The Shape of Poker to Come: Predicting Poker 5 Years From Now

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Where poker started far from its future.

During this year's FA Cup Final former Arsenal defender Martin Keown - who was commentating on the game - said that the modern soccer game is 'full of giants.'

Men who are physically much bigger and stronger than those he used to compete with.

The entertainment industry is heading in much the same way. Giants are emerging from the soul of the world. Old forms of entertainment -- radio, TV -- that were bastions for so long are disappearing.

The new world is intoxicating. We want everything now; at our fingertips, and gleaming with precision.

There's an old adage that we only accept the truth after we have wholeheartedly rejected it. Poker prophets have rejected the notion that 'poker is dying.'

There’s a feeling that this humble card game that has enthralled us for generations is somehow imbued with the elixir of life.

I don’t believe in mysticism. I believe in what’s right in front of my iris. Poker as we know it is dying. But something else will take its place.

Still Walking Down Cobbled Streets

In a recent blog post entitled ‘Uber and Airbnb Never Should Have Happened The Way They Did,’ entrepreneur, speaker, coach and author Gary Vaynerchuk talked about the importance of ‘understanding and innovating in the market space so you don’t go out of business.’

Matusow in 2005
Living in the past?

Vaynerchuk believes companies that don’t grasp this concept by the balls will be left behind because of their incapability to adapt.

I believe you can widen this to encompass entire industries - and the gambling industry still walks down cobbled streets.

When Gary Vee wakes up each morning he asks himself, ‘what could put me out of business today?’ Generally, these threats come from his competitors or newborn entrepreneurs preparing to take their first flight.

He figures out the answer and then deploys lessons learned in his organizations to ensure he keeps ahead of the curve.

How well does the poker industry understand its customer? Does it even know who the customer of ‘tomorrow’ will be?

These are key questions to ask.

Who's the Customer of Today?

Successful companies need to understand what’s keeping their customers awake at night.

What are the things that they desperately want to do but can’t? What are their dreams? What are their roadblocks? What really matters to him or her? What are the important beliefs and values?

The biggest problem the poker industry has right now is it sees these people as ‘commodities.’ They are walking around the world with a bullseye on their backs.

They are targets. They are numbers on a balance sheet. They are a company exec's bonus cheque.

This way of thinking has lessened their ability to hold their customers' attention. When they see the world through their customers' eyes, they can answer all of the above questions and more.

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Will rec players be there tomorrow?

When they try and answer them from the boardroom, they are blind.

Once they get inside their heads, figure out the answers to those questions, then it’s time to show up. It’s time to deliver. It’s time to give them something to talk about it. Let them spread the word.

Who's the Customer of Tomorrow? 

You can look at your customer today or you can predict what he or she will look like tomorrow.

The reason PokerStars players are upset over recent rake and VIP changes is PokerStars do not see them as their main point of focus.

Businesses can’t appease everyone. They need to figure out who their market is, evaluate if that’s a market they want to serve, and then get cracking.

The move towards the recreational player model is proof that the grinder is no longer the main focus of an online poker company. What often skews this belief is the fact that the grinders have the loudest voice.

They have set up the forums. They are the focus of the media. They are the ones who play in the biggest games in the world. But this is not poker’s market. I see the market stretching into three different segments:

  • 1. Recreational Players
  • 2. Grinders
  • 3. Professionals

Recreational Players

There are more recreational poker players than any other type of player. They will generate the main income. They are quite obviously a market the poker community wants to serve.

Poker bots

However, there are a few problems with recreational players from a long-term standpoint. While they might be the customer of today, I don’t think they will all be there tomorrow.

The world is changing. Our needs are changing.

What could put me out of business today?

1. Technology

How long is it before artificial intelligence takes over the online game?

2. Cheating

A fortnight ago PokerStars handed out refunds to Spin & Go players because of a cheat. How long before technology and the desire to cheat drives this game into the ground?

3. Competition

Poker organizations have been looking at each other. Flexing their muscles. And all the time the eSports and video gaming industry were the real competitors.

While the recreational players MUST be the focus of poker today, I don’t believe they will be around to be the customers of the future.

I don’t think they will be playing poker. I believe playing poker will feel like me playing Pong.

The Grinders

Poker companies will drive them out of the game. By fully understanding the world view of the recreational player they will see that the grinder is nothing but a leech.

Galfond
Galfond and GPL are future.

There was a time when the leech was a fundamental component in the medical industry. The same is true of the grinder.

The Professionals

For poker to survive long enough to pass genes onto the next generation there is a need to separate recreational players who enjoy the game for fun and those that seek to make a living from it.

Until this happens poker companies will always have unhappy campers. They will always have a divide.

I see a future where the true professionals will emerge in an elite group unto themselves. They will become the idols of a new generation. They will be paid millions of dollars in endorsement deals.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Floyd Mayweather will invite them to their birthday parties.

The Global Poker League (GPL) is the future.

Alex Dreyfus and his team understand the customer better than anyone. Rather than concentrating his efforts on the poker community of today, he has looked at what the poker community of tomorrow looks like.

He has got inside their heads. He has answered all of those tricky questions I laid out above.

Humans Are Lazy Like That

When I dissect why I fell in love with poker it’s all about the money. I saw it as a way to earn a fast buck.

Humans are lazy like that. At times it seemed as if poker was the path of least resistance. I forgot about the losses. I only remembered the wins.

I would never have played poker without a monetary maggot handing on the end of the line. Today, that changes. I would gladly compete in the GPL for no pay  check.

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GPL is about competition.

The GPL is not about the money. The GPL is about competition.

Our children are different. They were born into a land of privilege. Money doesn’t appeal to them as it once did to us. They have more things handed to them on a silver platter.

How they consume media has also changed dramatically. Could you imagine watching another person play Pong when you were a kid -- and paying for the opportunity to do so?

Our children need deep, rich and immersive gaming experiences. They need to be a part of a social construct. They need idols. They need to be entertained on an entirely different level.

But ... Poker is Boring

I’m sorry, but it is.

Jackpotpoker
Jackpot Poker is winning.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Daniel Negreanu developed a love for Hearthstone. I am going out on a limb here by saying he was advised by his lords and masters to show an interest because that’s where the future lays.

By the time you've read this Poker Central will have hosted a hybrid eSports/Poker tournament called ‘World’s Collide.' A trio of poker players will have taken on a trio of eSports stars across three games: Jackpot Poker, Hearthstone, and Pac-Man.

Jackpot Poker is the future for recreational players. Time is precious. There is only so much of it in between changing nappies, arguing with the wife, and putting the washing machine on.

You don’t see bog standard Texas Hold’em Poker on the roll call here do you? And the GPL has quickly found out that poker is boring. The introduction of the webcam saved what could have been a disaster.

I see no difference between poker and slot machines when it comes to the future. There was a time our minds would have been blown away by the wizardry of a slot machine.

Now it seems positively Paul Daniels. People will one day view poker in the same way we view a one-armed bandit.

Poker organizations eager to cure the problems of the recreational poker player will turn to more luck-based games and poker will turn into a slot machine that will slowly eat itself with every pull of the arm. 

HoldemX

HoldemX won't be the future but the idea will.

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Future is streaming.

At the recent eBetting Summit in London Jens Hilger, the CEO of Dojo Madness, told the crowd that someone would need millions of dollars and the greatest minds in gaming to create something that could compete with the likes of League of Legends and DOTA 2.

Dreyfus has been very clear about the birth of HoldemX and it came from much humbler surroundings.

But the idea is the right one. The future of poker is an evolved type of game that retains the powerful punches of the deck of cards but fulfills the worldview of customers by offering them a deep, meaningful and immersive game that runs off the back of a creative and curious community.

The new poker will be streamed live on Twitch and other online broadcasting networks. It will be interactive. Poker organizations will hire the biggest stars based on the vastness of their audience.

TV will die. Nobody watches TV anymore. Poker Central will move entirely online.

The World Poker Tour (WPT) will have to rethink things as their audience slowly dies of old age. They need to be where their audience is and it won’t be television.

GPL Cube
Future has the Cube.

A New Legacy Will Begin

Poker as we know it will be found along the marble corridors of some old museum. History teachers will show poker in its rightful place in the gaming ecology.

It’s reached its zenith. It’s burning out. There will soon be nothing but ash.

And then it will be reborn. It will have a new name. It will have a new look. It will exist in a different time and place.

A new legacy will begin -- one based on the worldview of a new customer in an ever-changing and brave new world owned by the giants who never slept, never stayed still, and were always thinking 'what could put me out of business today?'

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