Get Used to Change
We've talked plenty before about how the nature of online poker allows for some pretty creative game offerings. There are certain fun poker ideas that are very impractical to implement in the live poker arena that are a breeze for online poker rooms to implement. On the whole, online poker room operators tend to lack creativity in terms of where they could take the game. This lack of creativity is mostly just business savvy on their part; they don't want to start offering too many random weird games that spread their player base too thin. It's easier for them to keep a few basic offerings that are sure to keep the tables full. But it would be nice to see online poker rooms take a gamble on the following ideas:
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All-In First Hand Tournaments
It's really a great failing on the part of online poker room operators that these tournaments haven't been added to their regularly scheduled MTTs. The idea is so simple: on the first hand of the tournament, all players at all tables are forced to bet all-in preflop. Maybe the game for the first hand could be Omaha to make the sweat a little more exciting. Software could even be tweaked to deal the hand verrrryyy slowly so all players have ample time to figure out what their out cards are. Once the hand is over, all of the chips are shipped to one player and the tournament proceeds like a normal event, only one that is already in-the-money after the first hand.
This idea would suck for live tournaments because there's no way 90% of a tournament field wants to drive to a casino just to bust out on the first hand. But it's perfect for online poker! Plenty of people would take their shots in these events to see if they can bink a winner on the first hand. If they don't, oh well, time to go do something else.
Random Variant Cash Games
This idea takes the concept of a "mixed game" to a whole new level. Each hand, the game variant changes. All variants offered at that particular poker room are included in the mix. Mixed games now are pretty structured. Everyone who sits down knows what they're getting themselves into. Why not a mixed game where each hand is an unknown prior to dealing? One small variation on this concept would be dealer's choice tables. Dealer's choice poker games are about as old as poker itself. Why not implement them online? For this idea to be any fun, it would be important for online poker rooms to offer a very large number of variants to choose from.
More Bad Beat Jackpots
A major appeal of tournaments is the chance to win a pile of money in a single sitting. One way cash games can match this appeal is through bad beat jackpots. Unfortunately, for no good reason that we're aware of, bad beat jackpots really aren't that common at online poker rooms. But online poker is perfect for things like bad beat jackpots! Every online poker room should have various bad beat jackpot tables. Some can be seeded very slowly to keep the grinders happy. For example, a table that only takes an extra $0.10 rake for the bad beat jackpot. It would be hard for anyone to get too upset about that.
When Party Poker launched their bad beat jackpot tables several years ago, they were wildly popular and the games were much softer than their non-bad beat jackpot tables due to all the fishy players chasing their shot at a six-figure bad beat.
This is another variation on the "take a little bit of extra rake to pay out on special occasions" concept. How about tables that award players a refund on their entire stack if they run KK into AA? Another way to do it would be anytime you get all of the chips in the middle having to fade 3 outs or less, you get your stack refunded if your opponent hits. Little tricks like these to reduce the sometimes painful variance of poker could make the game a lot more palatable to casual players.
No Big Blind for Longest Sitting Player
To encourage players to play long sessions, online poker rooms could create tables where the player who has been sitting at that table the longest does not have to pay the big blind when it is their turn to do so. The poker room pays it for them. The added expense would probably more than pay for itself due to the increased rake generated by players vying for the chance to be the most tenured player at their table.
One way in which live games vastly outclass online games is through the regular use of a "straddle". A straddle bet is an optional preflop bet to create more action. The traditional straddle enables the under-the-gun player to put out a bet twice the size of the big blind. In exchange for doing so, they get to act last preflop (like the big blind otherwise does). Some games have a button straddle or even a no-limit button straddle where the player on the button can straddle any amount they choose and the preflop action starts on the small blind player and ends on the button straddler. The fact that in 2011 these games are nowhere to be found at online poker rooms is a testament to the lack of creativity on the part of online poker room operators.
Overlay Mystery Tournaments
Imagine an online poker tournament with a $10 buy-in and no-vig. Maybe the poker room even adds $5,000 to the tournament. Sounds like something you might want to play, right? But here's the catch: you don't get to find out what variant is being played until after the tournament begins. This would be a great way to put players in a position to play a game they are unaccustomed to. Who knows? They might actually enjoy it!
More Mixed Game Events in General
Mixed game events should be far more prevalent than they are. I could see tournaments that rotate between no-limit hold'em and pot-limit Omaha being wildly popular. Unfortunately, such an event is next to impossible to find at an online poker room. Poker rooms should be more flexible with their scheduled MTTs. For the most part, each day is identical to the one before it in terms of online poker scheduled MTTs. Why not keep half the events on the schedule each day the same and make the other half a complete mixed bag of random, different events? Offer overlays in the experimental events to induce participation.
Alright, you probably get the point by now. There are so many different things online poker room operators can do to spice up the action and make it more fun for everyone. Poker need not be a monotonous grind for all participants. It's time for online poker rooms to step up to the challenge of making their games more fun for all players!