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The Metaverse Finally Has a Killer App: Poker

Decentraland is buoyed by casinos where players gamble for a chance at crypto wealth.

Decentral Games’ ICE Poker.

Decentral Games’ ICE Poker.

One of the buzziest metaverses today is Decentraland. Visitors enter the virtual space through a web browser, choose an avatar, and are transported to a vibrant digital hub where they can tour a replica of Sotheby’s London art gallery, attend a virtual Paris Hilton concert, or visit a JPMorgan Chase & Co. lounge featuring a portrait of Jamie Dimon.

As it turns out, though, the place people most frequently visit in Decentraland is the casino. Inside, hundreds of people dressed in streetwear and sunglasses sit around (or hover above) poker tables, all rendered in graphics that would have looked cutting-edge two decades ago on the PlayStation 2. Every few seconds, the cha-ching of a cash register and a burst of hand-clap emojis signal someone has won. To play, guests must buy (or borrow) a piece of virtual swag sold by the casino—a hat, sunglasses, shirt, cigar—that can later be sold for cryptocurrency. The poker chips can be used to upgrade the items and boost their value. The four poker rooms in Decentraland frequently host about half of the people in its metaverse at any given time.