Even up until the early 2000s, parks were popular gathering places for chess buffs who wanted to test their skills against each other. But the allure of testing one’s mind against an opponent no longer seems to be as powerful as the potential to win a huge fortune through poker.
As Bloomberg reports, a 2013 poll showed that 16 percent of Russians (approx. 20 million) play online poker, which is up from 10 percent in 2011. Assuming a new poll were to be released this year, we’d likely see an even higher figure.
Given all the Russians who are playing online poker these days, the government is pondering a move to regulate the game and earn tax revenue from it.
“The opportunity cost seems to have dawned on Russian officials as the state slides into financial distress, caused by a mixture of falling oil prices and Western retaliation against its foreign military interventions. Now the government is considering whether to build a legal, regulated online gaming system to boost the tax revenues.”
Currently, online poker is supposed to be illegal in Russia, but these laws haven’t kept anybody from playing. Chess, once the country’s most-popular mind sport, also isn’t keeping people away from the cyber sport. Even Russian chess-masters like Dmitry Andreikin and Almira Skripchenko have gravitated to poker and the potential winnings it can offer.
That said, expect more Russians to continue picking up poker while chess games become less and less populated.