Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

What Has NOT Changed for Online Poker in 2020 (and what I’d like to see)

Had the rare chance to play several poker sessions over the holiday season. While everyone else is blogging their retrospectives for the decade and predictions for 2020, I thought of a different angle.

Here are my top 5 things which have definitely NOT changed for online poker over the last few years. These are followed by 3 things I'd like to see to restore the online game to it's former glory (though I'm not holding my breath)

Quick disclaimer, not picking on any nation here, with friends from all those mentioned, I made sure that these were taken as the tongue in cheek tropes that they are meant as ;)

What Hasn’t Changed in Online Poker #1 – Pictures on PokerStars

Yep, it seems that decades after we were first able to upload pics, players still have the same old ideas. You know, the Eastern Euro blokes who think that a 10/10 model will fool the other guys into playing softly against them. The 2 millionth person to upload a picture of the joker (you know they will slowplay and bluff at all the wrong moments, right?). The monsters, the eyeballs, the skulls… and the dreaded baby pictures. 

What Hasn’t Changed in Online Poker #2 – Lectures from Germans

Even in the smaller stakes games, it seems the national German lecturing squad are out in full force. Make a mistake, maybe a pot-odds error, and you know you’ll be in for a 20-minute barrage of name calling and detailed explanation of exactly where you went wrong.

It has become so common that I’m thinking of updating my German language reviews. These will have a section on how great each poker room is in terms of the opportunities to assert your vastly superior knowledge in small stakes games.

Boy, I bet everyone is mighty impressed by your reasoning abilities…. You really told them!

What Hasn’t Changed in Online Poker #3 – Flakey Russian Internet

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the big cities have the latest fibre broadband. It is impossible not to notice the amount of disconnections from Russians and the nearby countries. Like, again, and again, and again – in the 6 or 7 years since Russians came online they have collectively stolen over a billion hours from our lives with their constant disconnects.

It was the holiday period. Let’s be a little charitable, maybe the goat on the treadmill that drives their generators was a little full after all that festive food….

Russians Disconnecting from the Poker Tables

What Hasn’t Changed in Online Poker #4 – The MTT Calling Stations from Hell

This one relates to MTTs, I guess it is a big trigger for number #1 above. What I’m talking about here is that player in the small blind that sees an UTG raise, 3 bet from EP and then calls anyway, well, the cards were suited. Never mind that the flop bet was 1/4th of their stack, the turn bet almost half, they paired the 7, and only the second coming is going to make them fold now.

The beauty of tournament poker is that one or two of them always end up with a big stack late on. Oh, and it is fun to see how badly they trigger those Germans!

What Hasn’t Changed in Online Poker #5 – New Games that Everyone Ignores

It must be a depressing life to be a developer of new games for online poker sites. You come up with something great, it tests out well – people love it! The game goes live and new players flock in. You are on cloud 9 as promotions are released, attracting new fish to the tables.

3 weeks later, there is one table full of Ukrainians that solved the math, all waiting for an occasional fish to wander by…

Stars have some new games, short deck games are getting sparse everywhere, funny how there are no more 3 hole card variants any more…. I’m sure if I’d played at the smaller sites there would have been 10 more to choose from. Subtle reference to one game in the pic below.

What I’d Like to See from Online Poker in 2020

#1 I’d like to see sites start using the history of players to match them on the tables. If this could be done at scale, it would be a breakthrough.The skill gap between a new player and a regular is bigger than ever. It has hit the point where it is too big for most newbies to overcome. They have no idea that their HUD-ed opponents are exploiting them in ways they don’t even know exist yet. This has been a problem for years of course. By grouping grinders with grinders (especially at the smaller stakes), and recreational players with each other too – everyone enjoys the games more.

#2 HUDs: There are still several sites which allow these. Come on, its time they were banished from the game. Of course, it is rational and profitable to use them when available, we’d be foolish not to. If nobody can use them the playing field is level.

#3 Random Bonuses: The ongoing ones / loyalty rewards. Stars got this right with their crazy chests; Party have a current promotion with scratch cards based on play. Key for me is to disincentivise grinding, skewing the algorithm to give more back via the new players.

Wrapping Up:

Poker is certainly not dead. The bar is higher, especially the number of players from lower GDP countries that are grinding at the micros… MTTs have always been softer than cash games. If anything, as we go into 2020, the gap is even bigger.

Grinders have been slowly suffocating the games for years (despite their weak claims of ‘providing liquidity’), for poker to thrive, it’s time to take strong measures to make the games fun for recreational players again.

GL at the tables, Mark


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