Ed Miller Comments Upon State Of U.S. Online Poker In 2018August 27, 2018 10:22 am
Ed Miller is one of poker’s deepest thinkers, and in addition to being a professional player has written numerous influential books on the game over the past decade and a half, including such classics as Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em, No-Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice, and Poker’s 1%. The Texan born author also regularly writes posts for Card Player magazine, and last week published his latest piece commenting upon “The State Of U.S. Online Poker In 2018”.
Miller then went on to discuss what he believes needs to happen in the U.S. in order to build a prosperous and flourishing regulated online poker market, with some of his key suggestions the subject of this article. Miller begins his exploration in the context of the current expansion taking place in the country following the compact launched between its regulated states, with Pennsylvania expected to join later on down the line. While he points out that it is unlikely to lead to a boom like the one experienced more than a decade ago, he does warns that an online poker industry that doesn’t learn from its past mistakes is fated to “burn out in the USA just like it burned out globally.”
One of the ways Miller suggests online poker sites could prevent grinders from burning their games out and turning them into unattractive propositions for recreational players is by encouraging generalization instead of specialization on their platforms. As Miler explains, each of the various poker variants have their own set of associated optimal strategies, be they no-limit hold’em sit-n-gos, nine-handed cash games, heads up limit Omaha eight-or-better, or whatever else is being offered at the poker room.
According to Miller, grinders subsequently find an individual variants to concentrate on and exploit as much as possible, with recreational players paying the price of their specialization. The situation is exasperated by their multi-tabling antics, leading to an overall “degenerate game ecology”. Therefore by discouraging multi-tabling specialists, the poker ecology has a better chance of maintaining an environment that keeps recreational players interested and entertained for longer.
Loyalty Programs Favoring Recs
In the second of his proposals, Miller advocates leveling the uneven playing field between proficient grinders and recreational players by imposing a heavy rake on games which can then be redistributed back to casual amateurs in the form of loyalty programs.
According to Miller the alternative would involve a more laisse faire approach by online poker sites allowing grinders to maximize their win rates. However, recreational players would then derive less pleasure from the game and soon lose their deposits to better players, resulting in an unhealthy poker ecology.
While Miller recognizes poker websites are limited by the rules of the game, he points out that such constraints could be overcome by loyalty programs, which provide a means of rewarding “ecology-healthy activity” and discouraging “ecology-degenerate activity”. This, for instance, could take the form of awarding bonus points for playing a variety of different games, such as ‘Omaha 8 games’ or a ‘7-game mix’, but awarding no bonus points for grinding heads-up turbo sit-n-gos. As the author writes:
“The goal is not to punish grinders. Quite the opposite—it’s designed to reward grinders who generalize and master many different games. It’s designed to reward grinders who put some thought and effort into helping maintain the ecology that supports them, rather than specializing narrowly and exploiting the community maximally.”
Miller concluded his piece by expressing his optimistic view of the industry’s future in the USA, although recognizing that it was unlikely to reach the levels seen 15 years ago during the boom era. Citing the reasons behind his positive outlook, Miller pointed towards the country’s “large base of interested players”,” as well as more than twenty years of successes and failures from which to draw upon. Once again highlighting the importance of casual and recreational players to the industry’s success, Miller stated:
“The main concern should be the recreational player experience. If a rec player can log in and easily play a few hundred hands of his or her preferred game at a table that’s not saturated with specialized, multi-tabling grinders, that’s 80 percent of it right there.”