Technology and poker, if you really think about it, are an unlikely pairing. Technology had no part in the poker played on Mississippi river boats or in Wild West saloon bars, after all. Nor did technology have any impact on the high-stake poker games between Jazz Age gangsters or 1950s movie stars. It is only in the past couple of decades that digitalism has revolutionized poker in a way no one could have predicted. Here are five examples of how poker has transformed in the light of technological advances or – in the case of one example – how poker has affected technology.
The Age of Online Poker
The most obvious and notable example of how technology has impacted poker is of course the online poker boom of the early 2000s. The first ever internet poker room was launched in 1994. As anyone who lived through the age of dial-up internet will know – doing anything online which involved depositing money or staying connected for an extended period of time was a bit of a risk (and not in the gambling sense) in those days.
But as the internet became more reliable, and as Chris Moneymaker won over $2,000,000 after taking part in aPokerStars satellite, online poker became a booming business and favourite pastime of people from all walks of life. Though businesses have had to overcome a fistful of legal hurdles over the past few years, real money online poker sites remain immensely popular and profitable. Nowadays, when someone says they play poker, it is just as likely they mean online as in person.
Online poker has also attracted people who may have otherwise not ever tried their hand (pun intended) at the game. People who might not like the social aspect of traditional live poker. Those who may just want to practise or play at lower stakes. With the numerous types of online poker rooms available, there’s something for everyone’s player type – and at any time of day they might want to play!
Technique and Method
The quality of the poker we play has become vastly greater thanks to technology – and I don’t mean to say that 888poker’s slick Texas Hold’Em tournaments are superior to the type of poker you’d play with an old deck of cards and plastic chips. What I’m referring to is the quality of players. Whereas in the past, skill came with experience – it is now easier than ever for an amateur player to read up on tips and tricks to improve their game play.
The internet has made available a wealth of information on the psychology of poker; how to read your opponent by spotting their ‘tell’, or how to manipulate them. The internet has also offered advice on poker bankroll management, on how to stay concentrated on strenuous games, on how to calculate odds and on what poker variants one can choose between. Before the internet, you would have to employ a mentor or read a book to study poker–countless free poker tools, guides, and courses are now just a mere click away.
When Liberatus, an artificial intelligence system, beat a professional poker player at Texas Hold’Emnot so long ago, there was great excitement within the field of technology. You might wonder why this feat is more significant than an A.I. beating a human at chess or the complex Chinese game of GO? Poker has been so difficult for A.I. to tackle because it is a game based around a uniquely human nature. It combines strategy, psychology, bluffing, risk-taking and creativity – not an easy combination for a computer. For this reason, poker was deemed a good way of measuring the extent of sophisticated in modern day artificial intelligence.
Yet, Liberatus was not technically programmed to play poker. The A.I. had to learn by observing real players, and by adapting its technique and player patterns based upon their particular style and habits. Its recent success in defeating a professional poker player has fascinating implications for the future of A.I., and is considered a huge milestone by scientists and engineers for that reason.
As long as there has been poker there have been cheaters; sneaky, and admittedly sometimes very intelligent, individuals who look to fool cash out of casinos and opponents. You may imagine technology allowing for more efficient detection of cheating thanks to the likes of CCTV cameras – but technology has enabled those doing the cheating, too.
We’ve seen devices like Google Glasses and similar headwear banned from gambling establishments. We’ve seen infrared contact lenses used by two cheaters at a French casino. We’ve seen smartwatches used for pot odds calculations. In other words, technology has changed poker in requiring casinos and hosts to be more vigilant and suspicious of technology at the card table.
Virtual Reality Casinos
Practically everyone, gamer or not, is excited about the implications of realistic and affordable virtual reality gaming. VR consoles are becoming the next big thing as technology improves and game studios start optimizing their games for the VR experience. Always at the forefront of technological innovation; online poker brands are looking to cash in on that trend – at the delight of poker players around the world.
Virtual reality poker rooms wouldn’t just be amazing because wearing a headset could place you in a glitzy casino or underground VIP lounge – it’s awesome because it combines the best of online poker with the best of live poker. As with typical online poker – you’ll be able to choose between playing with virtual or real cash. You can also play whenever you want. As with live poker, however, you can soak up an atmosphere, and see your opponents. These needn’t be computer-generated opponents – they could be character representations of your real friends from all over the world.
So why exactly is poker the game that has undergone such amazing evolution through technological advancements? Why did online Scrabble not enjoy similar sweeping popularity? Why aren’t we as hyped about the prospect of virtual reality chess? The reasons are in some part cultural – each country has their favourite board game or sport, but poker has been the ultimate betting game for thousands upon thousands of years.
The second reason is the betting aspect itself. There’s a satisfaction that comes with winning any game, but in poker that satisfaction is coupled with the thrill of the gamble. Combine that with any monetary prize won through the game, and poker becomes an especially rewarding experience. With a formula so universally loved, it’s no wonder poker has translated well into technology.