Online poker is an undeniably huge contributor to the success of the igaming industry, pulling in over 100 million players worldwide. 

Maksim Gorbach, Head of Poker at Enlabs

As with any section of the online casino sector, online poker suppliers are constantly finding ways to stamp their name on the centuries-old format with new features, mechanics and innovations. 

We spoke with Maksim Gorbach, Head of Poker at Enlabs, to discuss how online poker has evolved with modern technologies in recent years, the power of streamers and whether the game format is in need of some revitalisation. 

CasinoBeats: How would you define the current state of online poker, and how well is the game appealing to a new generation of players?  

Maksims Gorbach: In my opinion, it seems that poker is currently in a stable stagnation. This is the result of the huge growth of the market after the post-COVID poker boom and the immense dominance of GGPoker in the world. Currently, the market has calmed down, has stable traffic, and needs future changes across all categories.

CB: How much has online poker evolved in the past few years?  

MG: It seems to me that things have changed drastically, especially because the accessibility of content has reached a new level. Nowadays, it’s possible to learn to play at a high level in the shortest time for free, and there is a wide variety of products available, which has allowed many people to try their hand at poker.

Overall, this is a challenging philosophical question, as there are too many different factors influencing poker as a whole and in each market. The main reason for the slowdown is still regulation, which doesn’t always reflect an understanding of the product itself.

CB: What technologies and innovations are currently shaping the online poker industry?  

MG: I’ll be cliché, but I suppose that artificial intelligence will largely dictate and shape the future conditions of online poker. Online poker has long been heading towards creating a game with a higher element of luck. 

I can’t say whether this is good for the product, but it’s definitely better for the provider, as it evens out the playing field between professionals and amateurs. So far, no new technology has fully conquered the world, but VR is obviously on the rise.

CB: Are there any products, formats or features that you’ve seen in recent months that you think can take the online poker scene by storm?  

MG: It’s not so much that any element of the poker game is conquering markets, rather streaming platforms are helping enthusiasts, and others, derive more enjoyment from the game. It’s obvious that in markets full of recreational players, streaming is now the reason why newcomers spend more time playing – it’s like a replacement for Netflix and YouTube.

CB: How have player preferences for online poker changed in recent years? 

MG: Preferences lean towards faster-paced games since not everyone has a lot of time to play poker. This is the primary foundation, and everything new is built upon it. All new game formats have transitioned into accelerated formats, while more complex games have failed to capture the market, with Chinese poker being a prime example.

CB: What demand is there on both suppliers and operators to offer poker products that are socially engaging? 

MG: Having many brands across different markets, we’ve realised that having just one poker network is quite risky nowadays. That’s why we’re moving towards providing different poker networks. 

Generally speaking, I’d say the market lacks new poker networks, but at the same time, I understand that this is a very challenging business. It requires finding good specialists, and they’re not so abundant in the market.

CB: Do you think online poker is in need of being ‘reinvented’? 

MG: Online poker is subject to huge risks due to the increasing number of fraudsters, who are not so easy to track. Poker absolutely requires many security changes as a priority.

As for players, many now understand that being a professional player is not as romantic as it used to be, so preferences have shifted towards the ‘semi-pro’ status. All of this needs to be taken into account and new games need to be developed in this direction.