Ahh … the smell of cookies is in the air!

The holiday season is just around the corner, which means reindeer, jingles, gingerbread, and … casinos?

Yes. It’s casino season!

If you’re channeling your inner Santa Claus making a list and checking it twice—or simply want the extra cash to buy others Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years’ presents – then you’re not going to want to miss one of the most opportune times to play poker every year: the holidays.

1. More Money on the Table

Whether it’s the festive attitude, advent of holiday bonus checks, or simply something in the eggnog, holiday games tend to play bigger. Stacks are taller; pots are splashier. People have a lot more money at the beginning of December than the end of December.

According to Shopify, November and December are the highest months for sales – January and February are the lowest. You want to capitalize on the time when people are in the habit of opening their wallets and most in the mood to relax and gamble. Because after New Year’s, the party’s over.


2. Poker in the News

The World Poker Tour in Las Vegas in December can essentially be dubbed the winter World Series of Poker, which means poker is going to get a lot more press. Like the summer WSOP, it’s an exciting time watching the high-personality, high-profile live streams and seeing people clinch mouth-watering scores.

Plus there is the Bahamas WSOP! And the European Poker Tour too! Seeing these posts all over social media inspires more people to get in the game – both at the casino and on their computers.


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What’s better motivation to play an online poker tournament than reading about someone hitting a score of over $1 million? This is a time of increased “buzz” around the game. F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out) is extremely high.


3. Softer Competition

One of the most significant advantages of playing poker during the holiday season is you’re likely to be up against easier competition. As people take time off work and look for ways to unwind, the poker table is a natural choice. This goes for both live and online. In the live sphere, people are more willing to use their vacation time to drive down to the casino. But then again, it is winter for much of the world – making roads icy and weather dark. In this case, it makes more sense to cozy up with a hot cider and play online from the comfort of your own home.

The point is, the increased vacation days encourage many more recreational players to join the fun, as these are people who wouldn’t normally play when immersed in busier work schedules. These aren’t the grinders who play every day. These players aren't necessarily focused on optimal poker strategy; they're there to gamble, have a drink or two and try to flop a full house with junky hands like J-4 suited.

If you’re a skilled player yourself, entering these games with less experienced players increases your win rate. So, if you're looking to pad your bankroll and buy gifts for your own friends and family this holiday season, now can be the perfect time to put the hours in on the felt.

4. Festive Atmosphere

The holiday season is all about a fun and festive atmosphere. Whether you're playing poker in a cozy home game with friends in chunky Rudolph Christmas sweaters or at your own house by the soft lights of a twinkling Christmas tree, the spirit of celebration is in the air.

This highly emotional time makes people more jovial – and likely to spend more. It’s human nature to be faster and looser with chips under holly jolly circumstances. The mood is different, and since this has an impact on our emotional state, it is likely to change our play styles as well. Even people who don’t celebrate Christmas often find the holiday spirit infectious!


5. Bonding with Friends and Family

Poker is not just about winning or losing; it's also about creating connections with others. Poker can serve as a fantastic bonding activity. One of my favorite moments of all time was making the final table of the WSOP Tag Team event alongside my dad… and then us both cashing in the Main Event two years later.

Poker can become a family tradition much like decorating the Christmas tree or watching the ball drop on New Year’s. So if you’ve been looking to teach your little niece or nephew how to play poker, now is the opportune time. It’s a great way to spend time, connect, and build relationships through friendly competition.


poker 888 ambassadors


Just remember that playing online is the most efficient way to learn. The average live poker table sees around 30 hands per hour—the average online poker table sees three times that! It’s the difference between 30 hands vs. 90. Poker is obviously a game learned from experience, and by far the best way to get more hands under your belt is by playing on the computer.

Also, beginners struggle greatly with sizings. You might watch them bet $1 into an $80 pot and think it’s a good bet. Online has automated bet sizings and percentages – it’s like playing with training wheels.

The holidays are a wonderful time to bond with your loved ones through the great game of poker. But don’t be too traditional! Technology has its place, and playing poker on the computer will serve as a tremendous teaching tool with a huge advantage.

P.S. – If you start teaching your younger cousin or sibling or whoever how to play poker now, you have the perfect holiday gift for the end of the month! There is an abundance of poker-themed merchandise available, from high-quality playing cards to personalized poker chips, poker books, and even poker sets. If you’ve got a woman in your life who you’d like to teach how to play poker, I’d like to direct you to my book A Girl’s Guide to Poker! Or you can ask for poker-themed gifts yourself. New card protector, anyone? Hoodie? Sunglasses? How about a cheesy shirt that says, “THE ONLY THING I FOLD IS MY LAUNDRY”?

6. Improve Your Skills

Holidays are the perfect time to work on your poker skills. With more time on your hands and a surplus of games to choose from, you can dedicate yourself to becoming a better player. Even if you're already a “seasoned” (get it? ‘Tis the season?) pro, there's always room for improvement in poker.

You can use the holiday season to review strategy, study new techniques, and play a wide variety of games. The softer competition is the ideal setting for testing and refining your skills. Plus, if you play poker regularly during this time, you might even start the new year as a stronger, more capable player.

7. Boost Your Bankroll

The holiday season can be extremely financially demanding. Gift shopping, fancy dinners, and travel expenses can put a huge strain on your budget. Playing poker can be a great way to earn some extra income over the festive period.

With the influx of recreational players, the odds of securing a significant win are higher. You can take advantage of the holiday spirit to boost your bankroll, which might come in handy for those post-holiday credit card bills!

Don’t forget about that post-holiday slump. January is usually marked by a collective feeling of letdown. People return to work, and the daily grind can feel a bit lackluster in comparison to the excitement of the holidays. This slump also impacts the poker industry.

As people get back to their routines and budgets tighten, there is a noticeable drop in the quality and quantity of games available. The number of recreational players dwindles, and the competition becomes tougher. It’s better to play all the hours you can in December. There are poker games year-round, but if you’re planning on battling it out against the pros in January, you need to be upping your game now and preparing for more combative stakes.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, playing poker over the holidays offers a unique and enjoyable way to make the most of this special time of year. Softer competition, a festive atmosphere, bonding with friends and family, skill improvement, extra income, and the ability to stave off the post-holiday slump are just a few of the compelling reasons to enjoy poker during the holiday season.

Whether you're an experienced player or a casual enthusiast, don't miss this opportunity. As the song goes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Amanda is the author of the book A Girl's Guide to Poker, dedicated to making poker friendly and accessible to everyone. In 2021, she was a World Series of Poker final-tablist where she and her father took third place in the WSOP tag team event.