I can't emphasize enough my disdain for automated poker tables - those that take the place of real-life wood and felt games run by a real live dealer.
I'm not against automated tables in general. Some of these machines are fantastic technological marvels (well, maybe not marvels, but they are pretty cool).
I am against removing real tables, and the dealers that staff them, in favor of automation.
Since the invention of the printing press circa 1440, technology has been the crutch helping us limp our way through the centuries. We have technology to thank for almost all of the progress we've made as a society.
Unfortunately, we're getting to a point where technology has become our society's addiction. What once was the tool of progress might be the catalyst of regression. Five reasons why that's the case with automated poker tables:
5) Fewer Local Jobs
Poker tables run by humans must, by definition, be staffed by humans. Moving to automated poker tables will eliminate dealers, lower the number of pit bosses needed, remove the need for chip runners and even potentially remove all need for cashiers.
They already have automated cashiers for slot tickets. Printed poker receipts would be no different.
On top of all those jobs, the number of security officers needed for the poker room will also be greatly reduced. With no actual chips or money on the tables, there is no need to have a camera watching every table - just a couple showing all sections of the room.
The jobs lost will not be matched by the number of technicians and other geeks needed to keep things running - that might compensate somewhat, but not fully.
4) So Long, Flexible Rules
Poker has always been a game of flexible rules. Angle-shooting, lying, cheating and stealing is what makes poker poker! If players never undertook any of this bad behavior, poker would be no more exciting or popular than bridge.
Poker is the bad boy's card game, the game for dank backrooms - not the Thursday night event at the local seniors' center. Even today as people are working at strangling all the life and character out of the game with new rules and regulations, the basic rules are still flexible.
Taking away the cards and the chips removes all angles and reads one can get from them. A substantial amount of the reads players get are based on how opponents look at their cards and how they bet their chips.
If I want to flash one of my cards while folding, I'm able to do that at a real table. How can I count my chips while thinking, to gauge a reaction from my opponent, when my stack is no more than a digital number?
3) New "Poker is Rigged" Complaints
We've all seen the hundreds of thousands of forum posts, and heard the millions of moans around the world, that "online poker is rigged." All these people are convinced it's so, without any proof beyond the knowledge that they lost.
These same people have been heard complaining that the shuffle machines in the tables are rigged, or they don't actually shuffle the decks. Take away the decks, and people will believe that the automated tables are just as rigged as they believe online poker to be.
I'm just not sure I could put up with a whole new influx of that crap.
2) No Chips to Play With
Walk into a poker room and what's the one sound you hear above all others? Playing with one's chips is the most common pastime of the idle player.
The Amazon Room at the Rio is literally a roar of chip-clacking during the WSOP. Take away the chips and what are the players supposed to play with?
You're going to force players to have to find some other way to stay occupied, whether it be reading, watching TV, playing video games or doing Sudoku puzzles. Having half the players on the table focusing on something other than the play sounds like a pretty lame and annoying way to play to me.
"Hey ... excuse me ... seat three ... sir ... action's on you"; wash, rinse, repeat.
1) The Whole Idea
You don't drive to the Grand Canyon to look at a postcard. You don't buy tickets to the NBA finals to watch the game on the big screen. You don't buy a new wetsuit so you can sit in your bathtub.
I could keep making up these analogies, but I think you get the idea.
A poker room is its own wonderful entity. I think it's great for the game in every way, but when you choose to go to the casino to play poker you're going for the whole poker experience.
Peeling back your cards in your own style, at your own pace, building your own little suspense after seeing the first ace, and perfecting a new chip trick are all part of the experience of playing live poker.
NFL players talk about the feel of the grass the first time they stepped out to play in the big game. Hockey players all remember the feel of the cold wet ice. (There's a reason Bobby Orr didn't play floor hockey.)
The feel of the felt of the table, the give of the rail, the way your cards hit the muck with just the right amount of spin ... what would poker be to live players without all of these variables?
Live Poker is an Experience
Live poker is an experience. Take away the experience and you're just going through the motions. No one pays to go to a film on opening night, only for it to be screened on a TV with no popcorn.
Sure, the movie's still the same, but that's not the point.
Take away the old poker table and you're just left with a slow single-table-only version of online poker, while being forced to sit next to unsavory characters.
Unless you're talking about novelty heads-up machines in the bar or your home, there is no place in my world for automated poker tables. Do all of us a favor, and help keep the life in live poker.
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