Where in the World Is Poker Most Popular?

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Playing cards making up a map of the world
BetMGM Jan 01, 2024, 3:32 PM

Gambling has grown to become a crucial part of many cultures, even becoming completely synonymous with some locations. Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau, and Monte Carlo are just a few that spring to mind. One of the most popular games in such places is, of course, poker. 

The game is loved by many, transcending borders and languages, with live poker tournaments held on every continent. But where exactly does this classic card game hold the strongest sway? In this article, you’ll discover the answer.

Why Poker Is So Popular

Poker’s universal appeal can be attributed to several factors. But for most players, it’s the skill-based nature that really stands out. Casino games are generally quite unpredictable, so players must rely on luck to secure their wins. Poker is a big exception to this since your skills play a vital role in how successful you can become.

This casino staple is also a popular social activity that thrives on human interaction. When you play, you’re not merely trying to beat a computer program, like slots, or a dealer, as in blackjack. Your competitors are the people seated at your table, and engaging them is non-negotiable if winning is your goal. This social framework is one of the secrets of poker’s popularity, which explains why it’s also played among families and friends.

In addition, there are numerous variants of poker, each with its own unique rules and strategies. Some of the most popular poker variations are Texas hold’em, Omaha, and seven-card stud. 

However, the rise of online poker created room for even more innovation, adding depth and richness to the gambling experience — not to mention the fact that the ability to play poker online has made these games even more accessible.

Countries Where Poker Is Most Popular

Although it is a game with widespread allure, the popularity of poker is undeniably more pronounced in certain countries. Over time, these nations have developed a gambling culture that embraces the game within and outside the casino. 

In some regions, its deep roots exist because it has been passed down through generations. Factors like legality and prominence in the mainstream media have also influenced its acceptance in other places. 

Here is a list of some of the poker giants in the world today.

1. United States of America

The emergence of poker in the U.S.A. dates back as far as the 19th century, during the era of the Wild West. Since then, poker playing has seen massive growth. 

For instance, according to recent figures, over 60 million people play online in the United States today — truly impressive poker player stats. Offline, the country can boast more than 400 poker rooms, with California having the highest number.

Poker is widely accepted as America’s game for many reasons. Of course, there’s the aforementioned connection with the Wild West that will always remain. It is also constantly depicted in U.S. media, being the main subject of blockbuster movies like “Maverick” and “Molly’s Game.”

Furthermore, the world’s biggest poker event, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), is hosted in the United States. This and many other big poker shows are broadcast on television and the internet with millions of viewers. But it was Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP Main Event in 2003 that sparked the poker boom. 

2. Brazil

Brazil is another country in the Americas with many poker players. The country has a long-standing gambling culture but has faced some challenges due to legal restrictions. Nevertheless, because it is regarded as a game of skill, restrictions on poker are more lax. It is also poorly regulated, allowing players to join in, but most of this only happens online.

Famous Brazilian poker players include Alexandre Gomes, Andre Akkari, and Felipe Ramos. The Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr., is also an ardent recreational poker player who has appeared in some televised events. With such influential people playing the game, it is not surprising to see its popularity growing in the country. 

Furthermore, events like the Brazilian Series of Poker (BSOP) and Kings Series of Poker (KSOP) continue to be held in the country. The number of participants at the 2022 BSOP Tournament was over 25,000. In addition, roughly R$45 million ($9.14 million U.S.) was distributed in prizes.

3. Canada

Canada is another country widely recognized for its online poker popularity. While accessibility and the large variety of games are significant factors, its proximity to the United States also influences its poker culture. 

It is the only country outside of the U.S.A. with three players in the top 25 on the global all-time money list. In addition, entrepreneurs like Isai and Mark Scheinberg are prominent figures tied to the Canadian poker landscape. Not to mention poker legend Daniel Negreanu.

In 2022, poker popularity statistics for Canada revealed that about 3.1 million people played for fun at least once a month. There are also several casinos that cater to the country’s gambling population, and this includes poker lovers. 

Many notable tournaments are held in Canada, offering sizable prize pools. Some of these include the Canadian Poker Championships and the Canadian Poker Open. Several WSOP Circuit Events are also among the most popular poker competitions in the country.

4. France

When discussing countries with gambling cultures, who could forget France? Unsurprisingly, the iconic game of poker thrives there since that’s where the game is believed to have originated. 

Poque was a card game played in the early 19th century in this region that involved bluffing. Many historians agree this game was exported to the United States by French settlers, where it eventually evolved into modern-day poker.

Gambling is legal in France, and this covers casino games like poker. In 2021, the National Gaming Authority confirmed that 1.7 million player accounts made at least one bet across all licensed poker sites. France also has its fair share of poker celebrities, like Bertrand Grospellier, better known as ElkY. Not to mention popular tournaments like the France Poker Series and historic venues like Le Club Barrière.

Discover a Whole New World of Poker

Since the Moneymaker-inspired boom, numbers at major tournaments have dipped. So, is poker’s popularity in decline? Not really. Gaming habits and preferences are certainly changing, as is the global economy. But the history of poker, coupled with its international appeal, shows this game is a resilient one.

Whatever the future holds, BetMGM will be at the forefront of online poker in the United States. Register today and join hundreds of tournaments with cash games at a wide variety of stakes.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.