Doug Polk: The Future of Poker2 years ago
It seems like every other week someone proclaims the death of poker. Everyone is playing GTO, there are no more recreational players, the rake is raising, the value is dropping etc. etc. It seems like poker players are hanging in by the skin of their teeth and the apocalypse is just behind the corner. Because of that, it's incredibly refreshing to hear a rational take on the matter by one of the best players currently in the game. In one of his recent YouTube videos, Doug Polk shared with us his thoughts about the future of poker.
Poker is Getting Tougher
Just because we have doomsayers a plenty, and "no money in poker, everyone's solid" seems to be the default approach when it comes to discussing the future of poker it doesn't mean that we should do a complete 180 and say that everything is hunky-dory. "WCGRider" correctly recognizes that and starts his video by stating that poker is indeed getting tougher, it takes a lot more time to get good at it and we're going to hear stories about huge online winners less and less often. However, people who say that winning online is impossible tend to overvalue the importance of their own negative experience and ignore the fact that smarter and more dedicated people can still enjoy solid results at online poker tables. Polk uses OtB_RedBaron as an example of a player who managed to get from the mid-stakes to the top of online games in our current, tough poker ecosystem.
WCGRider points out that when talking about the future of poker we should treat online and live variants separately. When it comes to the online poker, the main offender in the process of making it a lot tougher than it used to be is the rapid exchange of ideas made possible by the internet. Everyone has access to the variety of tools like forums, coaching sites or even Twitch.tv that makes improving at poker much easier than it used to be back in the day. While some of those tools were available five or even 10 years ago they became much more popular as the edges got smaller. Additionally, we had the chance to witness the rise of advanced poker solvers - something that definitely wasn't available to the players a decade ago. While we're nowhere near solving the game with the use of this cutting-edge software (Doug mentioned the Claudico challenge from a year ago when four player group he was a part of managed to beat the best iteration of HU poker bot for a healthy 9bb/100) it will happen sometime in the future. Lastly, many online poker rooms (the biggest player on the market PokerStars among them) end up increasing the rake which is especially painful for the small and mid-stakes players.
Fortunately, there are still some positives worth mentioning. Players have access to a large variety of different poker rooms, which is very relevant when we talk about the prevalent trend of increasing the rake by poker operators since there are some networks that do the exact opposite like the Microgaming Poker Network. Doug mentioned the fact that he's constantly seeing new faces at 10$/20$ and 25$/50$ so it's still possible to move up to the highest levels of online play. Sure, you have to game select better, learn more, look for better deals (or lower rake), but winning big is still certainly still possible. The biggest danger associated with online poker is the fact that due to the high monetary incentive high stakes games can become infested by poker bots but overall online poker is still fine and it should be fine for the foreseeable future.
Live poker is in an entirely different situation. Fields in big main events and high rollers are constantly growing. Tournaments like "The Colossus" or "The Millionaire Maker" attract a huge number of poker players and attendance is growing every year. Live games are a bit harder nowadays than they used to be and there are many private games some pros are denied access to. It used to be that in order to get into the biggest game in town you just had to enter the "Bobby's Room" which is no longer the case. That being said the skill level of the average live poker player isn't increasing nearly as fast as online and with the constant stream of new players looking to make their mark at the tables, live poker grinders should be in for a fairly pleasant and profitable future.
Putting the Death of Poker in Perspective
Poker is a competitive endeavor with money on the line and that invites competition with ever-increasing skill level. The first world record in the 100-meter dash was a whole second slower than the current one which means that nowadays many professional athletes are routinely beating it in practice. While we suspect that Usain Bolt might be close to the barrier of speed that's possible to achieve by a human being who knows what the future may hold. 100-meter dash is alive and well just like boxing, trading, poker and even chess - a game where computers started beating top players a long time ago.
Doug Polk calls it like he sees it and it's certainly refreshing to hear a popular and accomplished high stakes poker player pointing out that while times are of course getting tougher the rumors of poker demise are - at least for now - greatly exaggerated.
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