Happy Thanksgiving to our fellow poker players in the United States! It’s been a great year for our great game, giving poker players many reasons to be thankful today and every day.
Since the last time we all gobbled down multiple plates full of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, the poker community has battled through far too many cheating scandals, mourned some losses, and no additional states legalized online poker. But we’re not going to focus on the negatives today, and will instead take a look at the many reasons why we should be thankful for what we have.
World Series of Poker’s Popularity at All-Time High
The most prestigious annual poker extravaganza — the World Series of Poker — has never been bigger or more entertaining. We’re coming off a summer that had poker fans raving about the series new location (Bally’s), the second largest Main Event ever, and an overall increase in attendance in many events.
There isn’t a better measure for how popular poker in any given year than WSOP turnout. The 2022 WSOP proved that the poker community has moved past the pandemic and that tournament poker is alive and well like never before.
We can also be thankful that Bally’s will soon be renovated — they already have a new poker room — and rebranded as Horseshoe Las Vegas. By the time the 2023 WSOP rolls around, the property will look nicer and more modern.
WPT Still Crushing it 20 Years Later
The WSOP isn’t the only benchmark for testing tournament poker’s popularity. We can also look at World Poker Tour turnout, which has been incredible since the pandemic, and it’s about to get even better.
Next month, the WPT will host the largest guaranteed prize pool event in live tournament history ($15 million) at the Wynn in Las Vegas. The $10,400 buy in WPT World Championship Dec. 12-20 figures to be one of the most exciting poker events ever.
In its 20th season, something else worth being thankful for, the WPT’s turnout over the past year has been objectively stellar. Take, for example, the $3,500 buy in Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, Florida back in January, which had 1,982 entrants. Or, the $5,000 buy in WPT Venetian in July, which took place during the WSOP Main Event but still had a whopping 1,188 entrants, easily surpassing the lofty $5 million guaranteed prize pool.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Hustler Casino Live
Say what you want about the alleged Robbi-Garrett cheating scandal, but there’s no denying the positive impact Hustler Casino Live has had on the poker world over the past year. And, for that, we should all be thankful.
Hustler Casino Live has nearly 200,000 YouTube subscribers and has completely dominated the live-streamed poker scene. The show, a Nick Vertucci and Ryan Feldman production, has created new poker celebrities such as Wesley Fei and Alan Keating, something that poker has desperately needed in recent years.
Bonus reason to be thankful: the historic “MrBeast Game,” an HCL live-stream in May with Phil Hellmuth, Tom Dwan, and some of the most popular Twitch and YouTube streamers. At one point in the show, more than 100,000 people were tuned in, making it the most watch live-stream in poker history … by a landslide.
Allen Kessler’s Food Porn Tweets
Allen Kessler. star of the PokerNews “Chainsaw Report” during the WSOP, is a national treasure. He’s truly one of the most valuable members of the poker community, even though his bad beat stories can get to be a bit nauseating at times.
Still, the “Chainsaw” is quite the character and one we should all be thankful is part of our little world. Kessler is also a highly underrated poker player. His tight style of play is often criticized to a point of disrespect, and while many say he’ll never win a WSOP bracelet until he loosens up, the fact of the matter is he has 98 cashes in bracelet events and 105 more in WSOP Circuit tournaments. You can spin that any way you’d like, but if cashing in hundreds of poker tournaments against some of the best players in the world was so easy, everyone would do it.
But we’re even more thankful this year for Kessler’s food porn tweets. The pics he shares of bland, plain hamburgers, vegetable-less chicken noodle soup, and greasy fast-food — all paid using casino comps, of course — will make your mouth water (or vomit). Just check out the lead image to see what he had last night at the grand opening of a new Italian restaurant in Las Vegas.
Fish sticks, boiled potatoes and fresh pizza @PokerroomKings. Yummy. https://t.co/CGZfizEw0D
We love you, Allen, but your eating habits are that of a 10-year-old. Please never change.
It’s almost crazy to think just how far poker vlogging has come over the past few years. We should all be thankful for vloggers such as Andrew Neeme, Brad Owen, Ethan “Rampage” Yau, Jaman Burton, and many others because they are every bit as responsible for the continued growth of poker as anyone. And, a special shoutout to the first to put serious effort into poker vlogging, Tim “thetrooper97” Watts, who paved the way for the current generation of poker vloggers.
Poker vlogs have made up for the decrease in televised poker shows, and done so much to promote the game. The days of poker on mainstream cable TV are gone, and the vlogs have filled the void left behind from the poker boom era.
No one has built a bigger brand through vlogging than Owen, whose YouTube channel has surpassed 640,000 subscribers, a following that once seemed impossible in our relatively small niche.
Poker in Texas
Texas is the second largest US state with over 29 million residents. Unfortunately, the Lone Star State has some strict anti-gambling laws and the future of poker in Texas isn’t so clear. There are a number of politicians across the state fighting to put a stop any form of gambling, including poker.
Still, there are dozens of poker clubs in operation and we should all be thankful for that because the future of Texas poker isn’t guaranteed. As we speak, one major Dallas card room — Texas Card House — is fighting a legal battle with the city to remain open, and multiple poker rooms across the state have been raided over the past year.
Texas is an important state for poker due to its population, and it would be a crushing blow if those who are fighting to ban poker were to win the battle. That said, we’re confident cooler heads will prevail and there will be some powerful lawmakers who realize how cruel it would be to put thousands of people in Texas out of work if the state were to ban poker.