Are the Ultra-High-Stakes Games Killing Online Poker?

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  • Published December 6th, 2009 in Poker

No one can argue that online poker didn’t play an instrumental part in poker’s explosion over the last decade –and online poker has grown exponentially itself in that time, from a couple of small card-rooms trying to keep a game going, to 100′s of online poker sites with round-the-clock action. That said, since the current incarnation of online poker bears no resemblance to the product that was so successful in helping to launch poker into the mainstream, will the current version of online poker end up destroying itself?

If you were a serious poker player before 2003 you will remember walking into a brick & mortar card-room early in the morning and seeing a sea of deserted poker tables, and only a handful of tables dealing cards -mostly short-handed with a few bleary-eyed players around it. The same holds true for Internet poker players, not only were you hard-pressed to find the exact game you were looking for, but you also didn’t see these extreme limits that are now available. Party Poker’s lowest stakes used to be $.50/$1 games, and big money games were $10/$20 and $25/$50. Needless to say, the entire poker landscape has changed considerably.

Nowadays, players can watch the top professionals gamble away more money than the average person makes in a lifetime, in just a single session! And while the action is exciting and creates some buzz, I wonder about the long-term implications of having these types of stakes available.

The biggest problem I see with the nosebleed stakes is that there is no ladder one must climb before sitting in the game. All you need is the minimum buy-in, and you’re good to go. No one checks to see if you belong there or not, and I fear for some of these young superstars who are tilting, or even worse drunk, and there is nobody there to stop them. No floor person, no friend that accompanied them to the card-room: They are simply there, with perhaps their life savings on the table.

Additionally, poker is meant to be fun, if you want the government to legalize and regulate the industry you can’t give people the means to utterly ruin their life. If people want to gamble millions, they shouldn’t be doing it on their computers -like I said, there needs to be a voice a reason in the vicinity when someone decides to put $200,000 onto a poker table. If a site wants to offer these stakes there should be conditions that need to be met in order to play in these games: In fact, a site like Full Tilt Poker should only allow its sponsored pros in these games in my opinion. The average tomato can boxer can’t climb into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather!

A single story along these lines (where someone is drunk, and loses $50k or more online) could be enough to get activists out in force in an effort to ban online poker. And in that scenario people would start to listen. I always come back to this one piece of advice: Just because you are able to do something, doesn’t mean you should necessarily do it -and online poker sites should think about what type of damage they are doing to the game, and their long-term efforts to stay in business, by offering these astronomical buy-in games.

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  • Posted in: Poker
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