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Pandemic Poker: How COVID-19 Accelerated the Online Poker Boom in Canada




Who remembers the global pandemic? That awful time took us away from our loved ones, stopped us from having fun, and diminished our health, freedoms, and general quality of life. While it would be a stretch to say there were ‘benefits’ to the virus, it provided a platform for the growth of the biggest online poker sites with more people stuck at home and simply looking for something to do or play.

Land to Online Transition

A report from Front Psychol studying the impact of COVID-19 on Online Gambling noted that the Canadian market was one of the most adaptive of the new requirements in the industry. Transitioning from land-based poker rooms and casinos to their online counterparts was not difficult. It was a relative ease. As such, many of the gamers who previously occupied the tangible venues now prefer the joys and comforts of playing on their devices, so they have yet to return despite the casinos having re-opened.

Attracting New Canadian Poker Players During the Pandemic

Whether it was a successful marketing campaign by specific platforms or the eagerness of the Canadian population, a report from 2022 documented that more and more people started playing online poker during the phase. It estimated that people who identified as ‘non-gamblers’ were 15 times more likely to play poker during and after the pandemic.

This was rumored to happen when people got bored of their pre-existing technology practices. Scrolling through Instagram posts, playing video games, and watching the content Netflix could have got boring when done excessively – leading people to look for new experiences during the pandemic lockdown. Online poker was one of the few pastimes people could pick up during this time as it wasn’t subject to real-world lockdown regulations.

Is Canada Made for Online Poker?

Over 38 million people are living in Canada. While cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa-Gatineau all have over a million, plenty of smaller urban areas still need to. Then consider the landmass of Canada; it’s a big place. This means that if you’re not in one of those bustling cities, the opportunities to play poker in person are much more limited. As such, many Canadians outside those six cities were already playing online poker if they wanted to play the game. The spread-out population can sometimes be very remote and subject to cold weather conditions with little to do in the locality, and then online poker becomes a viable pastime.


Why did Canadians Turn to Online Poker During the Pandemic?

Canada, like everywhere, experienced a dip in what activities they could actively do. People could no longer go to the bar, see their friends, head to the cinema, etc. Instead, they were inside with limited freedoms. However, they could use all the technology in their house freely. For many, this led to playing new games, many of which played online poker for the first time.

It might be a stereotype, but Canadians indeed love ice hockey, as a rule. As the most-followed division, the NHL created a large void in Canadians’ disposable free time as it was one of the most impacted sports. Many games were called off, fans were not allowed to attend games, and it was a real slog for the sport to return to normal. As such, this time was re-invested into online poker by numerous people.

Problem Gambling Stayed the Same During the Pandemic

One of the biggest fears from the pandemic that some countries are now dealing with is that the lockdown accelerated and intensified problem gambling for vulnerable gamers. Reports from the Canadian gambling contingent report that addicted and other problem gambler numbers stayed relatively static during the lockdown.

Negreanu was Vocal During the Lockdown.

Daniel Negreanu is the man for many Canadian poker fans—the most popular, successful, and relevant professional poker player from Canada. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he was vocal across social media and poker news sites. He supported the lockdown procedures, noting that many sites are less busy in the summer months. He was hinting that people should play online poker during the lockdown phases.


Negreanu, who now lives in the US, even said that the United States government should have legalized online poker throughout the country to give the population something to do. Of course, being an advocate for GGPoker at the time, he would have steered everyone towards that site if this had happened.

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