year, winning more than $250,000 and securing two first-place tournament finishes. He and Mariano film themselves crushing $50/$100 blinds as high-stakes regulars. It’s hard to believe they were vlogging the $2/$3 streets just a couple of years ago. No doubt their quick come-up has inspired fans worldwide.

We can undoubtedly expect to see more new names entering the space. 

Jonathan Little and Bart Hanson have training sites with accompanying YouTube channels where they analyse poker hands. They each have invited vloggers to be on their respective shows. 

  1. It’s a natural partnership – the vloggers provide captivating footage.
  2. In return, they receive both advanced coaching and wider publicity for their channels. 

A previously underserved space, the poker YouTube vlogosphere is rapidly accelerating. It is likely to veer towards over-saturation in the years to come. 

Like with most industries, it’s best to get in early.

#5) Texas, Texas, Texas!

The centre of the poker universe right now is not Vegas – it’s the Lone Star state. Texas is quite literally the Wild, Wild West of cardrooms in more ways than one.

Government rules are currently incredibly loose. They make it easy to establish new operations as long as card houses charge memberships and/or seat fees rather than a rake.

Low barriers to entry have resulted in poker rooms popping up all over the place. Even vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen recently partnered with Doug Polk to take over Johnny Chan’s Houston cardroom and make it their own.

They announced their joint venture in late 2021. No doubt, the combined star power of the trio and active online presence will put Texas poker even further on the map (expect more vlogs).

Some black clouds seem to be circling, however. Just this week, the city of Dallas suddenly revoked the permit of the Texas Card House, credited with bringing the poker boom to Texas through high-action live streams. Its fate remains unclear. 

Maybe government regulations aren’t so lax after all?

Poker’s Future Looks Bright in 2022

Overall, the future looks very bright for poker in 2022. 

  • The rapid expansion in Texas shows there is room to grow.
  • The rise of poker vloggers will probably only continue to drive new players. 
  • Women poker players are on the cusp of having their time in the sun – if not this year, then next. 

But the standout success of Kyna England and Ashley Sleeth show that these changes may come sooner than we think. Especially if Poker Power has anything to say about it.

We will start by seeing what the WSOP has in store - assuming we can find on-strip parking.

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