Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Infinitesimal Uptick of Online Poker

The World Series of Poker is up and running, and it has been diverting over the last day following the various discussions of how things have started. Overall the amount of WSOP talk seems a bit lower than in years past, but that’ll likely change soon once the Colossus comes along tomorrow.

Noticed a few “mainstream” articles about the WSOP starting this week -- e.g., it turned up as a top story in the Associated Press app. Saw another one on ESPN yesterday titled “Rise of online poker at the WSOP” filed by Dave Tuley that struck me as a little bit odd, actually.

ESPN, of course, has covered poker and especially the WSOP more than any other “non-poker” outlet over the last decade-plus, although as far as the website goes they’ve kind of curbed back the poker a bit this year. There’s no longer a separate “Poker” section on the site (formerly to be found along with other less popular sports). Now the poker is folded into a larger section about gambling, sports betting, and I guess some fantasy stuff called “Chalk.”

Anyhow, to get to what is a little strange about this article, we could start with the title, which makes it sound as though online poker is something that hasn’t already been around for more than 15 years. I mean the rise of online poker (at the WSOP and elsewhere) happened long ago. Even the fall of online poker (in the U.S.) is old news.

The piece is about’s Nevada site, focusing on how there will be an online bracelet event and also on the invitation to players to fire up the site and play on it on their phones, iPads, and laptops at the tables. You’ve probably heard a little about this and how dealers and staff are supposed to be accommodating to players wanting to multi-task like this.

Tuley talked with Bill Rini (’s Head of Online Poker) and 2012 WSOP Main Event champion Greg Merson (who is helping promote the site), both of whom are predictably energetic about it all. Indeed, much of the article is made from quotes from those two.

But while the author starts out acknowledging Chris Moneymaker’s online entry into the 2003 WSOP ME and vaguely refers to how “online poker has forever altered the gaming landscape,” he seems less aware of the fact that online poker has been heavily influencing the live game ever since.

“The convergence of the real and online worlds will never be more apparent than at the this year’s WSOP,” writes Tuley. I suppose he’s speaking literally -- as in he’s picturing that scene of players playing online poker on devices at the tables -- but even that has been a pretty commonplace sight around the world for many years.

He can’t be speaking figuratively, because anyone who’s paid any attention at all to poker over the last 15 years well knows how the “real and online worlds” (1) converged long ago, and (2) have converged in ways that have been way more apparent than will be the case at the WSOP this year.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the online and live poker worlds work together,” he concludes, “but it’s clear they are intertwined and will continue to grow.” Again, the only way this empty observation even makes sense is on a literal level (e.g., will there be any hassle when players are waiting for the laptop player to act when it’s his turn?).

But even there just how “interesting” is that going to be? After all, even the author of “Rise of online poker at the WSOP” seems to be dozing a little with a sign-off like that.

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