Australia is one of those countries in which gambling is tightly ingrained in the culture itself. Looking at the numbers, over 80% of all Australian adults engage in some sort of gambling activity.
This is the highest gambling rate in the world. Moreover, the country’s gambling industry employs well over 30,000 citizens, accounting for a substantial yearly revenue percentage.
When it comes to specific types of gambling, Texas Hold'em and poker, in general, stand out as some of the most popular games among Australian gamblers.
To better understand how this exciting game became so popular in the country, we’ll take a tour through Australia’s poker history and look at the key events that shaped the country’s relationship with poker. So, let’s jump right into it!
Poker’s Modest Beginnings in Australia
People of Australia have always loved different card games. Long before poker, they enjoyed games like euchre, hearts, etc.
Poker as such has only been present in Australia for a few decades, but the locals quickly picked up on the game, and it has since become one of the favorite options of players Down Under. With a natural love for gambling in general and all sorts of card games, Australians were quick to adopt poker.
Late 20th Century and the Introduction of Poker
When looking at just how well-developed the Australian poker market is nowadays, it’s easy to think that the game was around for a century, shaping the Aussie culture.
The truth is that, like most US imports, poker has been mainstream in Australia only for the last several decades.
Of course, like most ex-British colonies, Australians have been playing cards for hundreds of years. Still, poker and other popular casino games haven’t experienced wide recognition until the Internet came about.
Until the 90s, Australians mainly played poker at home and knew as much about the game as they could see in popular US TV shows and movies.
Plus, even though there were casinos in Australia at that time, poker games weren’t available as other classic table games or real money pokies and poker machines.
Once the Internet started to become a fairly common thing in everyone’s households, online poker rooms started booming in Australia. By the late 90s, Australian poker enthusiasts were well-familiar with all popular game variations.
The Turn of the Century and the Australian Poker Championship
In 1997, poker was introduced at the famous Crown Casino in Melbourne. A year later, Australian poker players saw the introduction of the first significant poker championship dubbed the Australian Poker Championship, commonly known today as Aussie Millions.
Over the years, Aussie Millions has grown to become one of the most prominent high-roller tournaments, featuring some of the biggest buy-ins in the history of the game.
This trend began in 2006 with the $100,000 No Limit Hold’em Challenge. At the time, this was the highest buy-in for any poker tournament in the world.
By 2011, the buy-ins reached another record, as Aussie Millions added a tournament with a $250,000 buy-in that year.
Over more than two decades since it was established, Aussie Millions saw a great number of poker champions claim first place. This includes names like Bryn Kenney, Gus Hansen, Alexander Kostristyn, and many others.
In 2013 and 2014, Australians could participate in the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific, held at the Crown Casino both years.
Fun fact, the first of these two tournaments was highlighted by Daniel Negreanu winning first place with his hand in the final being a pair of twos.
Besides this, Australia has also hosted many other poker events, notably the WPT, APT, APPT, and many others.
Poker in Australia Nowadays
The gambling situation in Australia is similar to that in the US, as each state has its own set of gambling laws.
That said, one difference between the two countries is that gambling is legal in all of Australia’s states; there are just various rules and restrictions depending on where you live.
Today, there are well over a hundred poker tables in the country, spread across many great land-based casinos.
This includes the Crown Casino chain, Adelaide Casino, Cairns Reef Hotel Casino, Poker Palace Sydney, and many other top venues.
Also, video poker and poker machines, in particular, enjoy massive popularity in Australia. For example, even though Australia has a significantly smaller population than the US, it has five times more poker machines.
Poker is so prevalent in Australian society that it has also often been the cause of concern.
It’s estimated that between 80,000 and 160,000 Australian adults (one percent of the population) have significant gambling problems, with twice as much dealing moderate gambling issues.
The Massive Popularity of Online Poker in Australia
Ever since the late 90s, online poker has been massively popular in Australia. The early 2000s were the golden years of online poker in Australia, as an entire generation of Australian poker players jumped on this rising online gaming trend.
This lasted for over a decade but was abruptly stopped when the Interactive Gambling Act of 2016 was passed.
In Australia, the online poker landscape took a hit as this legislation significantly affected online operators, particularly the offshore ones.
Although the bill’s primary purpose was to clamp down on illegal sports betting, it inadvertently restricted offshore gambling sites, including online poker platforms.
This resulted in a mass exodus of offshore gambling sites, with all major operators leaving the Australian market.
This includes 888 Poker, PokerStars, and Partypoker, among others. However, some sites still continue to serve Australian poker players, so there’s still a good number of options available for those looking to play a few poker hands online.
What Does the Future Hold For Australia’s Poker Industry?
Australia has certainly had a turbulent poker history, and its future is equally unpredictable, at least when it comes to the online poker side of the story.
However, there might be good news on the horizon.
Recently, the Australian government started considering licensing online poker platforms as onshore businesses. If this comes to fruition, these platforms could continue providing services like they have been doing before the Gambling Act of 2016.
As for the live poker scene in Australia, the future is undoubtedly secure. With so many poker rooms and casino venues all around the country, poker players can relish in live poker games without any limitations or restrictions.