Will augmented reality add a new dimension to online poker gameplay on the move?
Earlier this summer, Facebook unveiled an innovative new feature for its Messenger application, allowing Facebook users to go head-to-head with friends in games designed to be played in augmented reality (AR). Facebook took a leaf out of Snapchat’s book by launching its own multiplayer AR online games, called Don’t Smile and Asteroids Attack.
The former is simply a staring competition between all players. The app detects when a player starts to grin. As the game goes on, the AR kicks in, contorting players’ faces and adding special effects to try and give them an advantage by making their friends laugh. Meanwhile, Asteroids Attack sees players forced to move their face around the screen to safely negotiate a spaceship around space rocks and attempt to lock onto laser-like powerups. With plans afoot to unveil more AR games for Facebook Messenger in the coming months – including Kitten Craze and Beach Bump – it’s clear that AR and casual gaming is here to stay.
According to Statista, the size of the AR and virtual reality (VR) market combined could be worth more than $209 billion by 2022; such is the proliferation of AR and VR technology and devices around the world. As online gameplay of all forms becomes ever more interactive and engaging, there are murmurings within the world of online poker that AR could spark a mini ‘boom’ that takes the classic card game into the next decade and beyond.
Could live video be used in a poker environment?
Is it possible that people could play Texas Hold’em, Omaha and other poker variants with their friends online using live video streams? When you look at Facebook’s Don’t Smile AR game, there’s no reason why not. Imagine a single poker application that you could log into that allowed you to sit down at an online poker table and stream the faces of every human player sat around the table. Players could use AR to disguise themselves and even make themselves appear more confident than they are inside about the strength of their hand.
Even in land-based poker, players often try to hide their emotions and ‘tells’ through the outfits and accessories that they wear. Many people wear sunglasses to guard against unwanted eye contact and others will even wear headphones to switch off entirely from the conversations around the poker table and focus. Why can’t it be the same in AR poker? The beauty, of course, is that players could sign in to their AR poker app, play and live stream themselves anywhere in the world. They don’t have to physically travel to a bricks-and-mortar poker room and can still enjoy all the tension of slow-rolling the nuts on the river via live video.
The psychology behind the choice – is bluffing easier online?
Historically, poker has never been a physical game. In fact, people of all shapes and sizes can become successful poker players. Unlike soccer and football where those with the best strength, speed and conditioning can thrive at the highest level, the best poker players are those that can stay the course mentally rather than physically. That’s what makes the prospect of AR in online poker so fascinating. It could be a whole new ball game for online poker players when you through live streams and AR into the mix. It could be virtually impossible for more experienced players to sort the serious players from the casual gamers, apart from when it comes to their actual gameplay, of course. When it comes to poker strategy, self-awareness, perception and emotional control are three key facets in the decision-making process at the poker tables. It can be hard enough to monitor a player’s tendency to fold to a check-raise or bluff on the river, let alone monitor their emotions and personalities via a live stream in an augmented reality.
In terms of the dynamics of an AR online poker game, bluffing would be one fascinating area of interest. In online poker, there tends to be more bluffs than in real-life poker rooms, simply because you can’t get those physical tells to suggest whether an opponent’s hand really is strong or weak. With live streams and AR in action, online poker players would be given an alternative way to gain information and read tells to assess their opponents’ hand range or state of mind. You might find that casual and semi-pro players are less keen to bluff when they know that their face is visible to their opponents and they can see the reaction of others around the table. AR poker gameplay could, therefore, become looser than ever or tighten up significantly, with more people prepared to play ABC poker – there certainly won’t be any middle ground.
How could AR build upon online poker’s popularity?
There is an argument that online poker certainly needs a shot in the arm from somewhere to reach out to the next generation of online players; whether it’s casual players or more serious players that want to be profitable. The archetypal millennial gamer is one that seeks extraordinary experiences. They aren’t prepared to settle for the norm and always want to push the boundaries of what’s possible. That’s why AR could have such a transformational impact on online poker action in the years to come. Not only could it add a new layer of fun for casual gamers, it will increase the level of engagement and interaction for more serious players looking to clean up at the tables.
AR poker players could then graduate to becoming a VR poker player
Of course, AR’s cousin, virtual reality (VR) could also have a major say in the future of online poker. In fact, it already is. Some of the well-established online poker rooms are already developing VR platforms specifically for use with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. Once players of online poker in augmented reality environments grow confident and more accustomed to the action, it would seem that VR poker will be the next step up in terms of immersivity and social poker experiences. Could AR and VR poker sound the death knell of land-based poker rooms? It’s unlikely, but it’s certainly going to give players more flexibility and accessibility to play 24/7.