The online gambling industry is one of the fastest-growing markets in entertainment, attracting millions of customers and racking up total revenues of over £40 billion this year alone. Part of what has fuelled such phenomenal growth is innovation; leading e-gaming operators have poured huge amounts of cash, manpower, and tech into developing cutting-edge technology in the race for customers.
Many of the largest online poker sites have development teams that easily outsize those at major video game companies such as Rockstar or Ubisoft. It may come as a surprise to some that the gambling industry has been so eager to embrace technological innovation, given the relatively simple format of most online casino games.
However, the most popular games aren’t just about high-def graphics and VR capabilities (although these are growing in importance too). Online poker games are fast-paced by nature, which means that much of the technology that powers them is designed to ensure a superfast and efficient gaming experience across multiple formats.
If you’re wondering what kind of advanced technology is powering your online Texas Hold ‘Em experience, read on to find out the tech behind fast-based poker games and apps.
In both online and physical poker, speed is everything. The player needs to be dealt hands as quickly as possible, whilst having the freedom to make decisions on whether to raise are fold in an instant. More importantly, the breakneck pace is critical to the gaming experience, as it amplifies the thrill and makes the game more exciting. Any e-gaming developer worth their salt knows this already, which is why so much of the software behind online poker prioritizes speed above all else.
Online poker game developers use many of the same tricks that mainstream video game developers use to ensure the most efficient run-times. These include creating reusable assets.
such as sounds and icons to save space. They also invest in very powerful servers, as well as sometimes using leading game engines rather than creating code for games from scratch.
However, there are other factors to consider within online poker. Online casino gaming differs from console-based gaming in that it needs to be able to run smoothly across multiple formats. Players typically play online poker interchangeably on mobile, desktop, laptop, and touchscreen devices, therefore the software needs to enable equally speedy running speeds across all of these.
People may also choose to play online poker “instantly” by simply loading a website and playing from there, or they might want to download a game to their device that they can then play online. A challenge for developers is ensuring a consistently fast experience for both those playing on a pre-downloaded desktop application or app and those playing via a web browser.
These are generally achieved in various ways. Developers generally place a heavy focus on making sure all of their poker game offerings are optimized for mobile – a rigorous process which often takes up a significant chunk of time. They also tend to use less complex, often 2D graphics to ensure the speed is not compromised on either mobile or desktop.
Since fast-paced poker is so specialized, many of the leading platforms develop their own in-house software which caters especially to this style of gaming. They will also have their own servers which are designed to accommodate vast numbers of people playing a single game at one time.
Instant connectivity is also important. While having a lag in Call of Duty might be annoying, developers recognize that any lags in a live online poker game could mean the difference between winning the jackpot and going home with nothing.
It is for this reason that so much time is invested in developing top-notch troubleshooting software to protect against errors. The code for these online games is also likely to be written in C++ or Python, as these are the most common languages for reading complex game interfaces with instant speed.
While also relying heavily on existing innovation, some online poker platforms have started developing their own original tech. One of the latest innovations to make a splash in the online poker world is the so-called Snap format currently being rolled out by 888poker. SNAP works as a “fast fold” format, allowing users to instantly be dealt new cards as soon as they fold, rather than having to wait for the next round.
Rather than tinkering with the software, SNAP simply maneuvers through the system differently. Poker players are placed into a “players pool”, allowing them to be instantly re-seated at a random table with new players the second that they decide to click the “snap fold” option and tap out of their current table. As an added bonus, other players at that table are unable to see that the player has actually folded until it is their “turn” in the game.
Players can also access a split-screen feature that allows them to continue observing the table they have just folded from whilst simultaneously playing at their new table. This kind of super-fast, multi-tiered card gaming experience has the potential to completely transform the online poker industry. Players of online poker have shown a strong interest in being able to play multiple hands at once and SNAP technology is one of the first instances of developers taking concrete steps to cater to this.
Whether the SNAP system will take off on other e-gaming platforms remains to be seen, but it will almost certainly set a technological precedent within the industry.
Pros and Cons of Fast-Based Poker
While speed is widely recognized as a priority for developers of online casino games, there are also cons to this kind of “superfast” poker. For one thing, it requires players to make very fast decisions. While many poker players, especially more experienced ones, tend to enjoy this and the adrenaline that it can bring, others may feel that the pressure diminishes the experience.
They may also end up making betting decisions that prove to be badly thought-out. Another issue for gamers is that it may hinder the development of poker strategies, which is widely considered to be a crucial part of being a winning poker player.
On the other hand, fast-based games have been consistently proven to retain players better. This may be because people find them more thrilling, or it may be because players no longer have the patience for slow, drawn-out gaming experiences.
For mobile gamers, a fast-pace is also necessary due to the very nature of mobile gaming, which is often done on the move or in short bursts. For this fast-paced poker is ideal.
The main draw of fast-paced poker games is that it allows players to try and win more money in a shorter time. Why spend five minutes on one hand of poker when you can spend the same amount of time playing ten hands, potentially winning much vaster sums of money. People play poker to win and would much rather have as many chances to win as possible.
This is why developers place so much emphasis on high-speed gaming experiences and why systems such as SNAP are starting to change the face of the industry.
That online poker platforms are taking the lead in gaming tech would’ve likely surprised everyone a decade ago. It may not be long until the biggest game studios in the world look to online poker games for inspiration.