How break-even is the new winning in poker

winningA curious thing happened as online poker grew in popularity, well actually two curious things but both are sort of inter-related. The first thing that happened is that the average poker player has gotten much better, and the second thing that has happened thanks to online poker is that breaking-even is now considered the proper strategy.

Since the first point is pretty uncontroversial, let me explain what I mean about breaking-even, basically the poker sites, thanks to their deposit bonuses, rakeback deals, and VIP reward programs have turned break-even players into winners, with the greatest recipients of their riches heaped on players who can play a high-volume at a break-even rate.

So what we have now is exactly what the poker sites and even the brick & mortar card-rooms want; a player pool that is getting closer and closer to the median, unlike just 10 years ago where the very ends of the spectrum were better represented.

Obviously, players would rather win than break-even, but when you look at the “gods” of online poker (not the Tom Dwan’s and Patrik Antonius’ of the world) the Randy Lew’s, Dusty Schmidt’s, and other high-volume players you’ll see that they have perfected a style of play that allows them to take full advantage of the card-room’s rewards program. Basically by rising to their failure point they are able to play multiple tables (by multiple I mean up to 24) come away as break-even players or even slight winners/losers, and rely on their rakeback, and Frequent Player Points to make up their profit.

Look at the guy who broke the Supernova Elite record last year: He did so with negative numbers, but thanks to his FPP’s and such he made a very nice living at the poker tables. Now I don’t blame these players (what they do takes plenty of talent) but it does strike me as odd that poker sites are rewarding talents that seemingly have very little to do with an actual hand of poker, and I wonder if this will change in the future and what effect it will have on these players?

For instance, here is a list of the current talents an online poker needs to have:

1.       The ability to play multiple tables, giving up some skillfulness in order to play a higher volume

2.       The ability to gather and filter data on their opponents

So what happens if online poker becomes more like live poker, where a different set of skills are desirable? If online poker rooms discontinue rakeback or radically change their VIP Loyalty programs what happens to this style that has been advocated for years? If volume is no longer an asset what happens to the current crop of break-even winners???

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