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Are We Better Off with Intra-state Online Poker?

Considering the way the recent hearing on online poker in the Senate went it’s pretty safe to say that the probability of the federal government passing online poker legislation in the near future is iffy at best. So with that in mind I’ve decided to take a look at the other option, the state-by-state option, and look at the glass as half-full when it comes to intra-state online poker.

Spoiled would be a fitting word to sum up the current generation that got their start in poker during the post-Moneymaker boom years. Not spoiled in the sense that they got everything they wanted without any sacrifice, but spoiled in that they were in the right place at the right time to capitalize on the bountiful years that lasted from 2003 to about 2009.

These players never had to “find a game”, or play Seven Card Stud because Holdem didn’t run in the morning hours. They never entered a casino and saw just two half-full tables of $4/$8 Limit Holdem running, with a lot of gray-haired rocks occupying the seats. And with some exceptions they never participated in backroom poker games, or had to organize a game to make sure there were enough players. For the most part they were allowed to pick and choose when, where, and for how much they wanted to play.

Instead, players of the boom years had thousands of choices at their fingertips (literally) and could always find a game either at a casino or by simply firing up an online poker site. Players like myself, who went through the “lean years” also became spoiled during this time, expecting the worldwide player-pool to constantly stock the poker pond full of fish. But that started to change after UIGEA was passed in 2006, and by the time Black Friday hit the online poker world was already being Balkanized, with regions cutting themselves off from the rest of the world, as countries legalized and regulated online poker.

As much as I like the idea of thousands of tables to choose from I still find myself reminiscing about the old days. A time when there was more to being a good poker player than pinpointing three-bet ranges and poring over Holdem Manager stats. So in a way, I’m somewhat torn on whether I want national/international player pools, or if intra-state (with smaller states going inter-state) online poker might not bring back the “old days” in a sense.

It might be interesting to see online poker hotspots spring-up in California and Nevada, while states like Massachusetts would become known for Seven-Card-Stud games and low limit holdem. Some states would have softer games, with the stakes generally lower, while others would be more competitive, with high-stakes action; like it used to be live.

Nostalgia aside, the real question we have to ask ourselves is; how big of a player-pool do we need? We obviously want new and casual players to feel comfortable, and the appeal of online poker has always been the speed –you deposit, you sit, and you play all in the span of five minutes—and the availability of another game.

It would actually be interesting to me, since most of the real pros would move to states with the biggest games and the biggest player pools, which would mean up-and-coming players would probably overestimate their actual skill until they landed in one of these poker-pro-populated states. Imagine a young player crushing the online poker games in Massachusetts and deciding to move to LA to take on the big boys. It would create a whole new dynamic in the poker world, and it just might be good for the game.

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