Virtual Reality: The Future of Online Poker?

Poker has been around for more than a century. During this time, it has evolved, adapting to the habits of the players and the times, branching out into areas like casinos (with the many types of casino poker) and sports (with “match poker”). Poker is played in many forms, from the simple and fast-paced video poker to home games, organized tournaments, and dedicated poker rooms in casinos – but most of the hands today are played online. And, of course, in virtual reality, using the best VR headsets for gambling.

Poker goes virtual

There are several ways to enjoy poker in virtual reality. 

On one hand, there’s the Poker VR experience for Oculus users, a piece of software that supports Gear VR and Oculus Go. The game offers multiplayer casual and social poker to players online, as well as daily tournaments, fully personalizable avatars, and countless ways to customize your social poker experience. 

On the other, there’s the “serious” part of virtual reality poker, with major names in the online poker industry behind it. PokerStars VR is the company’s own VR experience offering top-of-the-line visuals and interactions while keeping the fun in the game.

PokerStars VR is a world-class social experience – and it’s also free, simple, and easy to use. To make it more attractive, the developers included the possibility to follow live video streams while inside the virtual poker room, exotic locations (like a Monte Carlo yacht or a space station), and world-class poker games ranging from classic Texas Hold’em to Sit-n-Go tournaments or games played against Team PokerStars Pro members. 

PokerStars’ VR poker experience runs on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Virtual poker, real money

For now, the only VR poker options available are free-to-play social games, focusing more on the entertaining and social nature of the game. They are monetized, of course, but only in the way other social poker and gambling games are: by selling virtual chips to play with.

Will there ever be a true virtual reality poker experience available? Well, a lot depends on the market share of VR headsets. As of the end of 2018, there were around 170 million VR headsets in the world, many of them standalone devices that use smartphones for their screens. While the number of the more “serious” platforms is growing – announcing Half-Life: Alyx alone added more than 1 million Valve Index users to the pool – the growth is pretty slow compared to other platforms. Besides, many platforms – like Google’s Android and the ones run by the two major gaming console providers – frown upon real-money gambling. So, proper online poker in a VR environment will likely be a thing of the future for now.

But the VR market is growing every year, so we can expect it to reach a proverbial “critical mass” for it to be a viable alternative to social poker.

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