Poker Is Not Supposed to Be an Easy Game to Beat

RoundersIt’s been quite an interesting month in the online poker world.

Everyone is up in arms now that PokerStars has apparently jumped on the Recreational Model train and started enacting policies that have been violently upsetting to a certain swath of their player base.

As impactful as some of these changes are, one part of this debate that grates on me is the idea that because you personally can no longer beat a certain game the game is somehow unbeatable or you are beating treated unfairly by the site.

Problem is, poker is not supposed to an easy game to beat. Too many players have been beating the game over the past decade in my opinion, and we have to draw the line somewhere.

Should we call for the rake to be slashed to $1 max across the board so everyone can grind out a living at the online poker tables? The sites will still make money right? How much do they need? Why do they need to bleed us dry?

I’ve made this argument before but it bears repeating after this past Thursday’s outrage: Poker sites made a major miscalculation when they allowed break even and slight losing players to still grind out a living thanks to rakeback and VIP rewards – in fact they coddled them and did everything they could to appease this player base. In the end all this did was create a sizable population of multi-tabling super-nits and bumhunters.

This is actually where online and live poker diverges. Live poker players who are struggling to beat the game don’t have the option to increase their volume to make money. Online this is exactly what a lot of players do – drop down in stakes, play a break-even or even slight-losing-style, and put in enough volume to climb the VIP ladder and make a living on rakeback and rewards.

Why study and get when you can open up 16 tables of $1/$2 NLHE, play super tight, break even, and pocket rakeback and VIP rewards?

Players adopting this strategy are horrible for poker. They play a boring, tight style that drives casual players away from the game.

Some will argue that break even players are exactly what the poker sites want, but not at the expense of creating an appealing game.

Additionally, these players never redeposit.

Furthermore, they decimate the fish just as fast as winning players, it’s against the winning players where they struggle. They are particularly good at cleaning out the fish but lose all of those proceeds to the better players. Better players love them, they are their conduit to the fish in many cases, but the casual players and the sites hate these players.

In live poker these players just are and at some point they realize their tightness isn’t a winning strategy and end up going broke. In the online poker world these players are (or have been) rewarded for their tight play as it allows them to put in a ton of volume.

Maybe I’m a bit old school in this regard, but, if you can’ beat the game you shouldn’t be making a living playing poker. Now that the sites have recognized this and started adjusting their policies (which will force these players to either improve or adopt a more appealing style of play to beat the game) the poker outrage machine has gone into overdrive, hopefully the poker industry will ignore the whining of these players.

An example of this outside of poker can be seen in gyms and health clubs, where the old model of attracting the hardcore lifters, who are loyal and purchase many other higher markup items from you, has been replaced by appealing to the masses, and forcing the “meatheads” out.

Policies like “No chalk,” “No Olympic style lifts,” and “No tank tops,” were met with the same outcry that some recent online poker policies have received: “Do you know how much money I spend in this place!” “I’ll take my business elsewhere.””We’re your core customer!”

Yes, yes we do, but we also know how many members your antics and behavior drive away.  We know that you are a discerning customer who will not hesitate to leave the gym if a better offer presents itself.

Notice how the Planet Fitness’s of the world have thrived, while Mom & Pop hardcore lifting gyms have gone the way of the dodo – even though I much prefer a hardcore gym I understand that the business model wasn’t working.

Poker players need to wake up just like lifters have, and realize it’s a two-way street. Yes, the poker site needs to appeal to you in order to get your business, but you also have to make sure you’re a player the poker site wants to retain, and that means making some compromises.

Like a gym deciding to move away from hardcore lifters, the changes poker sites have begun instituting (dating back a couple of years now) are not mere cash grabs, they are strategic business decisions designed to keep their companies solvent long-term and yes, to make more money – but not just as a cash grab, to make more money long-term so they can continue to reinvest and thrive and grow.

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