In the 2000s, poker experienced a rapid growth. A combination of televised poker tournaments, a growing number of places to play online and offline, and increasing media coverage helped the game explode in popularity. Many people called this time the poker boom.
Over the last decade, poker hasn’t continued the rapid growth, but it still remains popular and offers plenty of options for new and experienced players alike. I’ve seen articles about the decline of poker and even seen a few talking about the death of the game.
I don’t like seeing articles like that because they can influence people thinking about playing poker. Every poker player should want as many new players to start learning to play poker because when more new players start playing, it creates more games and potentially more profit.
The other thing about the negative articles is that for the most part, they’re wrong. While poker hasn’t been able to maintain the rapid growth of the 2000s, few businesses in the history of the world have been able to continue growing at a big pace year after year.
The truth is that there’s never been a better time to master the game of poker. While there was a small percentage of extra tables running in the 2000s, there are still plenty of games available. Public and private poker rooms are available within driving distance for a majority of the population. You can participate in private poker games in almost every community if you know how to find them. Finally, the internet still has poker games running every minute of every day.
In addition to the availability of games, you have more resources that can help you master poker than ever before. You can find hundreds of books about the game, thousands of articles, and just about any kind of training tool you can imagine.
Many people think of the players they see on television when they think of a professional poker player. But they aren’t the only pros playing the game. Thousands of players grind out a good living in poker rooms and in private games around the world without ever appearing on television.
Most televised poker is in a tournament format. Some professional players travel the tournament circuit, but many focus on cash game play. You can even become a single table tournament specialist when you play online.
If you’ve been thinking about playing more poker or have been playing casually and wondering if it’s worth the effort to improve your game, I urge you to get started as quickly as possible. You’re going to learn why you should get started today as you read the five reasons poker is still worth mastering below.
1 – Variety
Texas hold’em is the most popular variation of poker and has been for several decades. It’s the game that you see being played in the Main Event of the World Series of Poker on television and on the World Poker Tour events. But it’s not the only game available, and tournament poker is only one way to play the game.
Before Texas hold’em became so popular, seven card stud was the game of choice for most poker players. While it isn’t shown on television and isn’t talked about much, you can still play stud in many poker rooms and online.
The second most popular poker variation today is called Omaha, or Omaha hold’em. It’s similar to Texas hold’em, but instead of starting with two hole cards, you start with four. The only other big difference between Texas hold’em and Omaha is that in Texas hold’em, you can use any five cards to make your final hand, and in Omaha, you have to use exactly two cards in your hand and three from the board.
Omaha is also sometimes played in a high low format, where the pot is split between the best high hand and the best qualifying low hand. Seven card stud can also be played in a high low format, but it rarely is available. Texas hold’em is not available in a high low format.
You can find a few other poker variations, but they aren’t spread in most poker rooms and aren’t popular enough to be included in most online poker rooms.
Poker games are available in one of four limit structures. Two of them are common, one of them is game specific, and one is rare. Here are the four limit structures:
- No limit
- Pot limit
- Spread limit
All three of the most popular poker games are offered in limit play. A limit poker game is usually described with two numbers, like 10/20. The first number is the size of the bets on the first two rounds of play, and the second number is the size of the bet on the last two rounds of each hand. These numbers also tell you what the blind structure is for the game.
Here’s an example:
A 10/20 Texas hold’em game has a big blind of 10 and a small blind of 5. The big blind is the same amount as the betting limit for all the best before the flop and on the flop. On the turn and river, the bets are at the higher amount. In this example, these bets are 20.
No limit is the most well-known betting structure because most of the televised poker tournaments use it. Texas hold’em is the only game of the three listed above that usually uses a no limit betting structure. It can be used in Omaha and seven card stud, but it rarely is.
No limit games have a set blind structure, but other than this, all bets can be up to your entire stack. The only betting rule is that if you raise a prior bet, you have to raise at least an equal amount to the bet.
Pot limit poker games are somewhat like no limit games, but the maximum bet size is capped at the amount of the pot. Omaha and seven card stud are both available in pot limit play.
It can be a bit confusing when you first play in a pot limit game. When you first play in a pot limit game, simply remember that the maximum size bet is the same as the amount currently in the pot. However, there’s one small exception to this.
When someone makes a bet, if you want to raise, you count the amount it takes to call in the size of the pot for purposes of pot size. You don’t separate your call and raise because this is a string bet and not allowed in most poker rooms. But you calculate the maximum raise size as if you did separate your bets.
Here’s an example:
- In a pot limit Omaha game, the pot has $400 in it.
- Your opponent bets $200, and you want to raise the maximum amount.
- Once your opponent puts their $200 in the pot, it has $600 in it.
- But the maximum you can raise is not $600.
The maximum you can raise is $800 because the pot size is calculated based on you calling the $200 bet. If you called the bet, the pot would have $800 in it. In this example, if you want to make the maximum raise, you push $1,000 into the pot.
$200 of the $1,000 is the call of the bet, and the remaining $800 is the maximum raise. When you do this, tell the dealer you raise as you slide the entire $1,000 toward the pot.
The final limit structure is spread limit, and it’s quite rare. I’ve only played in one spread limit game in a poker room in my life. I do play in a local private game that uses spread limit sometimes, but it’s not something you see often.
A spread limit game is somewhere in between a limit game and a no limit game. Instead of a set limit or no limit, a spread limit game has a range of legal betting limits. A spread limit game usually has the spread stated before the name of the game, like 10-50 Texas hold’em. This can be somewhat confusing because it looks like a limit game, so the words “spread limit” are often tacked onto the end. This game would be called 10-50 Texas hold’em spread limit or 10-50 spread limit Texas hold’em.
In a spread limit game, you can make bets of any size in the spread. In a 10-50 spread limit game, you can bet anywhere from 10 to 50 on any round. Raises must also fall into the spread, and the raise must be at least as much as the bet you’re raising.
The variety of poker options don’t stop with the games and limit structures listed above. You can also play most of these combinations in multi-table tournaments, single-table tournaments, and in cash or ring games.
Multi-table poker tournaments are like the ones you see on television. Hundreds or thousands of poker players pay an entry fee, receive a set number of starting chips, and battle it out until one player is left with all of the chips.
When you run out of chips, you’re eliminated from the tournament. The player who wins all of the chips is awarded the top prize, but a percentage of other top finishers also are awarded prizes.
You can also occasionally find multi-table poker tournaments that have a re-buy rule for the first several rounds of play. In a re-buy poker tournament, if you bust out during the re-buy period, you can buy back in by paying another entry fee.
Single-table tournaments, also called sit and go tournaments, have six, nine, or ten entrants. In a six-person single-table tournament, the top two finishers are awarded prizes, and in a nine- and ten-person sit and go, the top three finishers win prizes.
Cash game play, also called ring game, is a game where players enter and leave whenever they want. The game keeps going until the poker room closes or there aren’t enough players to keep the game going. You bring your money to the table and take it with you when you leave. If you bust out, you can just put more money on the table if you want to keep playing.
With all of the varieties and combinations of possibilities, poker players have many ways they can play. You can focus on one particular game, played at a certain limit in a certain format, or you can play different combinations.
It’s best to specialize in a narrow area when you’re getting started, but once you master one area, you can try others. Or if you’re struggling with one thing, you can try another to see if your play improves.
2 – Public Games
You can find public poker games in poker rooms and casinos around the world, and you can play them online at poker sites that offer play where you live. A public game is available to anyone with the money to play and meets the age restrictions and laws where the game is offered.
If you want to play poker, you have to have access to games. The internet makes it easy to find games because all you need is a computer and an internet connection. You can even play poker at some sites on your smartphone.
The laws covering internet poker vary from country to country and from region to region, but no matter where you’re located, you should be able to find a couple of poker sites offering games. Internet poker does create a couple of challenges that land-based poker room players don’t have to worry about.
When you play online, you have to be able to move your money into and out of the poker room. With all of the technology that we have in the world today, you usually have a couple of different options, but this can be challenging at times. When you play in a land-based poker room, you simply take your cash with you.
The important point is that poker is far from dead. You have many games available at any time of the day or night. I live in a remote area, and I can be in a couple of different decent-sized poker rooms in less than two hours. I also have accounts at three different online poker rooms where I can play by simply logging in.
3 – Private Games
Private poker games have been run for as long as poker has existed. I mentioned in the last section that I live in a remote area and have to drive close to two hours to go to a public poker room. But even in this remote area, I know of several weekly and semi-weekly private poker games I can play in.
These games aren’t advertised, so you have to find them. The reason I know about the local games is because I talk to other poker players. If you want to find private games, start talking to other poker players close to where you live.
You need to be somewhat careful about playing in private poker games. In many areas, private poker games are technically against the law. But this isn’t something that most local law enforcement worries about. I’ve even played in private games with law enforcement, judges, and lawyers.
On the other side of the coin, private games can be some of the most profitable games available. I usually make more money playing in private games than I do in public poker rooms.
Private poker games are everywhere, so you have lots of opportunities to play. In my area, there are just as many private games being run as there were during the poker boom.
4 – Resources
In the history of poker, there’s never been a better time to start learning how to master the game of poker. You have access to more information and tools about how to play and win poker than ever before.
You can find books, articles, videos, coaches, training software, hand analyzers, opponent tracking software, pot odds software, apps for your phone, and other things that can improve your game.
When I started playing poker, there wasn’t much information available. I found a few decent books, but there weren’t thousands of articles online, and there weren’t any tools available. Now the problem is too much information instead of too little. You have to sift through everything to find the information that’s the best use of your time.
I like to read, so I find the best books and online articles about poker and study them. Some players don’t like to read as much, so they can use online tools and apps to improve their game.
The important thing is that there’s enough information and help available that anyone can learn how to be a good poker player if they’re willing to do the work. You don’t have to struggle using trial and error like I did when I started playing. You can easily learn from others and take a shortcut to profitable play.
5 – Profit
Everyone who plays poker wants to win, but most players don’t take the time to learn how to do it. In the last section, I covered how much more help you have access to today than any time in the past. This makes it easier to learn how to be a profitable player.
It’s not as easy to make a profit playing poker today as it was during the poker boom. New players were joining the games who knew very little about poker strategy and who just wanted to push their stack all in like they saw the pros do on television. Many games were filled with easy money opportunities for good players.
But just because it’s not as easy to make a profit playing poker today as it used to be doesn’t mean that you can’t still be profitable. You can still find many profitable games; you just need to work smarter than you used to.
The days of walking into a poker room and taking the first open chair and turning a profit are over. But most poker rooms still have tables that can be profitable. You need to do a better job of table selection and game selection.
Most of my time playing poker today is in private games. I find them more profitable than playing in public or private games. But I still play online and go to the poker room from time to time.
Even with it being harder to make a profit playing poker today than it used to be, there are still many opportunities for good players. You still have the chance to make a good side income or play for a living if that’s what you want to do.
Poker is still worth mastering, even if you read that it’s dying or in decline. The World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour are still drawing thousands of entrants and are still being televised. Poker rooms are still located in hundreds of cities around the world, and private games are as strong as ever.