5 Ways Online Poker has changed the game

Since the rise of online poker (which first came on the scene in 1998 but took off in 2003 after Chris Moneymaker’s WSOP win) the poker world has undergone some drastic changes, and while purists may decry some of these changes, the floodgates have been opened and there is no turning back now.

Online poker has had a profound influence on just about every aspect of poker, from tournaments to cash-games, to one of the biggest change (which I won’t even cover below since it’s player specific and not necessarily a change to the game itself) Player Sponsorships. Sponsorships have turned hard-working poker players into celebrities of sorts, jet-setting around the world to make appearances and advertise for their sponsors at the biggest poker tournaments.

Sponsorships aside, online poker has changed the game itself dramatically, and in some cases (like Limit Holdem) the game is virtually a solved game at this point thanks to the software and new strategies players have formulated!

In this article I’ll explore the five biggest changes (other than sponsorships) to the poker world that online poker has wrought.


This is perhaps the biggest game-changer in poker history when it comes to strategy and what poker players are able to do at and away from the tables. Poker software allows poker players to not only test theories and strategies but to see the real-world results of these experiments in mere seconds. Theories and Strategies can be tested by running sims, or simply by collecting hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of real-money hand histories and dissecting the data.

In fact a whole new breed of poker player has been created thanks to software; the poker nerd. Poker nerds are able to pore over data, disseminating between what is important and what isn’t, and formulate mathematical strategies that make them practically unbeatable!

In the old days if you wanted to see how much you have won with AA you would need to record every single hand and then pore through the data; now this information, and any other data you could possibly be interested in, is simply a mouse click away. Not to mention the capability of filtering this data in a hundred different ways.

Poker players from the Internet era are able to learn what it took old-school players a lifetime to understand in mere months! Which leads me to the second change…

Poker players have gotten younger

There are actually three reasons that poker players have gotten younger, and the first has to do with life responsibilities not the Internet. It’s simply much easier for a young person with zero attachments (no mortgage, no kids, and so on) to dedicate himself (or herself as the case may be) to poker. As much as there are 30-somethings who would love nothing better than to quit their job and take-up poker, their current obligations don’t allow for the necessary learning curve to do so. It’s hard to sit down and play 4,000 hands, or participate in a half-dozen tournaments after working all day and spending time with your family.

That said, the second reason poker players have gotten younger has everything to do with the Internet, since young people tend to be up on the latest technology and are the most proficient in using it. As poker becomes more and more of an exercise in data collection (see above) and poring over that data to find weaknesses in your opponents’ games (again, see above), younger players have an edge, both in terms of understanding the technology, being motivated, and having the free time to do it.

However, the most important reason poker players have gotten younger is the simple fact that you can play 5-10x as many hands online as you can at a live poker table. This allows new players to gain experience in a fraction of the time it would have taken a player in live poker games. No longer is experience in poker measured in years; now it’s measured in hands played, and online poker allows players to put in a hell of a lot of hands in a short period of time.

New Formats have been introduced and Old formats have returned

Who could have ever imagined Full Tilt’s Rush Poker or the rise of Badugi and PLO a decade ago? Did anyone think games like Razz or Draw Poker were anything but dead forms of poker in 2004? But here we are in 2012 and online poker has brought a number of different poker formats and variants to the forefront. We’ve seen classic games brought back from the dead and new variants, rules and formats created to take advantage of the speed and unlimited space of the Internet.

This is not only evident in the cash-games offered, but also for tournaments, where Sit & Go tournaments (an idea that was unheard of just a decade ago) are now one of the most popular formats in poker, and live poker tournaments have started taking pages out of the online playbook; adding shootouts, bounties, re-entries, guaranteed prize-pools and many other formats and variants that were introduced or popularized at the online poker tables.

Without online poker the only single table tournament you would have ever seen is a satellite, and tournaments would be straight freeze-out affairs.

Poker has been introduced to new markets around the globe

Perhaps the most remarkable change in the world of poker that can be traced back to online poker is the International popularity of the game. Poker has expanded everywhere exponentially from the old hotspots of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Atlantic City, to the pro-poker areas of Europe like France, Ireland, England, Austria, and the Netherlands since online poker was introduced. With the Internet feeding these live poker economies with new players who were previously overwhelmed and intimidated to walk into a casino and sit down at a poker table.

But the biggest expansions have been in previous untapped markets around the globe where people from Sao Paulo, Brazil to Shanghai, China now have access to online poker. It’s not uncommon to sit down at an online poker table and be pitted against players from Belarus, Ecuador, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, or any other nation from around the globe.

Information is readily available and disseminated easily

Online poker not only expanded the player base, but with so many new players it also jump-started the current trend of information overload as these players go in search of the latest strategies and theories on the game. Thousands of websites now exist, offering players strategic articles, videos, and virtually any other training tool you can think of –and that’s just the free stuff!

Players will also find poker forums available in just about every language imaginable, and depending on what a player is willing to spend on their education, in a matter of minutes they can join an online poker training site, download a $1,850 poker e-book, or purchase 1 million hand histories from a data-mining site.

Strategies and concepts that were once available only in a $30 poker book can now be found in basic strategy articles at just about any online poker site, and with thousands upon thousands of players using poker forums, these discussions can become some of the best learning tools available as players discuss the pros and cons of different decisions.

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