I realize this is probably going to be a bit controversial, so if you are a professional online poker player, competing in high-stakes games online I suggest you buckle up and try to hold in your anger at me until you read the entire column; especially the “Tradeoff” header at the end of the column. I doubt it will appease you, but it may get you to put down the blunt object that you are currently holding and wondering what it would do to the human head.
Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way, let me explain why I feel this way.
Online poker is for beginners
For the new and/or casual poker player, the ability to play for pennies or quarters is one of the biggest draws of online poker. Poker is an expensive game to learn in a casino where the lowest buy-in you’ll find is $100, so a lot of new players use online poker as practice.
If you really need to play for ultra-high-stakes my suggestion is you move near a gambling Mecca like Macau, Las Vegas, near a California Cardroom, or one of the dozen other places around the globe that now has a thriving live poker scenes. And if you are playing for ultra-high-stakes this shouldn’t be an issue. Leave online poker for the low and mid-limit grinders and for the new players.
Dropping the stakes helps regulation efforts
I’m also of the belief that by eliminating the higher-stakes games we take one of the most potent arguments the online gaming critics make out of their arsenal: the “Click a mouse; lose your house” nonsense.
Yes, it’s nonsense, but it’s also a persuasive argument, so why not disarm the opposition and force them to say something like “click a mouse; lose the down payment on a new car.” Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
It’s simply good for the poker economy
Another belief I have is that money should generally (the key word being generally) trickle up in the poker economy.
A single winning player in a low-stakes game takes it from the bad players; some of these low-stakes player then take some shots at higher limit games and some of their winnings from the lower limits go to the mid-stakes pros; one of the mid-stakes pros gets a swelled head and takes on the big games.
By allowing players to bypass some of these stops the money never fully filters through the entire poker economy, so instead of the high-stakes players getting 70% of the money, they get 90% of it, and in poker, money doesn’t trickle down.
Dropping the stakes combines player pools
A minor advantage of eliminating high-stakes tables would be the creation of a much stronger player pool with more liquidity for the mid-stakes games.
Dropping the stakes will curtail some of the criminal activity
It would seem that criminals (from hackers, to con-artists, to straight shakedown men) have come to the conclusion that online poker is rife for the pickings, and unless we can somehow make targeting poker players less appealing this is a trend that is only going to get worse as technology continues to improve.
Online poker players are not anonymous, anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account, or anyone who wants to peruse some of the database and news sites, can see who had a good day at the tables, and this makes these players targets.
Now, if the potential payoff was something like $10,000 instead of $100,000 (or as you’ll see below, if the outcomes of online games were actually anonymous) I firmly believe the more sophisticated criminals wouldn’t bother with elaborate hacking schemes and so on.
I realize that my idea will likely never come to pass, as some site will see the benefit of spreading high-stakes games, so I’m willing to make a concession: All games above the aforementioned limits require the following criterion be met:
- The player must have a six-month track record at the site with no red flags
- The player must be invited to these games by the site, or sponsored by another player
- All wins and losses at these levels will be held for a period of time to allow the site to vet the games and for any complaints to be filed
Additionally, these tables will be invisible to all other players on the site; it will be as if they do not exist. This will prevent players from pining to play in them, but will also keep the big online winners from being targeted by criminals.