Does poker need a new game?

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Aug 12, 2013 Posted in Op-Ed | No Comments »

poker_30-762501Over at the 2+2 poker forums David Sklansky has been hard at work trying to tinker with some variations on the tried and tested Texas Hold Em, while at my preferred poker forum,, our resident board game designer has been doing the same. Here are some links to the threads:

So the question is; does poker need a new variant, or even a modification to the current rules of say Texas Holdem? While I would be all for somehow making the game more akin to 2001 than 2013, I really don’t think it will last all that long due to the speed of Internet poker and the use of computer simulations. Like Sabermetrics in baseball, once the cat is out of the bag, it’s out, and it’s not going back in. The poker mathematicians know how to “solve” games and they will do it extremely fast; at least to the point where players can quickly become competent in the new format.

As much as I love some of the ideas in the threads listed above, I think the only way to get a constant flow of new players into the game is to decrease the skill level of the variants in play. While this seems like a crappy way to try to increase profits for winning players, I have always been of the belief that you’re better off having a steady stream of just plain awful (I mean god awful) players than to have some slight strategic edge that gives the best players a slight edge over decent players.

One of the things I would love to see incorporated into poker is a move towards pot limit betting. I’m a big fan of the limit betting pre-flop, pot limit betting on the flop, and no limit betting on the turn and river format –I’d even go for something like spread limit betting pre-flop, say up to 3x the big blind.

This structure is the best of both worlds for the fish: they get to call small bets early on and they can still bet big with their hands later on (fish like to call and they like to be able to make big bets): Winning players will see this as a chance to see some flops and have great implied odds down the road.

Another benefit of this structure is it will put an end to the Ultra-Lag style that has taken hold recently. You won’t be seeing too many five-bets with A6 with limit betting pre-flop; the emphasis for all players will be on post-flop play. The fish will love getting to play hands and see “cheap” flops, and the pros will have a larger edge post-flop, where the decisions are more difficult.

While the aggression level of today’s players might be strategically correct, in my opinion it has also turned off a lot of the fishiest players, since they are almost forced to play tight due to the sheer aggression of the modern poker game. Fish like to see flops, so if they are constantly faced with three and four-bets they get frustrated and lose interest in the game. Allowing them to call pre-flop with any hand they want (since pre-flop betting is fixed) will keep them interested in the game and keep their playing style loose.


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