The Rise of Internet Poker Part I

The first hand of online poker was only dealt in 1998 (Source Wikipedia). Since then massive changes have occurred in the realm of poker gambling. The internet has revolutionized the way that poker is played. Perhaps slightly dramatic, but think for a moment about how gunpowder changed warfare, the wheel changed transportation, etc. Internet did exactly the same thing for poker. Prior to the internet you had limited options if you wanted to play poker. Either you were playing in a home game, a poker club (possibly underground), or in a casino. The limiting factor in all of these games was player pools. This all changed in 1998 when the first real money poker hand was dealt online.

From this moment forward it was possible to play from the comfort of your living room. The far reaching impact this would have on the industry is still being realized today. Think about some of the benefits for players. I talk about life as an internet poker player here in my very first post

1) Convenience. No need to drive to the casino and waste hours of your day getting to a poker game. For players who live in regions of the country or world where poker games are scarce, they could simply login and play other opponents from around the world

2) Speed. It is essentially impossible to multi-table in the live poker world, but with the internet that problem vanished. Internet poker allowed players to sit at several poker tables at once, thereby increasing the amount of hands they are able to play in a given time.

3) Cost Efficiency. Dealers are not necessary to run an internet poker game. This allows online poker operators to reduce the rake taken out of games compared to that at a casino.

4) Profits. For some of the best online poker gamblers the convenience, reduced cost, and speed of the game enabled them to win small fortunes playing poker.

5) Liquidity!! Shared player pools make a huge difference. It is often difficult to find other players at the time of day, stake level, and specific game that you want to play (keep in mind there are several variations of poker). Internet poker changed that and as a result player volumes skyrocketed.

When history talks about the online poker boom (Chris Moneymaker) is often thought of as the “reason” for its rise. In my opinion, the reality is the rise of online poker was foretold when the internet became mainstream. Moneymaker was certainly a “spark” in the overall popularity of the game, but the powderkeg was already in place for the rise of internet poker before Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event in 2003

Part II

Internet Poker Sophistication Level Skyrockets

Internet poker didn’t just revolutionize the industry of poker and cause a huge boom: It also revolutionized the way the game was played. Because live poker is incredibly slow as a result of hands being physically dealt, players taking their time making decisions, etc., it takes a lot of time to gain experience at live poker. A full-time live player can expect to see about 30 hands per hour * 8 hours per day=240 hands per full day of live poker play. In contrast, most online tables run 60-100 hands per hour, and many internet poker players play 5-10 tables at a time. Some players have been known to play more than 40,000 hands in a single day. At that rate, each day online is equivalent to a lifetime of live poker experience!

In the days of slow live poker it was more difficult to develop a short-term, high-variance, high-reward, aggressive strategy for playing poker because down-swings can last ages at a live game. As a result, many players thought it best to play tight, avoid marginal spots, and slowly but consistently climb higher. Internet poker players, however, due to their ability to play high volume, realize that the best approach is to think about maximizing your expected value in every possible situation.

Poker Software Tools

Because hand histories were now being stored online it was simply a matter of time before a program was developed that could read these hand histories and integrate that information into useful real time statistics that are displayed in front of the player. The two biggest names in the business are Poker Tracker and Hold’em Manager.

These programs have fundamentally changed the way that players analyze the game. Most players today take a much more mathematical approach to the game and are less about “gameflow” and “feel.” In many situations they may simply look at their HUD popup to determine whether to call, fold, or raise. Knowing the exact percentage of hands that your opponent opens from various locations at the table, their raise frequency, check raise frequency, etc., has allowed players to analyze their opponents much more accurately and in depth.

Unfortunately, poker software also allows players to go on autopilot a bit and not be as engage while they play. This ultimately is detrimental to your reads in the game, which have a significant effect on your results.

Data Mining

Another significant change was the ability to data mine, or collect statistics on players without being seated at the table yourself, on certain websites. Most internet poker companies no longer allow this. However, many players have purchased and studied hundreds of thousands if not millions of hands. This has allowed them to develop a great deal of knowledge without having to put in as much time. As a result some 25 year olds have more experience (in terms of hands played and/or studied) than 65 year old live pros.

Data mining poker hands allows you to study stats such as 3 bet frequency, 4 bet frequency, fold to flop continuation bet, etc. See my posts here and here on optimal 3 betting ranges.

Online Vrs Live Players

For a long time there was a debate about who was better: live or online players? The reality is that most online players play live and most live players play online. However, poker players who developed their craft online tend to be much more solid in the fundamentals and generally better players than their live counterparts. The ability to play more hands, utilize poker software, and study hand histories have for the most part propelled them past their live counterparts.

The best indication of who has won this battle is the way the game has changed. Live poker is becoming more and more like online poker as live players have shifted their games toward the more aggressive online style. I recently did a blog post here about my trip to the local live poker game.

Poker Training Videos

A whole legion of internet poker training websites popped up as the demand for learning poker grew. The website that I work for Dragthebar.com, which is rang by a very skilled HU poker player (Hunter Bick) has an incredible amount of useful information on it for players trying to learn the game. Some of these videos are like watching a lecture or powerpoint, and others are live or delayed hand replayers. As you become a more advanced player I think that you will prefer the live or delayed hand replayers over powerpoint presentations. In general powerpoint videos tend to be a little more basic and focused on the fundamentals of poker.

Most poker instructors have a niche that they are very good at. Unfortunately, if that doesn’t fit with what you are trying to do then it may not be that helpful. I suggest trying to find poker instructional videos from coaches that are playing similar games.

In my second post in this three part series I am going to examine online poker cheating (Ultimate Bet) and the uncertain legal environment that started to plague the industry. Stay tuned for “Part II Revolution: Internet Poker Struggles With The Law”

Hope you enjoyed the post! Please follow me on Twitter

-ThePokerCapitalist

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