Believe it or not, playing poker is actually really popular in Australia, despite it seeming like the country itself is doing everything it can to stop that being the case. The game itself remains hugely popular Down Under, although there’s a notable duality between offline and online play these days.
As we all know, aside from being a fun way to pass the time with family or friends, playing poker typically involves gambling, buying in to get our seat at the table and wagering on the hands we’re dealt. And at the moment, there seems to be a crusade against pretty much anything that involves gambling in Australia.
That’s quite understandable, of course, given there are serious issues with problem gamblers, and they do need to be addressed. However, betting and wagering are hugely popular forms of entertainment, which means that poker in Australia remains one of the most intriguing casino games that people are keen to play.
Thriving Pub & Club Scene
If we want to explore just how popular the game is in Australia, we only need look at two thriving organisations, both of which oversee and manage competitive poker tournaments and events throughout the country. These are open to both professionals and casual players alike and given the plethora of legitimate and licensed events they arrange, it’s clear to see there’s a thriving poker scene at pubs, clubs, and casinos.
The first is the National Poker League (NPL), which apparently manages 500 weekly events around the country, and some of those are a pretty big deal. Looking ahead to 2024, one such collection of live events is the NPL Super Series run every four months, estimated to be worth $300,000 AUD and with a pot of $145,000 guaranteed.
Second, albeit placing neither in order of preference, we have the Australian Poker League (APL), which just like its counterpart and competitor is responsible for organising thousands of live games throughout the country. They manage and promote numerous daily games, located at hotels, pubs, clubs, and casinos, including the APL Poker Tour. This features 15 series events across four states and is estimated to be worth around $20 million AUD in total.
The APL claims that in 2023, the yearly prize pool across its tournament events has surpassed $22 million AUD, although beyond the headline numbers, they are perhaps the most prolific organisers of sit-in games at the broadest range of venues throughout Australia. However, when participating in some events promoted by both of these Aussie, particularly at pubs and clubs, some players have criticised the quality and level of games they have experienced.
Better Experience Online
For those who do so regularly, whether looking for casual and entry level games or something a little more professional and challenging, few options beat those offered by the legitimate online poker sites. Nevertheless, even fully licensed and legitimate offshore sites are prohibited from offering their services or promoting poker games in Australia.
But what does that mean for the players? Well, although it’s currently illegal for poker sites to promote themselves in Australia, there’s nothing illegal about Aussies playing at such websites if they wish. And this clearly highlights the duality of the poker scene Down Under, underlined by the popularity of the game itself, yet with increasingly strict restrictions depending on where you’re looking to play.
Some online casino and poker sites are blocked in Australia, despite being reputable and fully licensed by globally recognised bodies, such as the Malta Gaming Authority or the UK Gambling Commission to name but two. Quite often, advocates for blocking offshore gaming sites will claim it’s to avoid problem gambling, although there’s another key consideration.
Australia generates massive tax revenues from gambling, when it’s licensed and under the auspices of their state and federal control for licensing. Obviously, they don’t see a single cent when Aussies play poker and other table games at offshore casino sites. But there’s clearly a good reason why millions of Australians play at these sites, and that’s typically because the quality and choice of games available is far superior.
What the Future Holds
Looking ahead it seems unlikely that Australia will become any more relaxed regarding its gambling laws. Quite the opposite, in fact, given the pressure from lobbyists and anti-gambling groups for even tougher legislation. But if there’s one thing that Aussies typically detest, it’s being told what they can and can’t do, what they should enjoy and what they shouldn’t.
This means that when it comes to poker, enthusiasts will still travel to states where physical venues like pubs and clubs do provide legitimate games and tournaments. And the same applies to playing online too, given that poker fans will continue flocking to the safest and most trusted sites that are hosted outside of their own country.