The state of online poker today
In the pre-UIGEA days, I used to be able to find dozens of full tables of 15/30 and 30/60 at any hour of the day or night at good old PartyPoker. Often, these tables were populated with some amazingly poor players. You saw new faces every single day. Part of this is explained by the fact that it was trivial to sign up with a million different skins or to obtain new accounts or new names, but that doesn’t explain the much higher number of active tables. Last night, I was weary from a long and unpleasant day at the office and went to bed early without playing any poker. As is often the case, this meant that I woke up around 4:00am. Hoping to catch the night shift crowd, I fired up PokerStars. To my dismay there was almost no action. The biggest semi-full table was 10/20 and there were only a handful of short-handed games at 15/30 and 30/60 and they were mostly populated by players I know to be pretty solid. This depressed me.
There are two main reasons for the decline. The first and most maddening is obviously the UIGEA. By closing many of the poker sites and choking off the sources of easy deposit and withdrawal transactions, the feds scared a lot of people away from online poker. I’ve railed about this before, so I guess there is no point in repeating my rant, but every time I’m confronted with this change in the landscape, I feel annoyed all over again at the legislation and the grandstanding legislators who wrought it. I talked about this a bit to Matthew at Sharkapalooza 2 and I’m also annoyed at myself. I followed good bankroll management and did not pursue the bigger games when I knew they were soft. In the end, I don’t need the money from poker and I should have played the bigger games when they were so juicy. I spent $10,000 on the WSOP Main Event last year when I obviously don’t have the bankroll to play 10k events on a regular basis, because I wanted the experience. Given my willingness to light 10k on fire, I should have played the bigger games when they looked juicy. They will never again be that good. I might play some of the bigger games on Stars when they look good, but they won’t be as good as they were back in the day.
The second reason, of course, is the rise of No Limit cash games. NL tourneys were always big, but cash game specialists were fewer in the old days. All of the biggest games in poker were limit games. Back then, the $100/$200 limit ring game at Stars was the biggest game that ran on a regular basis. Of course, that has all changed today and there are some real nosebleed stakes being played today, especially on Full Tilt. The real action today is at the cash no limit tables. There are a lot of players at the $600 and $1000 tables who look to me to be making serious fundamental errors. I don’t even think I’m that good at NL, but I know that I am better than a lot of people I see on those tables. In the wee hours last night, when the limit tables were pretty dead, action on the NL tables was still rocking and rolling. I considered sitting down at some of them, but I just didn’t feel enthused about that effort. As a result, I got in no hands and earned no money and no VPPs. C’est la vie.