With the wealth of new ways to play poker online and the fact that internet poker rooms are so much better today than they were many years ago, it’s easy to say that poker has evolved since before the poker boom.
Many attest to the fact that the internet has changed the way we play the game, in terms of strategy and technique. But is this true? If you look back at some of the most successful poker players of all time, they possessed a lot of the skills that are touted as being so important in the modern game – and worked on honing them really hard, too.
Before the poker boom and before poker became one of the most-played card games on the planet, many people’s perception of it was that the primary skills required were the ability to bluff and to spot bluffs. The cult poker film, Rounders, helped support this, as Matt Damon portrayed a character (Mike McDermott) who had a unique and incredible ability to deduce what the other players were holding.
Anyone who has played poker online will know that in this setting, it is impossible to read players’ expressions in the same way Damon’s character does in the film. Instead, there is a much heavier focus on mathematical ability and playing with probabilities in mind. This is regarded as a modern poker strategy, and a number of internet players are finding great success in live games by using it.
The thing is, however, that having these attributes has always been key in Texas Hold’em. One of the greatest players of all time, Stu Ungar, was known for having a strong calculating brain which he put to good use in blackjack and gin rummy, along with poker. In fact, many 21st-century poker players turn to playing blackjack games online as a way to improve their overall skillset, but it was the three-time World Series of Poker Main Event champion who did it first.
It could be argued that internet poker has simply made more players aware of the importance of mathematical ability in the game. Because of this, those who are serious about winning online have had to evolve and adapt their game to be able to deal with this type of modern player who is constantly calculating his chances of winning. Many players sign up to poker training sites to help improve their overall game. Certain concepts, such as the stone cold bluff from yesteryear, are virtually nonexistent in professional circles in 2020. Instead, players tend to assess their outs and pot odds before making an attempt to take down a pot with a weak hand.
Of course, in live poker, the concept of reading the opponents’ psychological cues – including microexpressions – is still a major part of the game. When weaker players come up against the best in the business, they often give away tells without realising it. The seasoned pros have spent years picking up on the slightest twitch, and are able to hone in on it.
Poker has evolved in its entirety because a greater number of players are aware of the skills needed to gain mastery of it. However, looking back at some of the greatest names in poker history, they also placed a lot of emphasis on mathematical ability in their strategy. So, we’d say that the answer to our question is “yes, but also no”.