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Learning No-Limit From Scratch ­- How Poker Has Changed In the New Millennium

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Aug 17, 2016


Roy CookeThe poker world is constantly changing, but the changes have been been particularly dramatic the last 16 years. The arrival of online poker brought games into every home, not just in America, but throughout the world. Previously, legal and geographical issues had limited poker to a few worldwide locations.

Poker exploded! Games started being spread in countries that had had little or no poker. Capped buy-ins in no-limit games brought no-limit to the forefront of poker. No-limit slowly replaced limit as the mainstay of poker.

And then 28-year-old Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker main event, winning $2.5 million and creating a publicity storm that exploded the already robust growth of poker exponentially. Online sites grew massively; tournaments sprouted up everywhere and received TV exposure. Those players who either already possessed or rapidly developed quality poker abilities enriched themselves quickly. Some smart, young kids and a few old farts became insta-millionaires.

Then, on the final day before Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections, the UIEGA, a Congressional act banning online gaming sites from accepting payments, slipped into the Safe Port act, a bill dealing with the safety of America’s ports and having nothing to do with online gaming. It was a slick, controversial move by the anti-gaming forces. According to Senator Frank Lautenberg, no one on the Senate-House Conference committee had even seen the final language of the bill before it was passed.

Many online poker sites closed down, but several sites contested the law and continued US operations. Those sites grew, acquiring customers from all the other closed sites, and their owners became mega-rich.

Then came “Black Friday,” April 15, 2011; the sites operating in the United States were closed to American participants, players’ accounts were frozen, and the economics of poker changed drastically in a day. No American money flowed into the sites. Online pros, with their bankrolls frozen and their online promotional contracts annulled, needed to make money and transitioned to live poker. Recreational players also had their poker bankrolls tied up. Initially, the quantity of live games increased, but the game quality was down as many more online pros transitioned to live recreational players. So, while live poker rooms saw an increase in income, the players didn’t.

An economic evolution had taken place and then crashed. The initial poker boom created by the advent of online poker offered rich rewards to those proficient at poker. Players who were marginal professionals transformed into mega-stars and became wealthy. The poker information market escalated in quality and volume. Poker book sales rocketed, video training sites blossomed, and advanced computer programs dissected every situation poker had to offer.

The availability of these resources not only made it much easier for a hardworking wannabe pro to quickly reach a high level of skills since the heavy lifting of innovation had been done for them. It also raised the playing level of the best players who continued to work to improve their game. Those pros who arrogantly thought their current skillsets would carry them through quickly found that when the economics changed, the new level of play had passed them by.

Then the pool of recreational players shrank with the legal changes. The money injected into the poker economy by the casual online player dwindled. Poker became significantly less lucrative, and the level of play required to win became higher.

Additionally, the new availability of information created more parity among the poker regulars. As basic poker information came in easy to read or listen to forms, a layperson not statistically inclined could easily learn the basics in a few hours. In the old days an ABC-style game could be a winning style in games where there were enough weak players to offset the rake and the few talented players. Now with higher rakes, fewer bad players and more good ones, ABC play is often a losing style.

Also, the game has generally become more aggressive. With more advanced computer programs and greater depth of the games study, more productive strategies have been unearthed. Some are very complex and situationally-orientated. Currently, the players who are making significant money are best of the best, those who can compete and win against those players who are willing to compete at high levels and play fairly well, but have flaws that are being exploited by more knowledgeable and disciplined opponents.

Furthermore, poker now has less value to the casinos. There are fewer overall games and the poker clientele is dropping less money in the gaming pit and sportsbooks. As a result, casinos have lowered their marketing budgets and additional poker expenses. Online poker has pockets of legality, but to be effectual, it needs to be merged so that all players worldwide can play at the same site. Since political and tax implications will have to be worked out, it may be awhile.

It all makes for a tougher poker world. It’s no longer a get rich quick opportunity. But the opportunities are still there for those who are willing to study the game and the poker lifestyle is a great one for those who love the game. The control over your own life and the freedoms poker offers provides wonderful options for the independently thinking individual.

And at some point in poker’s future, online gaming will come back to America, growing the game once again. It will likely never approach the “happy times” of the early 2000’s, but it’s “in the cards” that poker’s future will be bright. ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke