Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Is poker getting harder?

"Is poker getting harder?"

This is an interesting question that was posed on this months Poker Player magazine letters page. However I do not think this simple question has a simple answer. In fact I think the question in itself is a little misleading because it somehow suggests that the skill levels involved in the modern game are higher which is making it harder.

I think to answer this question you first need to identify by what measures you will use to assess the skill levels of the players involved.

Well the obvious measure that comes to mind is the ability to consistently make a profit!

This in itself though is not a true measure of a players skill because we know that some players can make consistent profits at the low buy in levels but not at the higher ones. And then there are the players that are not comfortable playing the higher levels despite having the bank roll and skill. Furthermore what levels of profit do we accept as the benchmark? Which game and format are we comparing? Well suddenly the waters have become very muddy.

So in thinking this through a bit further perhaps a fairer question would be:

"Is it getting harder to make a consistent profit at poker within the game type and level you play at?".

Now when you put the question like this I think the answer is definitely yes! It certainly is for me which is showing up as a reduction in profits. However I don't believe this is because the skill levels have gotten higher or the game has gotten harder!

Let me explain ....

The online game has changed massively since I started over 10 years ago. A 3bet generally meant an opponent would fold and a 4bet meant you had forgotten where the All In button was. These moves are now common place in the SnG's I play as pre flop actions and there is still some expectation of post flop play.

But does this mean the game is more skillful?

Well I don't believe it does!

Lets take a very basic look at these plays in an online SnG.

Firstly I normally see these moves when the blinds are small; traditionally a part of the game that you were supposed to only be able to lose the SnG but not win it. Later in the game the blinds are so big a 3rd bet generally means all in.

Secondly I don't believe anyone has a true idea where they stand in a hand on the flop after they have had their 4 bet called! Whats more the flop play from here is sometimes astonishing, usually down to the fact that the players have invested so many chips already!

Thirdly after this kind of action, if the 4bet is all in, it is likely to be called by a lesser hand because the pot is so large in comparison to the players remaining chips.

So I am seeing many more light calls against my AA, KK, QQ and AK that would traditionally have been folded pre or post flop. So what is more skillful? Folding in a 20% win spot having invested a little or getting it All In light in the hope you will hit your few outs when you have made a bad read?

I know these moves are meant to get people to fold - but they generally don't anymore.

I therefore put my reduction in profit down to the times I lose with my premium hands being called pre and post flop by hands that normally would have resulted in a pre or post flop fold.

Is poker getting harder?

No, in my opinion it is getting more gambly!

Until next time.

Keep it tight!