As this weekend’s first-ever Zynga PokerCon wrapped up, many online poker veterans may be surprised to see the trends coming to the surface in 2011.

Bluff Magazine called the conference “nothing but a success,” explaining how the two-day event quickly sold out, drawing hundreds of poker players and featuring lessons from the likes of famous poker pros Annie Duke and Doyle Brunson.

And the winner of the weekend’s tournament walked away with $15,000 — no small chunk of change.

The rise of Zynga and social gaming

In addition to the big surge in mobile gaming, the industry is seeing an incredible upsurge in interest in Facebook-style social gaming. That makes sense: Much like the traditional casual poker night, social poker lets players compete against their friends online, as opposed to against another anonymous Internet player.

It’s not the exact same market: Most people who play social poker on Zynga (via Facebook) aren’t betting money in the traditional sense. Facebook credits, which amount to money, often trade hands, though, and have real value, as the recent prison sentence for a Zynga credit thief clearly illustrates.

While the notion of so many casual players getting together online may instantly stir thoughts of “fish!” from veteran poker pros, this isn’t about that. It’s about looking at where the industry may be in five years — and how poker affiliates can fit into that trend.

Fitting it in with real-money online poker

Some online poker operators have already seen this trend and are working on incorporating it into their platforms. That was the likely impetus behind 888’s groundbreaking “Pokercam”, which allows players to actually see other players using video capture technology.

And that was also the driving force behind Virgin Games’ recent gambling service that let players compete against each other using their Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 gaming consoles.

The affiliate angle

How’s this trend likely to affect poker affiliates? Maybe not at all in the next year, but probably severely within five. Any forward-looking online entrepreneur should be giving this social poker evolution some serious thought.

It’s likely that more and more operators will continue to work to integrate social competition into their existing online poker platforms, much like 888poker has done. So, within the next year or so, there’s a good chance that many of the online poker rooms you already promote will be embracing this trend.

But if you don’t want to wait until then, try communicating with your affiliate managers to see if the programs you promote are considering this social poker shift. And engage your audience by blogging or commenting about social poker and see what they think. Maybe it’s something they want, and maybe it’s something they don’t.

As noted above, more serious poker players are in it for the money, so they’d prefer to go up against inexperienced “fish” when playing online. It’s the more casual poker player who’s more likely to embrace this trend — but casual poker players are a perfectly valid audience to target with your poker affiliate marketing efforts, so this isn’t a trend that should be ignored.


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