What’s the Future of Poker? Hint: PLO

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WSOP Asia-Pacific

Poker has changed so much over the last 20 years that it’s hard to imagine what might happen over the next 20 years.

While most signs point to poker peaking in the mid-2000s some professional players are hopeful there will be a resurgence of online poker when the USA becomes fully regulated.

“It really comes down to what goes on in the US,” suggested Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Rousso. 

“The game has found a healthy balance for where it’s going to be if it’s not legalized in the US.”

The USA remains the most important market for online poker (with respect to whatever ends up happening in Asia) and the entire industry is still feeling the effects of Black Friday in 2011.

US Market Represents a Potential Renaissance

Vanessa Rousso
Vanessa Rousso

With Nevada and New Jersey finally open to online poker, poker pros are hoping other states will follow suit.

“If it comes back in the US then I think we’ll see another little rise,” said Rousso. “Kind of like a mini-Moneymaker effect if we’re lucky. That would be great. I’m confident that will happen if you look at the trends in the United States.

“Gambling is becoming more regulated and opened up. It’s just a matter of time. I don’t know if it will happen in five or 10 years but I’d definitely be happy if it did.”

Online Australian pro Roy Bhasin tends to agree.

“Short term it’s looking a little bleak with all the regulation going on around the world,” he said.

“A lot of sites are not allowing players in certain places but i think it’s a necessary step in order to regulate poker world-wide for potentially a global player field some day.”

While strict regulation have kept poker’s growth in check over the last few years, many players believe poker is slowly starting to make a comeback.

“The idea is to eventually bring poker to more people and have it in a way that’s responsible and safe so that people can have fun with it,” said Bhasin.

Rise of Pot-Limit Omaha

Roy Bhasin
Roy Bhasin would love to see PLO become even more popular.

Of course laws and regulations haven't been the only change to poker over the last five years.

While poker’s most popular variant, No-Limit Hold’em, appears to have peaked there’s another game that continues to bring a slow but steady influx of players.

That game is Pot-Limit Omaha.

“It’s never really exploded like No-Limit Hold’em,” explained Bhasin. “I don’t see that happening to PLO. I think it will slowly gain popularity as time goes on and people get tired of Hold’em and look for something new.”

PLO is the perfect game for poker players who picked up No-Limit Hold’em by watching the WSOP on ESPN.

While PLO may be a much more complex game, the basic rules behind it are easy to explain to No-Limit Hold’em players and can essentially be simplified to: Just add two more hole cards.

As No-Limit Hold’em strategy gets more and more advanced there are still some good spots in PLO.

“Hold’em’s getting a lot tougher these days,” said Bhasin. “PLO is unsolved. Once you understand the game it’s more fun I think. Obviously I’m biased but PLO is just a great game.”

Long-time poker vet Gary Benson also believe PLO is ready for primetime.

“It’s becoming a bigger cash game than No-Limit Hold’em,” he said.

Beyond PLO: Mix Games Making a Comeback

Gary Benson
Long-time vet Gary Benson still loves playing poker.

Poker is more than No-Limit Hold’em and PLO, however, and players who were raised on those games have started to dip their feet in some of the more uncommon games.

“I think you might see a resurgence of the mix games,” said Benson.

“There are a lot of exciting new mix games. There’s Badeucy and Badacy. Razzdugi. Super Stud. They are the games I really like playing. They are limit games while all the young guys are used to Pot-Limit or No-Limit.”

In fact 2-7 Triple Draw has been one of the most popular high-stakes games online over the last sixth months and 8-Game has started to gain some popularity as well.

At this point No-Limit Hold’em is one of the most analyzed games in the world so it makes sense that most players would want to try their hands at some of the lesser known games.

Love of Poker Will Never Change

While there will undoubtedly be some changes to poker over the next 10-20 years there’s no question the game will endure.

“It’s a great game,” said Bhasin. “It’s been around for over a hundred years. I speak to so many people who I wouldn’t expect to play poker but they get together with their mates to have a few beers and play. It’s not serious but it’s just a good pastime.

Even someone who has been playing as long as Benson still gets a thrill from playing a poker tournament.

“I still love it,” he said. “I’ve been playing tournament poker for 27 years and I still keep coming back.”

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