Predicting What’s New in Your Poker Game for 2009?

by Lou on December 26, 2008

Everyone likes to predict the future, but none of us can do it very well. If we could, we’d all have sold short sometime in 2008 and made a bundle during 2008’s economic collapse.
Nevertheless, annual predictions are every writer’s stock-in-trade, so I intend to take as clear a look as I can at 2009. But it’s not the same look other pundits will offer.

I’m not predicting the repeal of the loathsome Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), that 2006 late night appendage to a piece of must-pass port security legislation which then Senator Bill Frist dreamed up to cater to the religious right in hopes of advancing his soon-to-be-dashed presidential aspirations. Nor do I know who will win the 2009 World Series of Poker, and I’m done offering guesses to even how many players will sign up for that event.

What I’m looking at when I think of 2009 is the future of your local poker game, and mine too. I’m thinking about what poker will be like for the majority of players in the New Year.

Most successful players don’t win because of their own innate genius at this game; they win because of their opponents’ stupidity. Some opponents give money away—they bleed to death at the table by making a continuous run of loose calls with hands they should have folded, and by exhibiting a penchant for looking us up time and time again on the river. Why? Quien Sabe? Perhaps they sleep better knowing that no one ever bluffs them in a poker game.

It’s the sum of all these additional calls that should not have been made, minus the occasions they get lucky by making a really bad call and drawing out to put a bad beat on us, plus the unwarranted river lookups, minus the occasional times we are actually caught bluffing that really contributes to our bottom line. That’s loose money, and loose money is our profit.

If we’re always playing against opponents who play as well as we do, we can only figure to break even in the end. But we usually don’t because breaking even at the table in a casino game amounts to a net loss because of the rake, tokes, and other costs of doing business.

A lot less loose money is floating around in this economy, and fewer people seem willing to gamble, especially when they’re not sure where their next pay check is coming from—if it’s coming at all. Games in 2009 figure to be played a lot closer to the vest, at least until the economy turns around to the point where recreational players have a sense of security about their income stream and a willingness to risk some of it at the poker table.

We already saw this phenomenon happen in online poker. Prior to the enactment of UIGEA, it was as easy to reload one’s account as a mouse click or two that sent funds from a credit card to your online poker room of choice—and there were scads of loose players online, most of whom contributed to the well being of better players who didn’t have to do much more than play straightforward, A-B-C poker to show a nice earn at the end of each month.

But UIGEA created hurdles that had to be scaled in order to reload an online account, and made it more difficult for casual, recreational players to fund their losses and keep a steady stream of money in their online account. The result was a slow but steady disappearance of players who lost regularly, but mentally wrote it off as a casual, convenient form of relatively inexpensive entertainment. When contributors began leaving, games got tougher. Some players still won, but they did so because they never stopped upgrading their skills and kept abreast with the always changing style and tactics found in online games.

Those formerly winning players who did not adapt were no longer winners, and became contributors. Many of them never knew why. They were never able to wrap their minds around a game that was changing even as they played it. It all brings to mind that old Bob Dylan line, “You know something’s happening, but you don’t know what it is, do you. Mr. Jones?”
If you want to succeed in 2009, you have to resolve to move your game forward. And when you make this New Year’s Resolution, just swallow hard and accept the fact that as well as you play in the coming year, you might not win as much as you did before all the loose money dried up and disappeared.

But if you don’t dedicate a lot of time, energy, and study time to sharpening the saw in 2009, you might find yourself referred to in that most desultory of terms—a contributor. With the economy as bad as it is, 2009 is looking like a time for lots of traction and not much speed at the poker table.

Here’s my advice for the coming year. And it’s simple, too. Keep your head above water. Show up and play. Study and grow your game. And when the tide finally turns and your game is once again filled with loose money and players who came to gamble, you can just sit back, take it easy—and take it.

{ 2 comments }

Online Gambling December 28, 2008 at 9:08 am

All said for a prediction on 2009. Hope my game would improve next year.

Disciples of Poker January 1, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Lou:

Thanks for the advice and the large dose of reality. My game stunk in 2008. Limited success on- line and no success in live tourney play.

Good words to live by.

Frank

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