If I have learned one thing as a professional poker player over the last 15 years, it is that I do not know how the game will change going forward. That said, if the poker world continues to progress as it has in the recent past, there are some things I expect to happen in the future of poker:
$500 to $3,500 buy-in events will continue to grow
Over the past few years, World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour attendance for medium buy-in events has continued to climb. In 2019, the WSOP had a multi-day $500 buy-in tournament that had 28,371 entries, which is absolutely gigantic. There is no shortage of events to play, so you can gamble to your heart’s content.
Online poker will come back to America…
…eventually. Online poker is only legal in a few states at the moment, but more are coming on board. There is simply too much money to be made by the states for them not to.
The states are cooperating with each other, allowing players in one state to play with players in another state, significantly increasing the number of games, which is a great sign. That said, I do not expect a nation-wide poker site for quite some time, perhaps 15 years or more. The government moves slowly.
Poker sites operating within America without the proper
licenses will continue to fail
If you live in a state that does not offer legal online
poker, you may opt to play on one of the sites operating without a US license,
but if the past is any indication of the future, they will continue to fail.
There is a long list of failed poker sites that shadily operated in America,
including Absolute, Lock, and Cake, all of which failed to pay out either all
or some of their players, which is clearly awful. If you play on a site that is
not expressly legal, don’t be shocked if it runs off with your money.
Playing cards will look the same
Every few years, a card manufacturer tries to release a new design version of the playing card, but it is always met with an immense amount of resistance.
Online players may be used to a four-color deck where the spades are black, the hearts are red, the clubs are green and the diamonds are blue. Every once in a while, someone tries to introduce them to live poker, but it has yet to work. While I always use a four-color deck online, I am not a fan of them in live poker because if a card accidentally gets flashes for even a brief moment, you will know its specific suit, whereas now, you only know if it is one of two suits, which is not too valuable.
A few years back at the WSOP tried to release cards that made it easier to peek at the corner of the cards by putting a tiny rank and suit in the corners. Players did not like this at all because each player looks at the cards differently, and almost none look at exactly the tiny tip of the corner. They were only used for the first week or so of that WSOP.
GTO solvers will become even more relevant
15 years ago, I used an incredibly rudimentary program called SngPowerTools to analyze my one-table tournaments. Essentially, it could analyze your online hand histories and tell you if you should have gone all-in or folded in a specific spot.
While this was quite powerful, given my one-table tournaments featured mostly short stack play, there was a major problem with their logic. We are playing No-Limit Hold’em, not All-In or Fold Hold’em! Even today, many players make the egregious blunder of following simple charts that assume you only have two options.
Now, powerful solver and AI tools like PokerSnowie, PioSolver, and MonkerSolver can tell you with an extreme amount of precision what to do in each spot, assuming your opponent plays perfectly, and also if your opponent makes specific mistakes.
Let’s analyze this hand, as an example:
Suppose with 30bb stacks, an early position player raises to 2bbs and only you call from the big blind. The flop comes 8c-6d-4c. You check, the early position player bets 2.25bbs and you call. The turn is the (8c-6d-4c)-3h.
The standard play in the past (and to most players even
today) was for you to check every time to the early position raiser, but now,
the solvers suggest leading for 3bbs into the 9bb pot with 37% of your range.
Knowing that this is the optimal strategy is quite powerful. Using programs like HoldemManager or PokerTracker, if you study the tendencies of your opponents, you will know that they respond quite poorly to small leads. The early position player is supposed to raise with most top pairs and overpairs (which most players only occasionally do), as well as with junky hands like K-J without a club (which almost no one does), and call with fairly marginal hands like A-Q and K-J with a club (which almost no one does).
You can input how most players respond to leads in the solver and it will then tell you how to adjust in order to maximally exploit their mistakes.
If the early position player plays too passively against your turn leads, you should actually lead using a 3bb bet size into the 9bb pot with your entire range! Without solvers, you would have an incredibly difficult time figuring out this exploit. Of course, this turn heavily favors the big blind, so do not think this strategy applies to all board textures.
The main problem with solvers is that they currently take an immense amount of time, computing power, and poker knowledge to use correctly. That is why I made my training site, PokerCoaching.com. There, I explain through interactive quizzes, challenges, and webinars how to approximate a strong fundamentally sound strategy that anyone can do with a bit of practice, and I also explain how to adjust that strategy to take advantage of what your opponents do incorrectly. While players will always continue to improve, if you improve faster than your opponents, you will win the money in the long run.
A few things I expect, but could easily be wrong about:
Unlimited re-entry events will decline
Re-entry tournaments (where you can buy-in again after you bust for some number of predesignated levels) have become the norm for almost all poker tournaments, but some venues have taken it to the extreme, allowing players to buy in incredibly late in the event with as few as 8 big blinds.
Many players have complained about this for various reasons, and I expect most venues to limit the re-entry period to when you have at least 25 big blinds, and in the not-too-distant future, 40 big blinds. Many venues are also capping the number of times you can re-enter, which I also think is a positive change.
PokerGo will remain the best place to watch poker
PokerGo is an online poker app where you can watch essentially infinite poker content, including a Pokerography episode about me! If you are a poker fan and want to watch the best players in the world battle on a regular basis, you simply have to sign up for Poker Go! You won’t be disappointed.
No-Limit Hold’em will remain the main game
If you are new to the poker world, you may not know that No-Limit Hold’em was not always the most popular game. In the past, 5-Card Stud was the main game (try finding that in any casino nowadays!), then 5-Card Draw, 7-Card Stud, Limit Hold’em, and now No-Limit Hold’em.
In my opinion, the reason No-Limit Hold’em’s predecessors failed was that they were either too skill-intensive, resulting in the bad players losing their money too quickly, or too easy to solve.
Over the last few years, Pot-Limit Omaha has hit the scene, and many players thought it would take over as the main game because, while it is quite skill-intensive, it features an immense amount of variance, which turns out to be too much for most players to handle. Recently, Short-Deck Hold’em has raised in popularity amongst super-high rollers, but it is similar to Omaha in that it features a ton of variance.
Some players have been heralding mixed games (where you play one orbit of a game, then switch to another game, then another, then another, etc.) as the future. However, while changing the game every 10 minutes is fun and engaging, I do not see the vast majority of the poker playing community wanting to learn to play a ton of games, and players certainly do not enjoy playing games they don’t like.
So, at least in live poker and in online tournaments, I believe No-Limit Hold’em will be the game we continue playing for a long time to come. That said, if it clearly starts to decline, do not be afraid to spend time learning new games. I used to play primarily Limit Hold’em and then one-table tournaments, both of which eventually died. I was a bit slow jumping ship both times, resulting in me missing a decent amount of potential profit. I will not be so slow next time!
— Thank you for taking the time to read this article.