Is poker a young man’s game?
Since Chris Moneymaker’s historic win at the 2003 World Series of Poker it seems that with each passing year the poker world as a whole is growing younger and younger. In a game where experience plays such a huge role, and physical fitness not so much (poker isn’t exactly tennis after all), this trend is at first hard to explain away, but after taking a closer look at precisely WHY young poker players are excelling you’ll see that it isn’t as mystifying as it first appears.
While there is something to say about the drive of young people, and their constitution, for the most part these things have little to do with why young kids are taking over the poker world. In this column I’ll look at the three major factors that have allowed younger poker players to excel, while at the same time have been prohibitive in allowing older players to take up the game with the same level of success.
The Internet and computer technology is an ever-evolving world
Internet poker is a growing market, and the technology being used to master the game of poker is ever-changing. Players need to have a strong grasp of the current technology, which is something that always favors younger people – let’s face it, 65 year-olds are not inventing the iPhone or other cutting edge technology. Think of it this way: When your father can’t figure out how to switch from the cable input to the DVD on his TV, or how to download a picture from his E-Mail account, who does he turn to? Generally it’s the youngest person he can find, not one of his friends or his own parents. When it comes to technology youth trumps experience.
This gives younger players a leg up technologically over most (notice I said most) poker players from an older generation. Sure, older players can learn to make full use of things like PokerTracker, PokerStove, and all of the other software available, but younger players will typically know how to use these from the outset. So while older players are taking courses on how to use Microsoft Excel, and open E-Mail attachments, their younger counterparts are zipping through PokerTracker filters and running sims with PokerStove.
Furthermore, the Internet allows younger players to gain experience far faster than their predecessors who had to grind away in a live poker game for years to play as many hands as the current crop of poker players can play online in a single month! Anyone who tries to pick uo the game in the live poker arena is at a severe disadvantage to online players –not only because they are playing more hands and have more data to study, but because at an online poker site you can LEARN at a fraction of the stakes.
Taking up poker requires a tremendous amount of time with little reward in the early days. A potential poker player in his 30’s with a wife, two kids, two car payments, and a mortgage is going to have a much harder time dealing with the early struggles all poker players go through than a player whose biggest responsibility is likely gas money or having enough free cash to get a couple beers at the local bar.
This allows younger poker players to steadily work their way up the poker ladder, beginning with micro-stakes games where the rewards are barely noticeable. Older players, with their laundry list of responsibilities, simply cannot toil away in $25 buy-in games for the first 6-months of their career, they have bills to pay! And if learning requires small-stakes games than older players will have to keep their day job –imagine working 10 hours and then trying to grind away at the poker tables for another five or six!
Furthermore, as you’ll see in the next header, poker players need to keep odd hours; something that is not conducive to a “typical” family life.
The poker lifestyle favors the young
It’s hard to explain to the average person, but poker requires a lifestyle change not unlike going from working a 9-5 job to working the graveyard shift. The life of a poker player necessitates long, strange, hours, something younger people are far more used to than their elders who have usually fallen into a sleep and work pattern by their mid-20’s.
Imagine our fictitious potential poker player from above, with his two wife and two kids: Even if he has managed to earn enough at the poker tables to handle his financial responsibilities, there is still the issue of family time. How does he spend times with his wife and kids when he is playing poker from 10PM to 8AM? How is his mood affected after a particularly bad run at the tables? Young, single, poker players can associate with people who keep similar hours, and if they are steaming can go off on their own for a day or two; our married poker player still has to interact with his family, regardless of his mood.
This doesn’t even touch upon what the mood swings you will undergo as a poker player will do to your relationships. Few people coming from a “normal” life can maintain a poker lifestyle if they have a family, since your entire family has to adjust to the change.
Theoretically, poker does not favor younger players in the same way that say tennis does, but when you look at the poker industry as a whole, and how a player goes from a noob to a proficient practitioner of the game, you can clearly see that younger players will have a much easier time of it. The Internet has also allowed poker players of any age to gain experience in a fraction of the time it used to take: Gone are the days of playing 100 hands in four hours, now players are capable of playing 400 hands in a single hour! And the ability to look at hand histories and consult their databases allows the current crop of poker players to become proficient in months, not years.
You’ll notice that most of the 30+-something poker pros out there have been playing the game for years (they didn’t just take it up). So any relationships they have were born after their poker careers, when they were already aware of the odd poker lifestyle I talked about above. You’ll also notice how few of these players have typical family relationships with wives and kids. Far more common are the single bachelors or the poker playing couples.
Between their family responsibilities, their technological deficiencies, and the abrupt lifestyle change, poker is for the most part definitely a young man’s game!
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