The Big Issue: Is Twitch bad for poker?

Twitch Poker is taking off in a big way but is it good or bad for the game?

Poker is a game of information. When you started playing you were probably told not to show your cards at the table as it gives your opponent information he can use against you.

In 1979, Doyle Brunson turned the game upside down when he released his definitive strategy book Super/System, aka How I Made Over $1,000,000 Playing Poker. It revealed how aggressive poker was winning poker and it was a huge success. In those days poker was a closed shop. You learned the game by playing – and losing. Now you could play like a pro simply by reading a book. Brunson has said since that the book probably cost him more money than it made him. His secrets were out and it made it harder for him to win at the table.

Since the release of Super/System, thousands of strategy books have been released, catering for all levels of play and every variant of the game. There’s little doubt that they’ve made the game harder to play.

Rise of the pro

In 2005 it started to get even harder. When Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event in 2003 the poker boom created a virtual money grab. If you were a half-decent grinder you could make a six-figure salary pretty easily. A man called Taylor Caby saw a gap in the market and launched CardRunners – an online poker coaching site that used videos to show how the pros played.

Cardrunners might still be the world’s best poker coaching site but it’s been joined by a raft of imitators, and between them they’ve been credited with driving up the standard of play and making it much harder to win. It led to poker pro Dusty Schmidt saying in 2010: ‘Online poker will never be harder than it is now.’

Fast forward to today and there’s a new coaching tool in the poker world – Twitch. Pros like Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville now stream their play live (with a small delay) and give analysis over the top – for free.

And some people believe it will drive the standard of play even higher. Some pros like Sam Trickett have always been notoriously shy at divulging strategy. In an interview with PokerPlayer Trickett said that he doesn’t even like doing TV commentary as ‘I don’t like to give my views on hands and let people use that against me in the future.’ Don’t expect to see Trickett on Twitch in the near future.

What do we think? We love Twitch. As an insight into how pro players play you can’t beat it. If you want to know how to play the Sunday Million, there’s no better way to learn than by watching Jason Somerville run his stack up. Is it bad for the game? We think the opposite. The best case scenario is that it will attract a whole new audience. Some will be good, but the majority will just be happy to play. Knowledge isn’t everything in poker – it’s one thing being told how to win and it’s another putting this into practise. As Doyle Brunson said on Twitter recently, ‘One of the basics of poker is being able to implement your knowledge.’

We’d recommend that you use all the tools at your disposal and try to play as much as possible. With hard work, dedication and a bit of luck, you might be one of the lucky few that can make a good living from the game. If not, you’ll just have to settle for enjoying it like everyone else.

What do you think about poker on Twitch? Let us know on Twitter @PokerPlayer365

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