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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is a New Breed of Poker Player Taking Over?

June 22, 2010
Posted By - Emma Venezie
Source Credits - "Attack of The Math Brats" by Dan Kadlec. Time. June 28, 2010

There's a new breed of player, deemed "math brats," changing the face of poker, and they are throwing old-school players off their game. Since the game was invented nearly 100 years ago, it's been evolving, and it is no surprise that the power of Internet is now making its mark on Texas hold 'em. Texas hold 'em is the most popular poker game there is with 87% of online play belonging to it, and poker website revenue reaching $4.9 billion in 2009. The World Series Main Event is also becoming more popular: from 839 players joining in 2003 to 8,773 in 2006.

Players such as Phil Hellmuth Jr., a record 11 time World Series of Poker Championship bracelet winner and 1989 winner of the World Series Main Event, who has banked more than $6 million in World Series event prizes, are suffering because of the new rules implanted by the "math brats." These new players are changing poker to a game focused entirely on math, spending endless amounts of time playing the game online, watching the game on TV, and studying theories about how the game is played. Texas hold 'em has evolved into a data-driven game in which players use probability theory, basing their bets on patterns instead of the cards in their hands. The growth in Internet play has altered table play dramatically, specifically when the Internet players reach the table. And now, old-school players are losing their winning streaks.
The new breed of players rely on online software that provides feedback on how others players respond to a raise. The odds are played in a much more unpredictable manner in this new game play, which means these "math brats" are now raising and re-raising much more often despite having a mediocre hand, learning that betting big out of the blue will work, but only if you play often enough. This logic makes no sense to old-school players, who cannot understand why one would risk everything on a average hand. The thing about playing online versus being an old-school player is that you can play in 30 tournaments a night as compared to 30 tournaments a year. The new breed of players are more willing to risk it; they just jump to another game and try again.
So should old-school players adapt to the newly evolved game? Maybe, according to Hellmuth, who is attempting to turn his game around with help from a much younger two-time champion and even a "mind-set coach." It's hard to ignore the fact that it's the new breed of players that are now wearing the winner's bracelets. But could they possibly be easier to read than the old-school players? Could their unpredictability actually become quite predictable? And will the old-school players be completely pushed out of the tables? I guess only time will tell to see if these new rules stick...

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