In the last year or so, many voices in the online poker community have begun murmuring about the end of the party. They claim that the widespread novelty of the game has finally worn off and that the attempts of governments to restrict (and even prevent) the play by its citizens has done irreversible damage to the game. These same pundits would have you believe that this is how it should be. Leave it to us purists, they say. Let poker return to where it belongs – in smoky underground clubs and basements, enjoyed only by the hardcore faithful. To this we say: rubbish!
For any thinking person, it was only a matter of time before the exploding number of new players settled. However it appeared a few years ago, infinite growth is not a possibility and every boom must come reach a peak. The question is whether the trend will disappear completely from the collective mindset, a la Rubik’s Cube, etc. In our humble opinion, the poker bubble may contract but it will never burst due to several fundamental reasons, which are listed below.
The secret of poker’s allures lies in its complexity. Like any good game, it is easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. Dr. Sean Carroll of the University of Chicago called it a game of ‘incomplete information’, which he says can explain its lure. Competent players know the value of the cards they hold and the odds of receiving the cards they want, but they must delve into a potentially-endless set of factors in order to glean what their opponent is holding. In order to be successful, they must surmise information from the betting style of their opponent and his position at the table, what they know about the personality of each player, and when the best time to act may be. It is possible to devise a strategy which will consistently win over time, but impossible to prepare oneself for the random luck inherent in the game.
The Cinderella Story
Every hand of poker has the potential to be completely different from the last one, and there is no such thing as perfect strategy in a game in which chance plays such an important role. It is this element of chance which makes it possible for anyone to win. In which other games of skill can an amateur player occasionally beat a professional? When Chris Moneymaker won the 2004 WSOP Main Event via a satellite invitation, he inspired a generation of amateur players who now feel that they too could one day find themselves sitting opposite the best players in the world, competing for millions of dollars.
Massive media corporations have invested millions of dollars in an industry which, 10 years ago, didn’t exist. The amount of money which has been generated, circulated, and exchanged hands has ensured that competitive tournament poker will remain on the scene for years to come. Sure, the numbers may not continue to expand like they have in the past, but events such as the World Series of Poker will continue to garner attention and attract new players from all over the world.
The media coverage which poker received over the past five years has a lot to do with why the game of poker will not recede into the background and be labeled a fad of the early part of the millennium. An entire generation was introduced to a game which turned out to be exciting, easy to learn, and extremely addictive. For this reason, poker will never return to its position as a game reserved for initiates. Besides, there are far too many sets of poker chips now in circulation for it to be forgotten!