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Study: Poker becoming a global game

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A study commissioned by PokerStars.com shows that Texas Hold’em is growing rapidly in markets such as central and eastern Europe, Russia, China, and South Korea. These regions, including countries of the former Soviet Union, are identified as having the highest rates of growth.

After 12 years of operation in online gaming, PokerStars dealt its 100 billionth poker hand last month, and Isidora Panagiotopoulou of Greece couldn’t believe her luck after landing the record milestone. To reach 100 billion hands, the world’s largest online poker site handed out an average of 83.3 million hands since opening for business on September 11, 2001.

Poker is believed to have originated in western Europe, and grew in popularity in the United States during the twentieth century. Now, the game has spread to most corners of the globe, except for the Middle East where Islamic laws ban gambling.

South America (particularly Brazil and Peru) and New Zealand are producing higher participation rates in the game of poker than other countries around the world, according to the gaming site. The growing popularity is expected to be a boon for Internet poker sites such as PokerStars which holds a 54 percent share of the market, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the Isle of Man-based company, it “commissioned a heat map to track that year-on-year growth to show when and where poker exploded onto the scene . . . . North America is still enjoying a rapid rise in 2006 in the years following [Chris] Moneymaker’s momentous [World Series of Poker] win. The growth continues, but just not at the same rate, while other regions and countries, such as Eastern Europe, Russia and Brazil pick up the baton.”

Since its founding in September 2001, PokerStars has emerged as the undisputed leader in online poker. It is located in the Isle of Man, a 220-square mile island off the coast of Great Britain.

The site has also successfully weathered the storms of the past couple of years. Canada, Mexico, and the United States are seeing some of the lowest growth rates out of any country. In April 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice shut down online poker sites operating within the United States, which caused many American professional poker players to establish residence in Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Macau, and Australia.

However, developments in North America have been offset by high growth in Europe and Asia, where the combined population – and market size – is significantly larger.

Additionally, Internet poker could soon be making a comeback into the U.S., given that many state governments are looking to raise tax revenue because of the sluggish economy. The Middle East has the lowest growth rate of any region since gambling is outlawed by most Islamic regimes.

Texas Hold’em has grown in popularity among Korean, Chinese, and Filipino players. The card game has also helped to make Macau a gambling hub nearly three times larger than Las Vegas in terms of annual revenue.

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