If you have a few minutes this week, head to your local bookstore or Time Magazine’s website to read an article entitled “Attack of the Math Brats.” The piece, authored by Dan Kadlec, profiles the upheaval of the poker industry since the explosion of the online game.
The old guard of poker received the first word in the Time Magazine piece, as UB.com pro and 11-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth rationalized why he turned in a losing year in 2009: “The reason I won 11 bracelets is my ability to read opponents. These new guys are focused on the math. And they are changing everything.” All of Hellmuth’s bracelets have come in Hold’em events in Las Vegas; he won the 1989 WSOP Main Event after besting Johnny Chan to become the then-youngest winner of the $10,000 buy-in tournament.
Kadlec explains what has happened since: “In the past few years, Hold’em has evolved again into a hyper-aggressive contest for betting bullies who risk all their chips at bizarre moments.” Moreover, the author notes that today’s online pros incorporate a bevy of poker software programs to assist them. These tools, like PokerTracker and Holdem Manager, display vital stats about opponents like the percentage of time they put money into the pot, the percentage of time they bet and raise on different streets, and their overall aggression.
The Time Magazine piece also cites several stats about poker that have allowed most of us in the industry to have jobs. When Chris Moneymaker took down the 2003 WSOP Main Event after besting Sammy Farha, the field sized totaled 893. Just three years later, it had expanded more than 10-fold to 8,773. That year, Jamie Gold took down the largest prize ever awarded at the WSOP, $12 million, before legislation in the United States and a deteriorating worldwide economy spoiled the party.
Popular Las Vegas poker coach David “The Maven” Chicotsky told Kadlec that the face of the age-old game has changed dramatically: “If you’re not willing to go all-in with bad cards, you’ll never win.” Chicotsky is one of the leading poker coaches on the planet and took down a $2,400 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event during the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza in mid-2008 for $206,000.
Online poker allows players to see a large number of hands per hour and tournaments per day. Accordingly, “Getting knocked out means little; you make up your losses by going to the next game and letting the long-term odds work for you in a relatively short time.” Online poker players have burst onto the scene in droves in recent years. In 2008, PokerStars pro Peter Eastgate bested Hellmuth’s longstanding record to become the youngest Main Event winner ever at age 22. One year later, Joe Cada followed suit and took down poker’s most prestigious tournament at 21.
Brunson called today’s tournaments “a crapshoot” and revealed that he only plays Texas Hold’em 10% of the time. However, the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner and DoylesRoom front man is certainly going against the grain. The Time Magazine piece on online poker noted that Hold’em accounts for a colossal 87% of online play, or five out of every six games.
Hellmuth and other members of the old guard have battled back, however. The UB.com front man has enlisted the aid of poker mindset coach Sam Chauhan and began discussing strategy with two-time bracelet winner Brandon Cantu, who has not yet reached 30 years-old. Victory Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari, who has also solicited the services of Chauhan, finished 24th in last year’s Main Event for $352,000 and already turned in three cashes during the ongoing WSOP.
Read “Attack of the Math Brats” in the June 28th edition of Time Magazine.