The poker revolution started with two parallel phenomena: the tremendous win by the amateur Chris Moneymaker in the World Series of Poker in 2003 and the explosion in popularity of televised poker. The importance of televised poker tournaments cannot be underestimated.
Poker Matured through Online Casinos and the New Media
We are witnessing a vast revolution in which millions of new players are discovering the great attractiveness and personal achievement available in a single game—poker. This revolution owes a great deal to the proliferation of online casinos and the new visual media.
In the sense that the “medium is the message” in the famous words of Marshall McLuhan from the 1960s when television was entering its second decade and had already transformed American and Western culture, poker online is part of the latest visual revolution. When we play online poker, we can play a lot more hands than when we play at a land based casino. The visual media give us an advantage that live poker lacks.
The New Media
The vast number of poker clips that we can see on YouTube can also be considered part of the televised poker revolution. By watching televised poker or YouTube poker, you get a front row seat at a seminar on poker from the best players in the world. Poker is possibly the most accessible game in which amateurs can learn a lot from the pros just by watching carefully.
You can easily see how watching poker is a great way to enhance your skill as opposed to watching other sports. A football player doesn’t improve his or her dribbling skill by watching great football players. Chess players need to study thousands of games and positions in order to improve their game; watching chess on television is a poor way to get better at the game and, at any rate, most players lack the natural spacial vision that is so necessary for achieving great success at chess.
The same is true of just about every sport—except poker.
Watching the Pros
YouTube also shows amateurs facing off against pros in tournaments. We see how a pro may manipulate a hand so as to squeeze the most money from the weaker opponent.
This doesn’t mean that televised and YouTube poker are perfect learning tools. Especially on YouTube, amateurs don’t see all the hands the pros fold pre-flop. This is one key element in poker that new players have to learn on their own from hard experience.
Even the pros muck about 70% of the hands they are dealt. There are excellent reasons for this. The hands may simply be bad, or the player’s stack may be too short to take a flyer on a borderline hand. They might not have any money in the pot yet so why throw good money after bad. Finally, position plays a huge part in any poker player’s betting decisions.
Still, television and YouTube give us a chance to watch as a pro raises with a “bad” hand and hits the flop. New players can see firsthand how making a confusing bet…..confuses the other players.
There is so much information on the internet that any player can create his or her own course in poker. Television and especially YouTube are wonderful tools for becoming much better at poker.
In addition to watching poker through the vast number of outlets available, online poker becomes the next best way to learn the game. You don’t have to travel, you can set your own schedule for playing, and you can go seamlessly from playing against real opponents to watching and learning from the best.
In this sense, televised and YouTube poker are great additions to any course on poker.
The great unifying magic of both television and the internet have increased exposure of poker to billions of people. as many of these billions reach the highest level of skill, we will see vastly more exciting poker being played in tournaments, in online casinos, and even in land-based casinos. We have not yet reached the pinnacle of poker skill but this generation will surely see it.
Comparison to Baseball
You don’t have to know anything about baseball to understand the importance of modern thinking in the sport. Old-timers relied on their subjective understanding of players and situations but modern coaches have a vast array of statistics to help them determine the best course of action given the skill set of the players available to them and the situation at hand.
A similar situation has occurred in poker and a lot of it is due to the vast exposure poker has received from the visual media. Today everyone talks about odds and such formerly peripheral concepts as hand ranges and many others.
Hours of Practice
Poker used to be a weekend game amongst friends or a game played in somewhat sinister smoke-filled rooms. The great exposure the game has had in the last twenty years or so, coupled with the desire of so many new players to achieve superstar status, means that the professional poker player is for the first time ever, being seen as an athlete.
Just as the Boris Spassky-Bobby Fischer championship competition taught millions that even chess players need to be in top physical shape, so televised and YouTube poker teaches new and up and coming players the importance of getting into and staying in the best physical shape they can achieve.
Poker is such a cerebral game that the best players need to maintain every advantage they can find to stay on top of the game mentally. The unity of the mental and the physical, which has long been understood in Eastern cultures, is finally entering Western consciousness. Athletes in all sports, including poker, are coming to realize that the mental side of their sports and the physical side of the sports are inexorably intertwined.
There was a nearly “perfect storm” that favoured poker in the last decades of the 20th century. First, we were just learning the vast importance of television. Television had catapulted American football into great prominence because of the televised championship game between the champions of the two rival top leagues. It is significant that the game has come to be known as the Super Bowl. Today the Super Bowl is the single most important game in the United States and draws worldwide interest. Super Bowl parties are almost as important as Christmas dinner to many people.
The great poker tournament follows this hyperbolic precedent, calling itself the World Series of Poker.
Second, poker tournaments came to television in the 1970s but had a relatively small following. It was only after Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer won in 2003 and 2004 that poker caught on big time.
Finally, this coincided with the gaming revolution enabled by the internet. Online poker through online casinos and poker rooms has grown tremendously. The revolution led by the burgeoning online casino business and the new visual media feed on each other and have made poker a truly international phenomenon.
YouTube started with a 10-minute maximum length for clips but the need to show longer clips soon overwhelmed this rule. Today, you can watch poker online for hours on end, using the knowledge you gain to become better online poker players and perhaps eventual poker champions yourself.