The online poker industry is in a state of flux.
PokerStars has radically shifted the way it sells the game to the masses and its new recreational-focus has left professionals and aspiring professionals feeling shunned.
But into that vacuum stepped partypoker and its new vision. The new partypoker sees professionals and aspiring professionals as a key cog in the poker machine, the bridge that will give them a direct path to the coveted recreational player.
As partypoker liaison Patrick Leonard put it:
There is a huge knock on effect and getting as many of these reg-recs that Fedor once was is huge. The "dream" of being a pro player over last 5-6 years has been killed. Its very important to get that back. I quit my job to try and be supernova elite because i wanted to tell fam.
— Patrick Leonard (@plenopads) March 28, 2018
And it’s this player, Leonard’s rec-reg, that is at the center of the current debate within the poker industry.
How many of these rec-regs are out there? What value do they have? And how do you best attract them?
PokerStars seems to be of the opinion that the number of aspiring pros is shrinking along with their value.
Conversely, partypoker thinks it’s the proverbial sleeping giant, with each one having a huge knock-on effect.
So who’s right?
That’s really cool… but it’s not for me
When you are a successful poker player, and your circle of friends are largely poker players, and the “recs” you talk to are playing in events at a major tournament series, it’s easy to miscalculate just how many rec-regs there are.
Quite frankly, most professional players are not just living in a bubble, they’re living in an alternate reality where they project their dreams and goals onto the rest of the society.
Some understand this:
To clarify: Talk to recs and ask them why they play poker. The answer is never "to make money". They enjoy the game and want to spend the afternoon playing the tournament. Do they want to fold for 3 hours? No! They want to play pots and have a chance to feel like part of the game
— Gags30 (@Gags30poker) March 28, 2018
But most don’t, and think that every person who sees a flop immediately dreams of becoming a pro.
Just like not everyone who buys a video game does so because they want to be part of a professional esports team. Yet professional gamers can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to live that life.
Nor does every person that walks into a gym do so because they aspire to be a bodybuilder or fitness competitor. Yet most bodybuilders and fitness competitors think the average gym member envies their physique.
Sure, lots of people would love to snap their fingers and have huge muscles or make a million dollars a year playing video games or cards, but nobody is under any illusions that’s actually how it works.
The new poker dream is one of hard work, endless study, and dedication. And the idea that more than a few people have the chance of becoming a poker millionaire died with the poker boom.
Poker is no longer a job for people who don’t want to work a typical job. A modicum of knowledge could make you some money in 2005, now you’re just another fish.
In 2018, poker is a lot like a typical job, only it requires longer days, a deeper commitment, and no guarantee of an income.
no doubt it can be a career, but do you think the average person would rather put in the effort to make $100k playing cards or the effort to become a nurse/police officer/business owner/whatever and make close to that?
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) March 28, 2018
It’s a group, but it’s a small group
There are certainly people who would like to be professional poker players, and their number tends to wax and wane based on the current opportunities to make money playing poker.
Almost every pro was this player once (me for sure losing many many deposits) and for every pro that went from reg-rec to reg-reg there is still 100x as many reg-recs still out there either who have quit (need to be reactivated) or still working towards the dream
— Patrick Leonard (@plenopads) March 28, 2018
Agreed but it's a shrinking pool because of the conditions we as an industry created (plus external factors like economy, regulation, etc) . If you can reverse that then more power to you
— David Pomroy (@UnibetDavid) March 28, 2018
But the idea that poker is universally seen as a glamorous profession, and that every other job is so bad, and every working stiff is so miserable, that the moment they find out there are people who play poker professionally they will instantly yearn to play cards for a living is absurd.
A lot of people find professional poker players fascinating, in the same way they find the alligator hunters on Swamp People or a helicopter pilot fascinating. That doesn’t mean they want to be one.
Viewing piqued interest in a non-traditional job as a desire to have that job is looking at poker through the rose-colored glasses of a successful player.
I like my job, and I make enough money to lead a comfortable enough life. The last thing I want to do is play poker for a living – something I used to do.
That’s how a lot of people feel.
Real estate agents.
The guy who owns the local deli.
Even if they occasionally play poker or watch it on TV, a life as a professional poker player isn’t on their radar. And if you explained the chances of succeeding in poker; what it takes to become a professional; and what it takes to remain a winning player, they’d laugh in your face.
Poker is a great job for some people, and if you love the game I say go for it. It was an ideal job for me during my early- and mid-20’s. It’s just not an ideal job for me now, nor is it for most people. It’s not even a job most people would want.
Believe it or not, the vast majority of people with decent jobs wouldn’t trade places with a professional poker player, even if it meant a slight bump in pay and freedom.
And can you blame them? The dream poker players are selling people sounds more like a nightmare for most people, particularly anyone who has a family or financial responsibilities.
Imagine someone with a stable job hearing this sales pitch:
First, Poker isn’t easy. You’re going to need to put in countless hours of study and work to get the basic strategies down while you try to grind out a bankroll at low stakes tables. We’re talking 10-plus hour days.
You’ll most likely lose money early on while you’re learning, but that’s normal, and you can speed up your education by spending hundreds of dollars on this or that software, a few hundred more to join this or that training site, and you might want to consider hiring a coach for a couple hundred dollars an hour.
But once you get a handle on game theory, probability and combanatronics you’ll start making some money.
That said, the learning never stops. The games will get harder as you move up in stakes, and poker is constantly getting harder and harder to beat. You’ll probably need to hire more expensive coaches as you move up in stakes because the game dynamics are going to change.
But once you start winning you might be able to find a backer that can help reduce your variance and get you in bigger games earlier on.
So, yeah, if you do all that you’ll have a chance of actually becoming a winning player.
Where do I sign up!