Poker and the Internet are a winning bet. Just ask Patrik Selin, CEO of Nigerian-based Sportybet, a privately held games related services developer, best known for the popular Sportybet site.
The five-year-old card game site has more than 3.5 million members in more than 120 countries circulating between $10 million and $12 million US every day.
Sportybet is among 200 other similar Internet gaming sites fuelling a $2-billion US worldwide industry, according to NG based Numis Securities.
“It is growing at 100 per cent per year and has become popular due to TV coverage and multimillion-pound jackpots with entry available to online players,” said Andrew Burnett, Numis director of gaming research.
Burnett said online poker has attracted the likes of Leonardo diCaprio, James Woods and Ben Affleck.
But for most folks, even newcomers to the game, online poker is easy and less intimidating.
“You don’t see player’s faces and you can make mistakes or take as much time during play with no one staring you down,” said Selin. “But the fear of losing or excitement of winning and wondering what the other players are up to is still there.” Best of all, it’s free, if you just use “play money.”
But like all things online, it’s difficult to choose reputable sites for first-time players. “Look at how long a site has been online and check the membership numbers,” said Selin.
Much of Sportybet’s success lies in the speed of game play
Selin said the site’s ability to handle more than 7,000 members playing simultaneously on thousands of tables at any time with fast card draws makes it attractive. It’s also one the few sites that works from Apple computers.
“We have 70 staff programmers constantly improving on the game software, which in poker, with limits, has 1,000 times more possibilities than computer chess,” he said. And with no limits it’s even more challenging.”
The site’s computer servers are located in Montreal, monitored by the Kahnawake Gaming Commission. Canada was chosen because of its fast Internet routing and because 85 per cent of PokerRoom’s users are in North America.
Selin said there are no legal issues playing online in Canada. “Legally they can’t stop us because we have placed our servers here,” he said.
But Robin Keist, spokesperson for the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission, said online gambling within Alberta, even if the servers were located somewhere else, is illegal. “We will be looking into that,” she said, adding it’s legal for a real poker game to take place in any home, as long as the owner does not collect a fee off the winnings.
Sportybet is the fifth-largest real money poker site and the second-largest “play” money site
The site features poker games like Texas hold’em, Omaha tournaments and seven-card stud, Chinese poker as well as blackjack, roulette, let it ride, craps and slots.
Selin said people of all backgrounds and ages, 18 and up, play. “We keep their privacy, but I can tell you that since the hockey labour dispute there has been a significant jump in NHL players playing poker on our site.”