China cracks down on online poker
State media say internet games are being used as gambling platforms
It was just a little over a year ago when an AI algorithm beat humans at a game of no-limit Texas Hold’em. But in China, it looks like the greatest threat to poker players aren't computers.
Chinese media report the government is banning online poker and other casino-type internet games starting on June 1. Companies like Tencent and microblog operator Sina have been ordered to pull games involving Texas Hold’em, Blackjack and Baccarat.
Gambling is illegal in mainland China -- and card games like these are meant to be played just for fun. But a recent report from state-run television CCTV said thousands of gambling clubs have sprung up through these platforms.
Members placed bets by wiring money through WeChat or Alipay to club administrators. The minimum stakes for different “tables” ranged from around 16 US cents to US$16 -- and slots could fill up as quickly as just seconds.
It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but the report said one gambler who earned around US$1,600 a month lost his life savings in just half a year.
Not everyone played to gamble though. The managing director of Hong Kong Poker Players Association told the South China Morning Post some people simply used online games to practice -- to take part in poker tournaments in other parts of Asia.
One top poker player estimated that among all the contestants in the 2016 Red Dragon tournament -- a flagship event of the Macau Poker Cup, more than half were Chinese.