It’s somewhat ironic that when you Google “world series,” many of the responses have nothing to do with baseball. The World Series of Poker is just as popular, if not more so, than the traditional game of baseball, even though that Series is considerably older and has a multi-generational tradition. But why is poker so popular, even when people are merely watching it?
Let’s count the ways. It’s fast. It’s strategic. It’s an activity you can do with friends or complete strangers and feel just as comfortable. It’s something you can do online or on your mobile device without anyone at work or home even really knowing. Oh, and let’s not forget you can make money doing it. That’s certainly something you can’t generally do by watching baseball, unless you work for ESPN, Sports Illustrated or another sports-media outlet.
There are many sites that claim to be the best sites to play poker online, but a web search will turn up many different card-playing resources. There are also myriad poker-related apps for iOS and Android, for those who prefer the handheld rather than PC-based card experience. Compared to the number of baseball-related apps, in fact, the card playing ones dwarf them in quantity.
This isn’t all that surprising; playing cards is second only to dice as the world’s oldest game. As a result, it’s no wonder poker is popular, because it’s one of the most globally played games offline. There are also a host of variations on the core game, including the option to play with or without wild cards and the ability to choose no fewer than two variants that have you hold your hand rather than draw.
But what it it about poker specifically? After all, Windows PCs have shipped with a game of solitaire basically since the platform launched. Yet that game doesn’t see regular tournaments, there’s no cable TV special, it hasn’t inspired a stereotypical “solitaire night” with the guys, and it certainly doesn’t have the high-stakes games or minimum-bid areas in Las Vegas.
For that matter, Vegas doesn’t even offer solitaire. And therein lies the reason why: it’s competitive. It’s strategic. It’s not something you do on your own, unless you sit at a video poker machine all by your lonesome and make pennies on the dollar. People do that, to be sure, but the in-person, in-app and online competition is what really gets people going.
So as you sit back tonight to catch Game 6 of the World Series, we’ll forgive you if you have a TV remote in one hand and a companion device in the other so you can play cards during commercial breaks. You surely won’t be alone, and maybe you’ll even make some money while doing it. Good luck.