PokerStrategy.com Column - The Future is Mobile

The way we consume media is changing
Below is one of my most recent columns for PokerStrategy.com from last month. 

Last year, you may recall me getting excited at the possibility of Facebook Poker. Today, I am excited at the reality of mobile poker.

Yesterday, I conducted an interview with the man behind the PokerStars mobile app, Jeffrey Haas. He made a very strong case for the future of mobile poker, but I was sold anyway. As soon as I got that app in my hands, I knew it was a game changer.

Onto the app itself for a moment: it is simply a brilliantly designed and very usable poker client. It looks good, runs smoothly and for the overall experience, you don't really feel like you are missing anything major that someone on the main PokerStars client has. You can even multi-table quite seamlessly, which is a surprise for such an early model.

I am yet to meet anyone from the UK who has tried this app and did not automatically fall in love with it, and that is what is really exciting me. Anyone who has tried it is raving about it, and already pondering the different scenarios in which they can play it - at live tournaments when they bust, on the bus, on the toilet....

The response reminds me of when another exciting change came onto the online poker landscape - Rush Poker. It was similarly positive and instantly addictive. So, when you factor in that we are weeks away from PokerStars launching Zoom, their own version of a fast-moving ring game, there appears to be some fun times ahead for mobile players.

PokerStars were not the first to launch a real money mobile poker app, but being the biggest poker room in the world, and boasting such a well designed product; they are clearly the room that has lit the fuse for the mobile poker boom.

50% mobile traffic by 2014?

pokerstars mobile
PokerStars Mobile
In his interview, Jeffrey Haas speculated that 25% of PokerStars's traffic could come from this mobile app by the end of the year, and nearly 50% by the end of 2013. I tweeted this prior to the interview going live, and was widely met with derision - nobody could believe it was even close to possible.

It might be because he did such a solid job convincing me in our interview, but I happen to believe Haas's prediction, or at least think it will come very close. There are some important things to consider here:

First of all, he said traffic, not revenue. We are a long way off any app enabling players to 20-table effectively, which means the high raking professional players will still be relying on big monitors and software for the foreseeable future. I doubt we will ever see a Supernova Elite achieving their status on a phone or tablet, but I do envision the majority of Star's players coming from this app in the future.

This is mainly because the PC is no longer the hardware of choice for most internet consumers. Since the launch of the iPad and similar tablet devices (and the increasing sophistication of smartphones), PC and laptop sales have been in dramatic decline. They will never disappear, but most people do not need a computer for anything other than surfing the web, checking email, and playing games. A light tablet device is a much better option for most consumers than a big bulky computer.

The ease of use of tablet devices also means that they are being bought by people who would never have otherwise bought a computer. Tablets are becoming very fashionable, especially among demographics like women and older people - demographics that would never otherwise have even considered the thought of online poker.

And this really is the vision of PokerStrategy.com CEO Dominik {communitylink=Korn+level} Kofert in his latest column, The Future of Poker. In it, he urges operators to market poker more as a fun video game to new demographics, and I think mobile poker does just that.

Who will be next for mobile poker?

Is this what multi-tabling will look like?
I think Haas's prediction of 50% app-based traffic by the end of 2013 is accurate, because I think that most internet traffic will be phone and tablet based by then.

Not only do I think that PokerStars will see this trend in their liquidity, most of the other operators are going to have to hurry up their own efforts to launch a mobile platform, so it might be the same across the board. 

PartyPoker confirmed to us that they would be mobile in 2012, Bwin already is, and should Full Tilt ever relaunch, they already had an existing app. Elsewhere, it is looking more and more likely that Zynga is going to enter the real-money arena sooner rather than later.

Of course there are some concerns about mobile poker. For example, I have a horrible feeling they will make live poker games a lot slower and less sociable, as combined with tweeting chip counts and playing mobile between hands, live players will struggle to look up from their mobile phones.

Another big concern with mobile is addictive behaviour. Not only is gambling a potential addiction, so is using your mobile phone. Email, internet, and mobile addiction are all becoming very real, very serious problems. Someone with a gambling problem who all of a sudden has the ability to play poker during their lunch break at work is going to be in a very vulnerable position.

But I must point out very quickly that we cannot possibly put the blame on PokerStars, or any other mobile poker operator, should this become an issue. People have always been able to gamble, and the same would no doubt have been said when online gambling first surfaced over a decade ago. Mobile devices might allow an addiction to surface sooner, but removing mobile devices will not stop problem gambling; it will simply change where it takes place.

Whether you believe that 50% of online poker will be played on a mobile app by the end of the year or not, it is pretty clear that mobile poker is going to have a significant impact on the game, and it is hard to see it being anything but the positive impact poker has been looking for.

Find out more about the PokerStars Mobile app

by Barry Carter


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