It has been noticed that in the last few years few really top players have emerged upon the poker scene. We are not talking about known players that worked their way up from small stakes all the way up the ladder to big time success in the poker world, but new ones that come out of nowhere. Years back, many were able to win fast and win lots of money. There was a constant supply of new faces winning big and playing high stakes. So, what has changed and what has happened? Here is my take on the reasons. I will start off by going back in time.
Back when I started, poker was only played live so you had to win the cash at the casino table to make it. There were private games but most were crooked and many of the casino games were as well. There were really only two main venues to play and that was Nevada and California, which at that time only allowed lowball and draw poker. Nevada was wide open with plenty of poker games. I arrived around 1970 in Vegas to play blackjack but ended up in poker.
The big problem was the rake was too high in the small games which were like 2-4 limit stud. The house took all they could when you were not looking. There was even the case in downtown on Fremont Street where a player put a $100 bill in the pot, won, and after they had made change for it, he ended up with less than the $100 he put in. Fact was the games were really there to steal all your money. So, in those games no one could ever hope to win and move up the ladder. I was lucky and found the Stardust Casino on the strip where the rake was reasonable and the higher games charged a time rake. I was also lucky I found a game they didn’t cheat in very much. Shortly, I was able to move up to higher stakes and my life changed from there on. However, for most trying out poker it was impossible to work your way up unless you had a bankroll and was in or able to play higher right from the start. California entirely time charged games, but the time charge was high and the stakes were not allowed by law to be high enough to advance much.
So, for years and years you had to go on the road to play poker and find games that were beatable and make your way through the cheats and thieves. Not very many people had a successful career without some other kind of income. A person could still win in Vegas and California but not enough to make more than a small living at best. Only a few survived the problems associated with trying to live off of poker.
When the 1980’s came, we had inflation, money was flowing around, poker caught on, and the stakes got higher especially with the growth of the World Series of Poker and Amarillo Slims tournaments. Instead of rake, those higher games were time charged and very beatable. In a short time, there were many players making significant money and moving up in stakes. That spawned a new era for poker as more rooms opened up in casinos with beatable games.
Later on, when the internet grew and games spread like wildfire in a dry canyon, all sorts of people by the thousands had to play poker. Credit cards were accepted and off to the races we went. All sorts won gobs of cash and became internet successes, even though most really didn’t play that well. Again, the secret was smaller rakes where the players could still win. That was and still is the key ingredient to having a long term poker game.
As we know, all good things come to an end and so did easy poker. Players studied hard and became way too good for the stakes they played. Even in the smallest of games, the winning players played so well it was hard for a newcomer to get lucky and win. Along with the better players, the poker sites raised their rakes and cut the promotions that many needed to stay afloat. That slowed poker newbies from having much chance to win enough to want to learn and study to get better as there was not an incentive that they could see for the future.
Next as this was happening, many internet players were moving to the casinos to play as the internet was too tough and the games in the casinos were higher stakes and still good. The problem that caused them to have worse internet games followed to the casinos. The new casino beginners had to fight experienced winners at the lower stakes, and also casinos have been raising their rakes and taking the rake faster in smaller pots than in the past. All these things add up to making it much harder to win.
Live casino play used to be a fun thing for many of the gamblers that came to casinos to lose some cash. One of the big draws to playing poker was the social aspect of it. You got to sit with the same people for a time and have fun conversations. Plus, regular poker players, both winners and losers, tended to be characters and were very colorful people. Playing was fun and entertaining. The influx of internet players changed that somewhat as those players were used to playing by themselves and were not cut from the gambling cloth but more from the computer gaming side of things. Many, but not all of course, came with baseball caps, sunglasses and headphones on. Sure, they looked cool and intimidating to the loose gamblers but not friendly. They stall on hands for small edges and are not talkative. The loose players, which are usually older business people, don’t feel comfortable in that situation as much as a jovial table full of players with fun stories.
There are many reasons why poker has slowed as far as making easy money. These are some of my observations as to why. We have had a booming economy for a bunch of years and money has been flowing but not as much to the poker community. That won’t change unless something new and drastic happens.
I hope it does as we need a boost.