Pub Poker Booming in Australia

Omeed Nikdin
Pub poker qualifier Omeed Nikdin doing an interview at WSOP APAC.

Poker is so popular in Australia these days that you don’t even have to go to the casino to play a live tournament, thanks to a burgeoning pub league system.

Every month hundreds of thousands of players take part in tournaments that range from $20 to several hundred with no entrance fees. 

It’s the largest poker pub league in the world and it’s becoming impossible to ignore, even having an impact on prestigious live series like the WSOP. 

“It’s massive,” said Jonno Pittock, the former director of poker operations at Crown Casino.

“It’s hard to understand or comprehend what effect it has on the game long-term – or already has had.”

Pub poker was initially composed entirely of free-to-play leagues. The goal was to get players into the pub, teach them the game, and hopefully have them spend some money in the venue.

Craig Evans
APL/888poker qualifier Craig Evans

“Joe Hachem won the Main Event in 2005 and the Australian Poker League launched the same year,” said Pittock. “It was the perfect storm.”

In the last few years the pubs have added real-money games due to popular demand.

Pub League Players Qualify for WSOP APAC

Serious poker players might scoff at the casual atmosphere but more than a few pub players found their way into the $10,000 WSOP Asia-Pacific Main Event. In fact 888poker alone put eight pub players into the prestigious tournament.

According to Pittock, pub poker has helped introduce countless new players to the game of poker.

“It’s fun, it’s a bit more social,” explained pub qualifier Omeed Nikdin who was playing the WSOP APAC Main Event.

It’s obvious that pub poker isn’t just for hardcore gamblers and is even a family affair in some households.

Craig Evans qualified for the WSOP APAC Main Event through a pub league and 888poker but his wife Carmen also enjoys the game.

Omeed Nikdin
Omeed Nikdin

“I love the APL,” said Carmen. “It’s great because you don’t have to play with a bunch of drunks or anything. I’m definitely an APL girl.”

Craig and Carmen sometimes drive over half an hour to play APL events. When Craig won his Main Event seat on 888poker the Internet quit and he had to complete the tournament on his son’s Android phone.

Pub poker has even captured the attention of online poker site operators, who view the leagues as a way to acquire new players.

888poker works with leagues and lets them earn points on their site when they are playing in the pub.

Of course there are some downsides to the pub poker leagues. For one players have to also serve as dealers. In addition the structures are usually quite fast, as pubs don’t want the tournaments to last forever.

Still, it’s obvious the pub poker is only getting more popular in Australia.

In fact when you think about hundreds of thousands of players competing on nationwide leaderboards with no rake, integration with online poker sites, feeding into major live poker series the Aussie pub league system could serve as an excellent blueprint for how poker could potentially be handled in the United States when online poker is fully legal.

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