The WSOP and regulated online poker in the U.S. are generating substantial buzz among players and poker media, but the mainstream interest level in poker is a much different story.
A look at the Google Trends report for “poker” suggests that worldwide interest in the game is at its lowest point since 2004 (the earliest point available in Trends).
How does Trends work? As Google describes it:
Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. This analysis indicates the likelihood of a random user to search for a particular search term from a certain location at a certain time.
Looking at the Trends report for online poker reveals a similar, but not identical, pattern.
Search volume for online poker declined dramatically in the wake of the UIGEA in 2006, kicking off a drastic – but relatively steady – slide over several years.
Compare that to volume for “poker” which held reasonably steady through 2010 before starting its own sharp decline that led to June’s nadir.
Obviously, Google Trends offers just one way of viewing popular interest in a subject.
In some ways, the view it offers is incredibly narrow – the trend does nothing to take into account the fact that search vocabulary for a given subject tends to broaden over time.
For example, as more poker players reach a certain level of sophistication, they may begin searching for more specific terms. In this way, the overall volume for poker-related terms could remain stable even as the volume for a particular core term – like “poker” – decreases.
Note also that all values are relative, not absolute.
With all that said, the charts feel basically correct on an intuitive level.
Consider the spike on the “online poker’ graph labeled “F” – it corresponds to the Black Friday indictments. And the “E” spike on the poker graph represents a logical surge surrounding the Reid bill in late 2010.