"The Death of Online Poker" discussed on The Orbit

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: September 30, 2020 14:33 PDT

Roundtable panel discusses real-time assistance and its effect on the future of online poker

Online poker boomed in 2020, thanks in large part to a lack of live poker options during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sustainability of the online game is always a pertinent question, however.

Continued advancements in artificial intelligence, solver software, and real-time assistance (RTA) challenge the security measures of online poker sites, as well as the mettle of online poker players. High-stakes player Fedor Kruse was recently accused of using an RTA "dream machine" to move up through the online cash game stakes in rapid fashion.

The most recent episode of The Orbitfeatured a segment discussing the future of online poker in the midst of AI and RTA advancements. Hosted by Cardplayer Lifestyle Blog founder Robbie Strazynski, Episode 3 of the new show brought in a panel that included Matt Berkey, Nick Jones, Chris Wallace and David K. Lappin to discuss the outlook for online poker in the 2020s.

What defines going too far to gain an edge in 2020?

Strazynski opens the discussion asking the panel to consider what constitutes unethical behavior while trying to gain an edge in the modern online game.

"There's been some talk recently about the death of online poker, so to speak," Strazynski says to open the segment. "Due to the use of real-time solvers, and frankly, just people beating the game. At what point though does the idea of a player seeking an edge, which all poker players kind of need to do in order to win, at what point does that idea cross the line though, into doing something wrong?"

"Moreover, if more and more people start really beating the game, what can the industry do to sort of keep itself afloat?"

That question is one that any serious online player has to consider as 2021 approaches. Strazynski's panel of guests for this episode of The Orbit weighed in on one of poker's most pressing questions.

Nick Jones (Pokerfuse co-founder)

Poker journalist Nick Jones knows online poker as well as anyone. Jones is the co-founder of Pokerfuse, an outlet dedicated to the online poker industry. Jones said he doesn't evaluate any kind of moral problem with using RTA tools, and that poker sites should allow such tools if that's how the site wants to operate.

Jones does, however, contend that the future of the online poker economy depends on platforms securing against RTA software.

"I personally think by far the easiest decision is to prohibit any kind of tools at all," Jones said. "I think if I were to run a poker site that's the approach that I would take. I think it's just the clearest to explain to the player."

Jones goes on to speculate that newcomers to online poker probably don't expect opponents to be using the kinds of RTA programs that might be available in 2020.

David K. Lappin (Unibet Poker Ambassador)

Unibet Poker Ambassador and veteran of the industry David K. Lappin says there's a very clear distinction between what constitutes preparation, versus cheating, in online poker.

"There's a very clear line for me, which is use whatever you want to train your brain, to fast-track learning, to improve your game off the table," Lappin said. "But when you sit down to play you need to be on your own. You need to be using your own faculties to make decisions in real-time.

Lappin points out that the mere perception of RTA as part of the modern online poker landscape could spell impending doom.

"Unfortunately, the specter of 'everyone's out there with a real-time assistant, everyone's out there cheating,' is horrible for our game. It's devastating for our game, and for the fabric of everything that we know and love."

Matt Berkey (Solve for Why Poker Training Academy Founder)

Poker pro Matt Berkey founded the Solve for Why Poker Training Academy, where students learn from Berkey and a team of other poker professionals. Berkey was asked about the perception of RTA cheating in the game could affect the outlook of a new poker student.

"In a general sense, the population as a whole sees this problem that we're facing similar to the way that human beings see cancer," Berkey said. "They recognize that it exists, they recognize that it's commonplace, but they think that it'll never happen to them."

"It's bad messaging for the community to get this out there that this may be a problem. But it was bad messaging in the early 2000s to get it out there that online sites were rigged, and the RNGs weren't fair, and 'Potripper' was a thing. But people kept playing. They kept showing up in droves."

"Something happened at Black Friday though," continued Berkey. "We've been on a dying star for the better part of a decade. Online poker is in a massive decline. And we need to innovate or die."

Berkey goes on to say that security at online poker sites lags far behind the innovation of RTA and other assisted-play methods.

Chris 'Fox' Wallace (poker author)

Chris 'Fox' Wallace, author of an article on Cardplayer Lifestyle titled Solvers: The Death of Online Poker, rounded out the discussion with thoughts on heads-up displays (HUDs), a tool that's acceptable to use at some poker sites.

"If you're playing 1/2 No-Limit online, I can't recommend that you go buy five million hand histories from one of these hand history resellers, because I don't think that's the right thing to do," Wallace said. "But I can tell you that without doing that, this game is tough to beat."

"Because all of your opponents are doing it. And your opponents are going to have a HUD with every hand you've ever played, and it's going to be a majority of opponents at that level have this."

The entire episode of The Orbit can be seen on Twitch Poker, and also the Cardplayer Lifestyle YouTube channel. Episode 3 also covers several other interesting topics, as The Orbit touches on some of poker's most timely issues.