Poker is not quite the young adult’s game that it was during the early ‘poker boom’ of the 2000s. When Chris Moneymaker stole the hearts of the world with his unlikely Main Event win at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, few could have predicted the impact it would have. Millions around the world were fascinated with the chance to win big playing cards online. Digital poker rooms flourished, with huge prize pools, lots of game variants and plenty of interactivity in online forums, podcasts and YouTube videos.
Fast forward to the present day, and the average age of online poker players is said to be 40 in the recently regulated U.S. market. The burgeoning esports industry may have had something to say about the drain of millennial talent from online and offline poker rooms. Poker, which was once the innovative, trendy gaming option, is in danger of being usurped by its younger cousin, with online strategy games such as Hearthstone and League of Legends taking the lead.
Consequently, the online poker industry has had to think outside the box to win back millennials and gamify the next generation of poker fans. Virtual reality (VR) has been a significant boon to the online poker scene. For a relatively straightforward game that requires only a pack of cards and some poker chips, VR has helped to bring poker firmly into the 21st century. The idea of donning a VR headset and transporting yourself onto the scene of a glitzy Las Vegas casino floor to view the other human players at your table is an immersive experience. And the next generation is all about experiences. They don’t care about material goods. They want to have unique experiences that they can remember forever.
Using even entry-level VR headsets such as the Oculus Go, it is possible to play poker online in VR thanks to the Poker VR app. There are millions of unique customisations of your gaming experience. It’s as close to real-life poker as you can get — while sitting in the comfort of your living room armchair. Although Poker VR does not offer players the chance to play to win cold hard cash, players that don the VR headsets can view their opponents. The expressive avatars help you to read the body language of your human opponents to spot how they are reacting to each bet, which is something that is lacking with traditional online poker rooms. And leaderboards help you to track your progress, both against your friends and within your ‘career mode’.
The Poker VR software might not be the most robust poker software you’ve ever seen, but it does shed light on data and player information mid-hand compared with a traditional online poker room. If you’re playing at a VR tournament, there’s no way of finding out how many players remain, for instance. Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent way to mimic the thrills and spills of live poker at a fraction of the cost of visiting a land-based casino or poker room. When you consider that almost three-quarters of Brits would like to experience the world through VR, it’s little wonder that gaming experiences are also becoming increasingly virtual.