Up to about ten years ago, most players weren’t using any additional software tools for online poker. Sure, some regulars on the cash tables were taking advantage of HUDs and poker trackers that helped them gather information about the opponents and plug the leaks in their own strategy.
And yet, the online poker world was relatively “pure,” and most people simply played the game and relied on their own ability to recognize patterns and use them to their advantage.
That’s almost no longer the case, as everyone that’s even remotely serious about online poker is using poker trackers, seating scripts, solvers, and other programs that provide various services.
Some are about saving some time and making it easier for the players, but others bring an enormous advantage.
It’s so big that it’s close to impossible to avoid it. The players are forced to use additional poker tools, or they risk getting left behind. In a way, you don’t really have a choice; you need to install additional software.
But how does that reflect on the game as a whole? On an individual level, everyone seems to be gaining, but the long-term future of poker as we know it is in immense danger.
In this post, I will explain why.
The Recreational Players Are Getting Killed
The whole online poker economy depends on the recreational players and their contribution — the people that mostly want to have some fun and end up paying for that with their money, most of the time.
They are the ones that make online poker a profitable option for the 5% or 10% that are actually making money, and they are the large chunk of users in most online poker rooms.
If the recreational players are not happy, everybody’s losing. Some of them will simply stop playing, while others might learn from their mistakes and grow their game. That usually happens when they lose too much too soon.
Nothing contributes more to such a scenario than poker software tools designed to recognize and exploit the mistake of every player on the table.
On top of that, there are programs that will help you locate the losing players and sit right next to them.
As a result, the people that play for fun are getting destroyed by the regulars at a much faster pace thanks to poker trackers, seating scripts, and other software.
As you could imagine, they don’t like that. If the average fish could play a couple of months with the $1,000 set aside for poker before, that’s no longer the case. People lose their money in weeks or even days nowadays, surrounded by a bunch of sharks using every bit of leverage they can find with all their programs.
The essential illusion that you could win and that the opponents got lucky has been keeping the fish in poker since the inception of the game, but it’s now gone. People quickly understand that they have to improve dramatically or keep losing.
Like the legendary Amarillo Slim famously said, “You can shear a sheep a hundred times, but you can skin it only once.” Right now, the sheep are getting skinned on day one and either never return or become wolves.
The flow of money is dropping as a result, and the overall level of the competition is getting higher. It’s increasingly harder to maintain your edge and stay profitable.
At the end of the day, without the recreational players, most people will simply lose because of the rake.
There’s No Fun in Playing With Software
The effects of poker software on the life of the fish are obvious, but the regular players are suffering too. In the past, playing poker used to be really fun. You had to stay alert, find the patterns and the leaks in the strategy of your opponents, and pick the perfect spots to take advantage, using your brain.
It’s an entertaining way to earn a living, and it takes care of your ego. It feels good to rob someone on the poker table, and we all know that.
Part of that is now gone because of the countless poker programs most regulars use. Playing online is more like becoming a human bot or monitoring a system and clicking the right buttons when you get a certain signal.
The worst part is that this is not a matter of choice. The automated programs are doing most stuff better than any player out there, so you can’t afford to rely on yourself; it’s too costly.
As a result, the path to becoming an online poker pro is not as exciting as it used to be. It’s not that different from any other profession, and the endless programs are a huge part of the reason why.
Multi-Tabling Was Never Easier
Another huge problem is related to multi-tabling. Good players have always sat on a couple of games simultaneously, but the number is constantly growing. Without software, something like 6-9 tables at the same time was the maximum for most people.
Nowadays, you can comfortably play on 15 or even 20 without giving up on too much of your edge with the proper set-up. You can pre-fold some hands, use trackers to check stats instead of following every player, and so on.
The solid regular players occupy a ton of tables, and it’s hard to find one that offers better value and more fun. Just open a random poker room online and check the cash tables. You will see the same couple of faces on every level.
That kills the variety of the game, makes it boring for everyone involved, and allows regulars to attack every single newbie out there at the same time.
What’s the Future?
The good news is that most poker rooms on the internet seem to realize that software programs are a big deal and that the game is suffering. They are starting to tackle the issue in a couple of different ways.
Some Programs Are Getting Banned
A lot of online poker sites declared war on seating scripts and HUDs. They pretty much are the worst programs out there, so it’s good that many sites are taking them out. People get banned for using them, and this is great.
The advantage they provide and their overall influence is too big to ignore. Fortunately, a couple of big names from the industry are part of the group that works against them, and more seem likely to follow.
On top of that, it’s working well for them, so the online poker environment should become worse and worse for poker software.
New Formats Are Released
We see a lot of interesting new formats and poker games online that are simply not supported by trackers and seating scrips. In a way, the rooms are using their imagination to tackle the problem and give the recreational players tables that are free from all the bot-like regulars.
The whole experience is way better for anyone who wants to have fun, and that’s how online poker should be. The fish are still losing money, but it’s exciting and it’s worth it because the playing experience lasts longer and there’s no nagging feeling that they are hopelessly being robbed by way better players.
One of the best measures against some of the most toxic poker programs is the anonymous tables. As the name suggests, there are no nicknames, no avatars, and no hand histories. You simply sit on the table and play against people you know nothing about.
Naturally, they know nothing about you either, and programs like trackers, seating scripts, and similar simply don’t work.
I don’t want to become one of the negative people that is constantly warning others that online poker is going to die, for whatever reason, but the truth is that the situation is concerning. The game is becoming difficult to enjoy because of the countless programs that people are using.
The level of the competition and the whole experience are now very far from what was great about poker. Let’s hope that the new measures by the poker rooms will work and that we won’t see so much software involved in the future.
Jerry Summer has a wide-ranging interest in gambling and the gambling industry. He's made a living out of both playing poker and betting on sports.
The English Premier League and the NBA are among Jerry's primary areas of expertise. He's knowledgeable about many other sports, too, along with poker and several casino games.