25/07/2012

Online and Live Poker Drifting Away?

Christian Zetzsche

Not just since the fourth part of the Ice Age Series with the title "Continental Drift" came out in the cinemas recently, you can see an interesting climate change in the developments of Online and Live Poker. Whereas the online boom is almost gone and requires new formats and concepts to attract new players in order to help over declining numbers in general, live poker is gaining more and more popularity with various tournament series available all over the world.

"Need for Speed" is not only a well known Car Race simulation, it may very well also be the current motto of online poker sites as everyone seems to either be working or has already implemented their own version of Speed Poker. Full Tilt was the first with its Rush Poker and it didn't take long for PokerStars to introduce Zoom Poker, Ongame, Microgaming and independent software providers such as Instadeal jumped on the bandwagon and all offer poker in light speed in front of your computer screen as well.

Even though the player pools are not as large yet, they gain more and more traffic and the sites in return profit from more rake to boost their overall stats. As player we barely notice the insane number of hands played per hour, the fast fold button instantly moves us to the next hand and if we are crazy enough, we even play up to a dozen of those tables at the same time to turn into a button clicking robot. Of course skill does play a certain role still, a decent ABC strategy and tracking programs such as Hold'em Manager or PokerTracker don't hurt either and represent the side effects of the increased technological cannibalization in our current society.

Other poker sites that shift their main focus to recreational players even go as far and establish anonymous tables, where Player A and Player B are nothing more and nothing less than virtual 0s and 1s of binary codes that can also be found in our international banking system. In "The Matrix" you at least knew your enemy, even though it was always Agent Smith along with his endless clones. But don't worry, the mass tournament series like the MicroMillions and WCOOP are to the rescue and provide countless hours of fun only to bubble close to the Final Table and take home peanuts instead of big money.

Live poker on the other hand, and yes I am very aware of the fact that those "evil" online poker sites run a lot of qualifiers for those tournaments, witnesses an increase of quality as well as quantity of events with buy-ins for every pocket and acceptable to even decent tournament structures all over the world. We have online poker Giants that sponsor Poker Festivals and besides all major tours with Millions to be won, the social aspect becomes more and more important to make for a great atmosphere and slowly build up loyal followers that not only try to qualify online but also buy in directly and travel just to attend the next tournament.

The venues often provide a party, complimentary dinner and buffets, the community doesn't just interact online behind nicknames on bulletin boards but also meets in real life and eats, drinks and breaths poker with people they know. The tournaments itself are no complete crap shots and you have time to make moves with more Chips in play, deep stack events pop up frequently and the feedback in general is almost always positive (unless its connected to a bad beat story).

Is this development a consequence of the online downswing or have live casinos and events recently increased their expenses for marketing? Sure, guaranteed prize pools help to fill the seats but many recreational players are also drawn to the events because friends tell them about the great experience they had and how much fun it can be. You only spend a certain amount of money and have a good time, take a few drinks and enjoy your hobby with people that share the same passion.

Only time will tell if this trend continues, I for one appreciate the opportunity to witness both though and we will see, who comes up with the perfect balance to combine the best of both worlds.