Poker Interest Surges Online as COVID-19 Lockdowns Continue

Interest in poker in all its forms -- and particularly in its availability online -- continues to surge as nations around the world continue to enforce lockdowns of people at risk of contracting and spreading the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Whether they are veterans of the game or newbies to poker just interested in a new activity, the game is receiving new attention from all quarters.

By: Haley Hintze

The Internet’s largest search engine, Google, allows live-time current and historical tracking of search terms through its Google Trends service. For example, a search on the basic term “poker” shows how the term (and the game) have spiked upward ever since lockdowns spread around the planet in mid-March. Here’s how Google sees it over the past 90 days:

By way of explanation, interest in any term such as “poker” is cyclical on a weekly basis, explaining the rhythm in the pattern above. Yet the interest in poker has peaked much higher since the third weekend in March, and it’s only begun to taper off.

Refine the search terms, and the upward spike is far more stunning. Here’s the same tracking for “online poker” over the past five years:

Google rates the popularity of a search term from 0 to 100, and in late March, interest in “online poker” reached an all-time high, as shown in the spike at the far right above. Google has tracked search terms since 2004, and the recent surge represents three or four times the interest online poker drew in the months before COVID-19 changed the scene.

Various poker-related search terms show the same trends, no matter the exact choice of words. Interest in poker, especially online poker, has been renewed. However, is that interest translating directly into new player signups? The answer to that seems to be a big “Yes!” as well.

This week, the GGPoker Network announced that it had recorded a 92% increase in traffic on its licensed UK site since February, pre-lockdown. Though just a single data point, it aligns with reports coming from operators around the globe. It also does not seem to matter whether a site or network is fully regulated or more of a grey-market, offshore offering. Online poker sites of all types are enjoying a windfall of sorts, even if it’s been instigated by something no one ever wanted to see occur.

How long will the surge last? That’s harder to say. Some tapering off is bound to occur, yet many countries’ lockdowns are likely to continue in at least a partial form for several more months. The rate of new signups and deposits may slow, but the real answer will come from the player-retention numbers achieved some months down the road. It’s likely not a new golden era, but online poker has proven itself a welcome respite during these otherwise dark days.

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