PokerPlayer’s Big Issue: Has the poker revolution finally happened?

Back in 2005, when this magazine launched, it was all about the characters.

Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott was on our first front cover, followed by Phil Hellmuth, and Mike Matusow. Scotty Nguyen and Tony G all enjoyed pride of place in the first couple of years.

Make no mistake, they were all world- class players, but they kept themselves at the top table through their antics, with endless TV invitationals dragging them back to the small screens in a bid to make poker more of a spectator sport. 

The first of the ‘new breed’ appeared on our cover in November 2007. Brian Townsend was the face of the new online generation, and he was followed by Tom Dwan and Phil Galfond.

The debate soon followed – who was better, old or new school? The online kids ridiculed the old-timers and the old-school hit back, saying the kids couldn’t hack it live. There was a bit of truth to both sides.

Hellmuth and Dwan clashed at the NBC Heads-Up Championship in one of the most infamous encounters, which ended in a ‘heads-up for rolls’ challenge that never came to light. Shows like High Stakes Poker proved the two could co-exist. Tom Dwan in particular lit the show up, but others, like Phil Galfond, struggled to make an impact. The old pros were taken with Dwan’s playing style but few saw him as a sign they should change their game.

Except Daniel Negreanu. In 2010, Negreanu posted a blog called, ‘A New Challenge Awaits’. In it Negreanu set out his plan to ‘learn how to play no-limit hold’em cash games online.’ It was quite a statement from one of the world’s best, but as Negreanu went on to say, ‘It really is just amazing how much better poker players are today than they were 10 years ago.’

Game over

Fast forward to today and what have you got? Most of the highly successful online high stakes players are challenging for the biggest live tournaments around the globe. Negreanu is crushing, sitting near the top of the GPI Rankings and at the top of the live all-time money list. He might not have conquered the online world, but he’s got the respect of pretty much every player for his game and attitude towards learning and evolving.

And 2015 is the year that the change that has been happening slowly has finally reached the tipping point. The newest signing for PokerStars is Jason Somerville, on the back of his live streaming work on Twitch. Twitch is seen as the new breeding ground for fresh, young blood coming into the game. The latest poker invitational doesn’t feature Tony G or Phil Hellmuth, but the best players from last year based on unbiased rankings from the GPI. Doyle Brunson doesn’t play live tournaments any more and Tony G is a member of the European Parliament. It seems the revolution has finally happened.

But don’t shed a tear. If it’s nostalgia you’re after, it’s a guarantee that Hellmuth will still pop up at the WSOP and might even challenge for his 14th bracelet. If not, he’ll definitely turn the air blue with one of his trademark tirades. Meanwhile, today’s new stars like Jason Somerville and poker’s first ‘official’ ambassador Daniel Negreanu, will continue to tear it up on and off the tables, and help to grow the game that we all know and love. Evolution always seems to work out.

PokerPlayer magazine is now available for free every issue here


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