Archive for September 2008

Poker Infancy to Maturity and back to Infancy

In the course of nature things begin a new and the species, whatever that is, seems to mature, ever growing ever evolving. That’s the order of things. Not so in the poker industry.

In the poker industry the order of things is somewhat skewed and that’s because as poker evolves it expands. It spreads out, and when it spreads into a new area, once again poker enters into its infancy.

Let’s look at the evolvement of poker and online poker.

Poker has been around since the late 1800’s. It was played in saloons and homes in the old west. Its variations were simple; one card down and 4 cards up or in its simplest form draw poker. In those days people would play for gold or silver, sometimes land. In fact sometimes they played for the covered wagons they rode in to get to the saloons.

This is where we get the term today that tells people that you have the best hand.

“The Nuts” in today’s terms means that you have an unbeatable hand, but in those days when you had no tangible assets you bet your covered wagon and to keep you from riding away after you lost that hand you had to go to your wagon and remove one of the “nuts” that held your wheel on. Thus the birth of the term ‘The Nuts’

Today the versions of poker are many and players number in the millions. Everything from high end casinos to penny games at Grandmas house.

Back in the year 2000, when poker was, to today’s standards just a baby, pre the hole cam card revolution, poker was played mostly in casinos and home games. There were a few visionaries however that saw the personal computer as a way to advance poker from its then infancy and take it to a new level.

A few of those companies are still in business today, but their journey wasn’t an easy one. Paradise Poker, Party Poker and True Poker to name three brought to the forefront a notion that poker can be played from the comfort of your home. It wasn’t an easy sell. Thoughts of honesty and integrity arose but were quickly dispatched by a new generation of poker players.

In the early days it was quite a sight to see 200 players sitting online from points around the world playing poker with each other. Think about that, in the early west you may have had to travel two days from your ranch into town for a good poker game, now you merely had to have a PC and a desire to play. Once again poker in another form in its infancy.

Well this notion of playing online seemed to catch fire and when the WPT and WSOP started using hole cams to show cards on TV broadcasts and all hell broke loose. 200 players was a thing of the past and 2000 players was now the norm. Maturing once again, poker grew in leaps and bounds.

The next natural step was competition and it came in droves. Poker magazines that were once filled with ads for tournaments in brick and mortar card rooms now had pages over-flowing with online poker site ads.

The next step in maturity was the players, because online poker deals out hands at approximately three times the rate of a brick and mortar card rooms. Players learned the game quicker and of course took that game even further as is natural in the maturity of any game. Players are always getting smarter and playing the game in new and different manners and from that the game evolved again.

Then a marketing change occurred; online poker rooms starting holding satellites and started sending players to major brick and mortar tournaments, like the WSOP. Most marketing gurus will tell you that any strategy which sends your customer to a competitor and with him a chunk of money is crazy! But someone there was a genius. What happened was the masses of players, young and old, that wanted to go to the Big Dance known as the WSOP Main Event found online poker to be their only avenue. Sign-ups on online sights skyrocketed and online tournaments started drawing an almost unbelievable number of players.

No site benefitted from this more than PokerStars. PokerStars tournament software at the time was the only scalable online software out there; so many new players went there to qualify for the WSOP and in the meantime populated the small everyday tournaments. Then the unlikeliest of things occurred. A guy who entered a satellite on PokerStars for 24.00 won a seat to the main event and then won the WSOP Main Event. His name was Moneymaker!!

With the birth of the televised poker explosion came a new infancy, using the poker pro as the face of the online site to draw new players and with it the birth of logo wear. Moneymaker was the face of PokerStars, but then what about the competition? Many sites tried to emulate what was happening at Stars, but only one really succeeded; Full Tilt Poker.

Full Tilt took some of the top names in the game and opened their own site. Names like Ivey, Ferguson, Lederer, Harmon and Lindgren, etc. A blockbuster if you will from the best names in poker.

So what happened to the 2000 players who first started on Paradise Poker, well they’ve grown some. In fact there are now 100’s of sites and poker networks that have over 20 skins. How many players? Well to say that there are well over 100,000 wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Sundays are our best barometer when it comes to size and scope. It seems like every site has a huge Sunday tournament offering and some sites more than one. Full Tilt has a $750,000.00 guarantee which pales in comparison to the 1.5 million guaranteed on PokerStars. The buy-in is a mere $215.00

So has poker now done all the maturing it’s going to do? The answer comes from history and history tells us certainly not! The reason of course is that poker still has to travel the world. It’s easy to see the new growth in Europe and emerging countries, but what about places like South Africa and now Asia. To these areas poker is once again in its infancy and by the time poker matures there I’m sure there’ll be some new form of the game to learn or some new tournament to play.

Hope that helps,

Warren Karp