The amazing growth in poker's popularity has spawned a lot of unique poker-related ideas. Some of these undertakings have made people multi-millionaires, and others have been tremendous flops. This Weekly Shuffle covers the flops.
It is no secret that some online poker rooms make a fortune off of the player rake. Many believe the standard 5% up to $3 rake is too high and that a poker room could sweep up a lot of market share if it offered a better rake structure.
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In came ZeroRake.com. This company offered rake free poker and instead charged a small subscription fee. The subscription fee was significantly less than the average player expects to pay in rake each month, and ZeroRake even eventually waved the subscription fee for new accounts.
ZeroRake.com was not widely advertised, though it did appear in a few major poker magazines, notably CardPlayer. While their subscription structure may have been more in a player's interest than the standard rake structure, the concept simply did not catch on with casual players.
Most casual players do not pay attention to the rake. Casual players tend to just focus on whether or not they won for the day and do not pay attention to how rake affects their overall EV from a game. However, the zero rake concept certainly was attractive to sharks and other serious players. Players that signed up at Zero Rake tended to be very good players, and the site soon turned into a shark tank.
Like any other ecosystem, the poker room needs enough prey to satisfy the predators that inhabit it. Too many sharks and too few fish will result in a dead poker room. The sharks would rather pay rake to play against fish than play for free against other sharks.
While ZeroRake.com closed after a short period of operation, the rake free idea is now being utilized by the World Sports Exchange's poker room. Instead of charging a subscription, this online gambling site hopes its poker players will try out their casino and sports betting products, so they'll make money from that area of their business. World Sports Exchange has been employing this rake free promotion for over six months now, though their poker room remains small and shark infested.
Skill Poker attempted to "take the luck out of poker." By making poker purely based on "skill", it hoped to appeal to players, as well as be considered legal in all jurisdictions. This site attempted to utilize the concept behind duplicate bridge and apply it to poker.
Skill Poker was tournament-based. Players were each seated at four-person tables. Suppose it was a sixteen person tournament (four tables). At each of the four tables, players sat in the A, B, C, or D seat.
The tournaments each had a pre-set amount of hands, and the hands at each table were dealt in the same way. Let's suppose you are seated in the C seat at table one, and it is hand #17. You are dealt As Ad. The final board is As Kc Kd 7s 7c. You ended up winning a huge pot off of the player in seat B who held AK.
At the three other tables, the exact same hole cards and boards were dealt. So the player in seat C at table 2 also had aces full in this hand (likewise with player C at table 3 and 4). He may or may not have taken player in seat B's entire stack, depending on how player C and player B played their hands.
The idea behind Skill Poker is that you are only playing against people who are seated in your same seat at the other tables. In short, you are dealt the same cards as them and have the same "luck" with the boards. Whoever has the most chips at the end of the tournament in that seat is the winner.
While Skill Poker's idea was certainly unique, it never caught on. There are several reasons for this. First, the logic behind Skill Poker was fundamentally flawed. Even though one is only playing against other players with the same hands and boards, the most "skilled" player will not necessarily win. Suppose in the AA vs. AK example with the AKK77 board, another player stayed in the pot as well. This player was a calling station and would call with anything. In this case, he just so happened to have 77, and he hit runner-runner quads. The player with AA at this table would lose a huge pot, even though he played his hand correctly and the player with 77 played his hand incorrectly.
It's likely that at the other table, the person with pocket sevens would have folded at the flop. So even though the player who stayed in with pocket sevens is a horrible poker player, he would probably end up winning the tournament.
There are other problems with this idea as well. People were fearful of increased collusion. For example, if you are in seat C and your buddy is at position B at another table, he can tell you what he has, so you know what the guy at position B has at your table.
Skill Poker ended up selling their business after only a short time in operation. The domain name skillpoker.com now forwards to poker.com, an online poker site.
In the early part of 2005, the poker world collectively held its breath to see if the heavily marketed ESPN mini-series "Tilt" would portray the new fad in a positive light. It did just the opposite. After nine dreadful episodes of portraying poker players as violent cheaters involved in organized crime, the show was not renewed for a second season. The show's cancellation was not due to upset poker players refusing to watch the show. It was because the show was just downright bad.
Throughout the nine episodes, famous poker players such as Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, and David Williams made cameo appearances. Their purpose in the show was to lose money to the main characters of "Tilt," so the audience would understand that Eddie Towne and "The Matador" are the best poker players in the world. While poker players may have been amused at these scenes, these staged battles certainly were not enough to make the show entertaining or believable.
When ESPN released this mini-series, they were assuming that people would watch anything involving poker. The show hinged on the hope that the audience would feel compassion for the young gang of poker players who were wrongfully cheated by "The Matador".
However, the young actors were less-than-convincing. In addition, there were flashback scenes that showed the young players setting their life off course and hurting others around them just so they could play poker. The success of a mini-series drama hinges on the emotional connection the audience can make to the characters. In the end, it was hard to feel compassion for a group of unconvincing characters who basically got what they deserved by being cheated. This, plus a poor plot and bad dialogue made the show painful to watch.
The series was released on DVD and marketed as "The Complete First Season", which would imply that there are more seasons yet to come. Don't hold your breath waiting for season two. "Tilt" was a huge flop that won't be going back into production ever again.