As we approach the end of 2019, our gaze inevitably turns to 2020. What can we expect in the world of poker over the coming 12 months?
Naturally, regular live poker and online poker will remain fiercely popular, and it’s worth looking at what trends might be in store to keep those worlds fresh. Meanwhile, the world of poker streaming on Twitch continues to expand, and we caught up with one of the biggest stars, Lex Veldhuis, to get his opinion on what to expect in 2020.
Similarly the future of poker will also depend on new innovations, and a lot of investment is being put into Virtual Reality (VR), where the possibilities seem limitless.
So strap in, here’s our look at what trends we can expect in 2020 across the poker world:
PLATINUM PASS HUNTING
The biggest tournament on the PokerStars radar for 2020 will be the second renewal of the brilliant PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship, otherwise known as the PSPC. Following the unprecedented success of the first event in the Bahamas in January, the venue shifts to Barcelona in August, and the poker world will go Platinum Pass hunting during the preceding seven months.
As was the case for the first set of giveaways, Platinum Passes are on offer to winners of select online and live tournaments; to lucky recipients of Mystery Chest drops; to winners of contests hosted by PokerStars’ Twitch streamers; and any number of other methods announced as the year progresses. The search for a Platinum Pass will again become one of the trends for 2020, much like it was throughout 2018.
OTHER LIVE POKER
The biggest buy-in tournament of all time took place in 2019 when the Triton Series laid on a £1 million buy-in event in London. It represented the peak of a three or four year period during which tournament buy-ins continued to soar and the elite super high roller world splintered from what you might call a more regular tournament circuit.
It’s difficult to predict if this trend will continue through 2020, but the suggestion seems to be that the super high roller market will consolidate rather than either dramatically grow or retract. However the influence of the Triton Series, which originated among the high rollers of Malaysia, might end up being the emergence of some brilliant new Asian talent at poker tables of all buy-ins.
In Monte Carlo in May 2019, Wei Huang became the second Chinese player to finish as runner up in an EPT Main Event, a little less than a year since Haoxiang Wang finished second in Barcelona. Yunye Lu finished sixth in Barcelona this time around, and then Yi Ye won the EPT Open Main Event in Sochi in October.
Asian players are visiting Europe in greater numbers than ever before — South Korea’s Gab Yong Kim was very unlucky to bust in ninth at EPT Prague — and it seems certain we will be crowning our first Chinese EPT title winner very soon, perhaps even in 2020.
Poker streaming has been huge for at least the past four years, and there’s simply no sign of it losing any popularity. While cutting edge innovators such as Jason Somerville continue to unveil new concepts — the Run It Up Live Home Game launched in 2019 — streaming stalwarts such as Lex Veldhuis continue to break records in viewer numbers.Veldhuis offered his ideas as to what trends 2020 might bring in the poker streaming world: “I think there will be a lot of technological developments,” he said. “The tools are getting easier to use and people are becoming more knowledgable about them. One guy who immediately comes to mind is Tom ‘Pleb_Method’ Hayward, aka ‘MajinBoob’, who also streams for PokerStars. His use of technology is insane. He’s incredible, and he’s teaching me a lot about that stuff.
“I think that a lot of the people from the Dare to Stream promotion are already part of the Twitch community, and they’re going to be able to find a lot of support from other streamers. People are sharing a lot with each other. There’s not much shark-like competitiveness going on, which is nice as everyone has their own style and everyone will get the viewers who like them.
I think the trend will be people finding their own tone. For a while, people saw certain streamers and felt like they had to be like them. I think over the past two years, with me coming up, Spraggy coming up, Tonkaaaa being big, that trend has passed. Now people think ‘Hmmm, so I can swear’ or ‘Hmmm, I can just be a grumpy old fart like Spraggy’, or ‘Hmmm, I can just kick the system as Tonkaaaa does’. That will motivate people to be themselves, and people who adhere to that will rise to the top. Twitch is a very real platform, and viewers will pop the bullshit balloon very quickly.”
OTHER TECH INNOVATIONS
“I think VR has near unlimited potential at the moment,” said PokerStars Ambassador James Mackenzie, pointing to one of the most likely areas of innovation for 2020. Virtual Reality poker — as popularised by PokerStars’ VR offering — brings a new dimension to the game we all love, and all evidence suggests the game will only get more sophisticated.
Since its beta launch in January 2019, there have been at least two developer announcements or updates every month, fixing bugs, introducing new features and opening the game to new territories. If this rate of progress is sustained through the new year, the game, which already has near unanimous positive feedback on gaming platforms and communities can do nothing but grow.
Experimentation has been the name of the game in the PokerStars world over the past couple of years, with new variations on popular poker formats launching regularly. Not all of them have set the world alight, but many are now firmly in the poker firmament, and the trend for 2020 will surely be the continued attempt to innovate. Deep Water and Tempest poker were the latest to launch on PokerStars towards the end of 2019, but everyone will still be seeking the next 6+ (aka Short Deck), which has become a global success. Dismissed as a fad by some, 6+ tournaments are still growing in popularity in the Asian high stakes scene, but also making the leap to more mainstream tours. In EPT Prague, the €1K 6+ event drew a respectable 37 entries. There are no guarantees that the new year will bring in anything quite as successful, but the certainty is that there will be at least a few new games to try out.
It’s also certain that the trend for online poker series will continue, and perhaps expand, through 2020. While WCOOP, SCOOP and TCOOP will make a comeback, and Micro Millions similarly seems set to return for another successful few weeks, the High Roller Series and Winter Series also seem likely to be back on the calendar, and who knows what else might join them?