Poker has been experiencing a bit of a boom over the last few years, no more so than in Costa Rica and Latin America as a whole. The industry is growing online and in land based casinos, and Latin America is now producing some very talented home-grown poker players. The future looks bright for the local poker scene, but what’s led to this sudden explosion?
Latin America is now considered an emerging market in terms of its economy, and it has a growing consumer base whose buying behaviors are positively impacting on this. Within Latin America, Brazil is one of the fasted growing economies in the World. Latin America is expected to have a combined GDP (gross domestic product) of $10,700 billion US dollars by 2020 and individual consumption is predicted to rise to $11,143 US dollars from $6,360 US dollars by the same year, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
So, there’s more money in Latin America and people are pumping it back into the economy by spending it, and on top of this the demographics of the population are changing. There is a growing workforce and an emergence of a strong middle class. This growth is currently being found within the 15 to 24 and 25 to 35 age groups – and as this trend increases so will the Latin American middle class, whose purchasing power is expected to increase even more. More buying power from consumers generates more investment and opportunity within the region.
Expansion in Mobile and Broadband usage
One sector that recognized the potential in Latin America quite early was the telecom industry. They realized that Latin America was a huge market with money to spend. As a result, telecom companies have invested in improving network expansion in the region. With all this competition, consumers within Latin America have been able to take advantage of not only a better service, but also competitive prices.
This growth has seen a rise in the use of mobile apps in Costa Rica which in turn is boosting our economy – allowing ordinary people to make a living using these apps. In fact, the money brought in from apps is estimated to represent $235,000 million worldwide by 2025.
Emerging economy, changing demographics and expansions in mobile use and broadband are just three areas that have nurtured the perfect environment for an online poker boom. There are many land-based casinos in Costa Rica but the biggest growth over the last decade is in online poker.
The late 1990s saw the arrival of what is today the biggest online casino in the world. PokerStars has changed the online poker experience for players all over the world, and one of its three main offices is based in Costa Rica. The company hasbeen recognized as one of the best 25 large companies to work for in the country and has been very active in the Latin American market, particularly with its live tournament tours.
Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT)
Now in its ninth season, the Latin American Poker Tour is the biggest in the region. Not only does the LAPT provide valuable tournament experience for Latin American players, it has also strengthened the poker culture within the market. On top of this, it has firmly placed Latin America as a top destination to play poker for American, European and Asian players, who otherwise may not have had the chance to experience the beauty and opportunity in the area.
Costa Rica alone has become one of the most popular destinations in the world for poker players, along with other professionals, to relocate to. All this is thanks to the weather, stunning beaches and ideal poker playing conditions.
The Poker Stars of Latin America
With the rise in popularity of poker in Latin America came the emergence of its local poker superstars. For many years, the only Latin American name on the poker tournament circuit was Costa Rica’s own Humberto Brenes, but this is changing as Brenes takes a step back and new, highly skilled players step forward. But credit where credit is due, Brenes was a formidable player on the poker scene, winning two World Series of Poker bracelets. His larger-than-life character and showmanship at the tables has also contributed to introducing the game to an entire new generation of Latin American poker players.
Latin America currently holds five WSOP bracelets; two from Costa Rica, two from Brazil and one from Argentina. Still, this is surely set to change as players such as Chilean Claudio Moya, Brazil’s Felipe Ramos, and Mexico City-born J.C. Alvarado step up to the mark.
Also worthy of a place on this list is Claudio Moya, a 51 year old businessman and the newest champion of the LAPT. Moya outlasted a 366 player field to claim his title, and with this win he improved his 14th place finish last year.
Another feared Latin player is Felipe Ramos, nicknamed “Mojave”, who is particularly well-known for his online presence, although he’s also making a good impression in the World Series of Poker and other major tournaments. He currently has live earnings of nearly a million dollars on top of his online success and is generally a charismatic role model for the poker scene in Latin America.
So, does poker have a future in Costa Rica and in Latin America? Certainly. If the economy, continued desire and delivery of product from key players is anything to go by, poker and Costa Rica have a very bright shared future indeed.