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Moneymaker Boom Babies Instill Fear
Youth is king in the world of poker these days.
In fact, as a crew of barely legal pros turned on to the game by Chris Moneymaker's 2003 World Series win when they were just teens dominate poker tournaments across the globe, you are more likely to hear a player at the L.A. Poker Classic this week complaining about the difficulty of his table draw if it includes half a dozen 21 to 23-year-old online pros than a stable of veteran gamblers.
"I think even I would fear the youngsters more, to be perfectly honest with you," said Hoyt Corkins, a 50-year-old veteran of the game who just won his second WPT title at the Southern Poker Championships in Biloxi last month.
"I mean, I just made a final table and everyone was in their 20's and here I am 50 years old. I think these kids are going to dominate in the years to come.
"It's a different style. The kids are tough. Their technique is good."
At just 23-years-old, Jason Mercier already has more than $4 million in live tournament earnings.
But the South Florida native says his success has very little to do with youthful exuberance.
For a young man who watched Moneymaker win the World Series of Poker Main Event when he was just 16 and has dedicated his life to the game ever since, it's all about the valuable experience of an adolescence spent grinding online.
"That kind of experience you will never get live," the Team PokerStars Pro said. "You just can't play millions of hands live. I think that definitely contributed to my success. In 2007, I played over two million hands online. You just can't do that live."
But is the experience gained playing online poker the same as playing live? Corkin's doesn't think so.
"You can't discount 32 years of watching people's faces and watching the way they put their money in the pot," said the Alabama born Corkins. "When you've played that much online you may be more experienced as far as the technical side goes, but poker is more than just that. It's got a human element to it."
Mercier sees his point.
"Of course experience helps and playing tons and tons of hands online helps," he said. "But the more you play live, the more you pick up on as well. That's why so many of these big online guys have yet to have a big score live. A lot of it has to do with variance, but a lot of them also haven't grasped how live poker is played.
"There's just so much more to it. It's so much more complex. There's only so many things that you can learn online and there are so many more things you get live that you don't get playing online."
At just 21-years old, Yevgeniy Timoshenko won the WPT Championship last season. Like Mercier, he is another baby of the Moneymaker boom.
However, the Ukranian-born Timoshenko says what makes a table full of young online players something to fear isn't just youth, or the number of hands they've played online.
It's the studious approach to the game taken by a group of players who seem to have grown up treating poker like another subject in high school as much as a form of entertainment.
"I don't think being young necessarily makes you good at poker," he said. "And I think even though you play more hands online it doesn't necessarily give you the same amount of experience as you would get playing in a casino.
"But for me, it's not just about hands. What's more important is reviewing your sessions. If you don't do that, it doesn't matter if you play a million hands. If you don't study and try to improve, you are not necessarily going to get a lot of experience out of those million hands."
According to Timoshenko, a player that takes the right approach and studies the game as much as he plays online can gain experience about four times as fast as one playing strictly live.
And that's just what the kids from this era have done to make them seasoned veterans of the game at such a young age.
"It's hard to quantify," he said. "The biggest factor is how many tables you play and how many hours a day that you play. But you can get better at poker online in like one fourth of the time it would take you strictly playing live. It's like a factor of three or four I would say."
Do the math and it's no wonder fresh faced young players born from the Moneymaker boom are having so much success.
They have almost the same experience as 30-year pros like Corkins.
"I mean, I definitely don't feel like a guy who has been sitting here for 20 years," Timoshenko said. "But I feel comfortable enough."