"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself,
but talent instantly recognizes genius."
-- Arthur Conan Doyle
A few weeks into the first season of the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour (see
World Poker Tour event reports for individual episode details) I wrote
an article speculating on the effect the
show would have on the game. While I was right in the obvious observation that a lot of terrible players would be created, at the same
time I didn't speculate on how huge that "lot" would actually be.
Since writing that article, poker has exploded in a way few other cultural phenomenon ever have. Poker wasn't a new thing. It had been
around more than a century, and it had been around on a fairly large scale for two decades. This sort of mass cultural discovery of something
that has been commonly around just doesn't happen. It's not like tomorrow fifty times as many people will suddenly start playing checkers.
Windows - Mac
This amazing growth is only partly due to the World Poker Tour. In fact, the World Poker Tour was soon surpassed by three more
important things: online poker sites, the World Series of Poker, and the celebrity of Chris Moneymaker. Still, the WPT was the initial
key impetus to what followed. (These days you can find
poker television shows on every day of the week.)
And what followed has been remarkable. First is the aspect I focused on in my original article. The number of players has skyrocketed,
and the number of weak, poor, easily beatable players has spun out of this world. Poker games online and in casino tournaments are
overflowing with far more weak players than before. Casino
ring games also have more poor players, but not to the
degree as online and tournaments of all kinds. This is a secondary result of the World Poker Tour's influence that I (for one) didn't anticipate.
Tournaments have always interested me personally more
than ring games. Almost all decisions are more important, so tournaments offer a greater intellectual challenge, to me anyway. It
turns out that the tournament structure
appeals to a far higher percentage of players now than it did before televised tournaments were everywhere. Online, twenty-four hours
a day, you can find thousands of people playing all manner of tournaments. Then the WPT also brought to life something deader than
yesterday: No Limit Holdem ring games. Such games barely existed anywhere. Now casinos and online cardrooms offer a wide variety of No
Limit Holdem games.
(While the WPT is partly responsible for the boom in No Limit ring games, the greater factor very likely was the establishment of
"limited buy-in" games online, where a more level playing field and smaller stacks in comparison to the blinds make action
much more likely than the old days where unlimited stacks and puny blinds led to a "sitting contest" rather than any action.)
No Limit Holdem casino tournaments have changed a great
deal too, even though they were already popular before the World Poker Tour since No Limit is much more suited for a tournament structure
than for ring games. These tournaments have changed in that, first, huge fields make it likely that many great players will never have a
chance to win certain tournaments in their lifetime. With fields of over 1000 players, even if you are ten times more likely to win than
average, you still are a 100-1 longshot.
Second, the large increase in poor players afflicted with the Maverick Syndrome coupled with the inherent high luck factor in No Limit
Holdem has led to the "I am all-in" way to play the game. Similar to the phenomenon of
schooling in limit ring games, whether by accident or
not, weaker players have found a way to play "less bad" in No Limit tournaments. Instead of letting themselves get outplayed in series
of smaller confrontations, they easily bet all their chips, forcing better players to either play 55/45 type edges, or worse, hand
after hand continually fold when they have the best of it -- thus transforming themselves into the weaker player.
is the revenge of the Maverick Syndrome. Flashy,
goofball play is able to "work" (to some degree)
for weaker players. This may just mean that a person who was 5000-1 to win a 1000 player tournament becomes 1200-1 to win, but while that player
still has a negative equity, value has been taken right out of the pockets of the better players.
Fortunately for winning players there is a bright side, and we are seeing that a bit more now as the poker industry has reached a
plateau after astonishing growth. Weaker players now are branching out to play more of the "other" games. Maverick Syndrome
play is catastrophic in Omaha, Stud games or even Limit Holdem. The biggest Omaha games online commonly have play that is essentially
a person setting money on fire -- and a lot of that atrocious play comes from people who have achieved some success in No Limit games.
Fortunately the tedious nature of No Limit tournaments, and the ego-based nature of the play of those afflicted with Maverick Syndrome
leads to many weak (but delusional) players trying
to play a simplistic style that helps them be competitive in No Limit but is suicide in other games. Needless to say, being able to say
"all-in" fearlessly does not make you a good player of other types of poker games.
As I said in the previous WPT article, the play is not the thing. The game is the thing. A major part of the game for winning players
is to understand how the real game, the game of your poker career, is evolving. Tens of thousands of folks who were newbies in 2003
are now terminal Maverick Syndrome suffers today. Yummy.
See also Make Money from Playing Poker Tournaments