Thoughts from a pro

How does poker reflect economic crash?

Perry Friedman is a World Series of Poker bracelet winner and a sponsored pro at Full Tilt Poker.  Friedman is a graduate of Stanford University and now lives in Las Vegas.

Living in Las Vegas, I have seen the effects of the current downturn firsthand.  Casinos have been hit pretty hard.  Several of the major casinos are in danger of bankruptcy or restructuring.  Some casino projects have stalled, while others have been completely abandoned.  You can’t read the newspaper or watch local news without more bad news being reported about the casino industry.  People are still coming to Vegas, but they aren’t spending as much while they’re here as before.

On the bright side, gambling in general tends to be pretty resilient when it comes to economic downturns.  There is always the “lottery effect,” where gambling is a way out for people who perceive themselves as having no other alternatives.  However, those people aren’t about to head to Las Vegas to gamble — they will instead play locally (whether it’s the lottery, horse betting, online gambling, or whatever is available to them).

As far as poker goes, live poker is seeing the same downturn.  The recreational poker player now has less expendable income and cash game poker doesn’t have that same “lottery effect.”  On the flip side, tournament poker does have that big reward potential.  I believe tournaments will suffer less than cash games.  Tournament poker was already seeing a slight decline prior to the economic downturn, mostly due to the huge peak it hit in the post-Moneymaker era.  I expect this year’s World Series of Poker to do about the same numbers as it did last year.  I think that as the economy rebounds, the poker industry will begin to rise again.  There is also hope with the new Administration in place that the regulatory environment may change for online poker, which could lead to a new resurgence in live poker as well.


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