In my studies, it’s become apparent that the game of poker has survived the tests of both time and technology. The game has been around, in some form or another, for hundreds of years, and every time evolution brings us a new form of gameplay, everyone acclimates accordingly. In the old west, players trusted one another (or their faithful sidearm) to ensure a fair game. Casinos brought designated dealers into the mix. Jack Binion ensured the global spread of Texas Holdem. The invention of the internet brought about computerized poker sites. Further along in the technological age we saw electronic poker tables installed in poker rooms, doing away with real cards at many venues. Most recently, at-home gamers have discovered they don’t need to sit in front of a desktop computer, or be hampered by a weighty laptop to play online poker; not when they can hold a slim, feather-weight tablet in their hands and play poker with the tap of a fingertip.
Mobile poker games have been around since the early 2000’s, but without sufficient backend technology to provide optimal performance, they were all but disregarded by both players and game systems developers. Then as mobile devices steadily became a more popular, more capable and remarkably faster means of traversing the world wide web, the online poker community finally took due notice.
Mobile poker apps began springing up left and right, and at first it seemed the mobile gambling industry was set to explode like 4th of July fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico. But most users found it was easier to play on their laptop, mostly due to the constraints of the screen size. No matter how crisp the graphics, or how high the resolution pixelates, when a screen is too small, it can be easy to make erroneous—and in this case, costly—mistakes. Enter stage left, tablet poker sites; a revolutionary milestone in the iGaming industry.
All of a sudden, software developers were scrambling to catch up with the demand. Players wanted to access tablet poker sites, but there were severe compatibility issues. Unless an app was released for download that specifically worked with the tablet’s operating system, it was difficult to navigate most poker sites. In some cases, that still rings true, but the majority of today’s larger poker sites – even some of those that continue to accept US players – have converted their websites onto a 100% mobile optimized platform. For example, m.randompokerdomain.com (note the “m” at the beginning).
The imminent need for mobile optimization was proven by a survey conducted by Usablenet. 77% of tablet users surveyed said that a poor experienced on a site would keep them from using it. That spurred a tablet poker movement that continues to this day as more and more operators are working diligently to evoke the latest technologies.
In the beginning, poker sites focused mainly on the two top operating systems, the Apple iOS and the Android. Most of today’s tablet poker sites are 100% compatible with these devices, including the iPhone 4S and later, and Android 4.0 or later. With those out of the way, operators took time to optimize their tablet poker sites for minimal market share devices, like the Blackberry Playbook, Google Nexus and Windows 8 tablets.
The major benefit of tablet compatible poker sites is that users are not confined to a single process. All in all, tablet users have three ways to play poker on their devices; mobile optimized websites (as discussed above), in-browser software and installable applications.
While mobile optimization and downloaded apps are generally preferred for their performance and mobile-specific augmentation, any poker site that offers its software in a Flash-based, instant-play version can be enjoyed on any Flash-compatible tablet. Two years ago, that wasn’t an option for most users. Even Android 4.2 (Jellybean) lacked Flash compliance out of the box, but much has changed in the last year. Again, supply and demand took precedence. And because Flash-based programs designed for traditional computers are already compatible with Mac OSX, any Apple iOS product can run them as well.
As for why tablet poker sites have become so popular, one top-tier poker site shed some light on the topic last year by surveying their immense database of mobile poker clients. As it turns out – and you probably could have guessed this on your own – the number one reason was comfort. Sitting in front of a desktop all day isn’t exactly comfortable for any real length of time, and even sitting with a laptop can be cumbersome after a while.