Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Changing Landscape of Online Poker

I first started playing online poker almost 10 years ago. It was very different then; there was no Poker Stars or Full Tilt Poker, and there were fewer players. After all this was before Chris Moneymaker turned a $40 punt into millions at the WSOP, and thereby starting the online poker boom – for which he is credited. Indeed, many of today’s online poker players fall into two camps “pre-Moneymaker” and “post-Moneymaker”. I’m in the pre-camp and I know I’m outnumbered – but that’s fine with me.

How has the online poker landscape changed in the last decade? Well for a start Planet Poker is no longer in business, and Paradise poker, once the biggest online poker site, is now a pathetic shadow of its former self – as a skin site on the Boss Poker Network. The whole concept of poker skins and networks is something that poker players are now very familiar with, but this is only a fairly recent change. I actually think there are some really excellent networks (and some really poor ones too), but the big boys are still independents – just like they used to be. It’s almost impossible now to launch a fully independent online poker room without being part of a network. There’s just too much competition.

Is online poker as much fun? This is something I’m not so sure about. I’m probably looking back through rose tinted glasses, and remembering the good stuff…like typing “doh” in the Planet Poker chat box made a sound similar to Homer Simpson (oh what laughter!). Nobody talks these days as there too busy multi-tabling. I’m forgetting the frequent crashes and software problems of course. Indeed, it was the software problems that led to the demise of planet poker. RIP Planet Poker – it was fun while it lasted.

There have been huge improvements in the gameplay, the software, and the security of online poker rooms over the past few years. And let’s not forget third party software is now in abundance too, and there’s widespread use of data mining software. I’m not a fan of this though – I preferred it how it was, but I’m resigned to the fact that data mining is here to stay, sadly.

Along with the quantity, the quality of players has definitely increased over the last few years, and I think it’s fair to credit sites like Cardrunners for this. The games are tougher, there’s no doubt about that. Of course I prefer softer games, but cannot complain – since the people who take the time to learn how to play poker and dedicate themselves to the game will always improve, compared with a lazy players who are unwilling to change and adapt to the new landscape.

Oh, and 10 years ago there was no UIGEA – but that’s too depressing to talk about. Another time!

Lunkin and the Red Army of Russia

Apart from High Stakes Poker, my favourite poker TV shows are ESPN’s coverage of the World Series of Poker. Actually, I say TV – but I should have said YouTube, since this is where I watch 90% of all poker shows. Recently a ton of WSOP 2009 videos have appeared on YouTube, and I started by watching the $40k NL Hold’em event, which was the opening event of this year’s WSOP. I really enjoyed watching it; I recommend you do the same. If you’ve not seen it yet, and don’t know the result already, then stop reading.

Even though I knew the final outcome, I was still rooting for Greg Raymer – the fossilman. Of course we only get to see selective hands, the action hands, so we can’t really make a completely fair judgement on their play. But apart from a dubious call with A8 vs. Justin Bonomo’s AJ, I thought Raymer played a good aggressive game. He’s definitely one of my favorite poker players, and seems like an all-round decent guy. He was playing for his indoor bowling alley (his winnings would pay for it), but unfortunately he didn’t quite strike it lucky (pun intended).

The eventual winner was Vitaly Lunkin, and what a deserving winner he was. I was very glad that he won over Haxton, who would have been a very lucky winner in my opinion. When heads up, and when all the money went in, Linkin was ahead almost every time. Haxton sucked out quite a few times, and I think he was trying to be just a little too aggressive. This might explain why Lunkin slow played Aces twice. Of course, we only get to see selective hands, and you’ve got to admire Haxton’s aggressive heads-up play, which I’m sure serves him well, and maybe the editing by ESPN didn’t do him any favors. But overall the best player won the WSOP bracelet.

You might be wondering why I prefer a Russian to win over an American, but I like to see good poker, that’s all. However, I have noticed that Russians are now becoming very successful in the poker world, and have some fine players. With the online poker restrictions facing ordinary Americans, courtesy of the UIGEA, the red Army of Russia will surely continue in their march towards poker success. They are free to play poker, while ordinary, law-abiding Americans, are being made to feel like criminals for wanting to play the game they love. Poker has always been symbolic to America, so this is a good enough reason on its own, why the powers that be in American politics, should overturn this ridiculous legislation.