Poker is an ever-evolving game, and that progress has become clear to us here at pokerfuse as we reflect on a decade of reporting on and analyzing the game and the people that comprise the poker community.
With our 10-year birthday month coming to an end, we thought it would be interesting to ask some industry insiders and poker pros about how they think poker has changed over the past decade.
To help us in this task we solicited the opinions of representatives of the two biggest online poker companies and two highly accomplished poker players:
- Rebecca McAdam Willets – Associate Director of Consumer Engagement and Public Relations at PokerStars
- Jean-Christophe Antoine – Head of GGPoker Network
- Chris Moorman – Professional poker player and 888poker ambassador
- Lex Veldhuis – Professional poker player and PokerStars ambassador
Rebecca McAdam Willets
What is one defining product development in the last 10 years and what you like about it?
I think what will be important is how players are engaged, celebrated and rewarded. Continuing to innovate to bring people closer together in real time with technology will be key.
Spin & Go – it’s fun, fast-paced, good if you don’t have a lot of time, and has that added element of surprise with randomly assigned prize pools. We’ve had a lot of fun with this product, throwing $1 million into the mix and exclusive rewards at times. It’s popular across the board, and as it is more bite-sized, it’s often more digestible. It’s very well loved amongst the PokerStars community and is the only type of poker a working mom like me has time to play, so I appreciate that element of it for poker lovers who are in the same boat!
What is one enduring memory you have of live poker in the last 10 years?
Seeing Vicky Coren become the first two-time European Poker Tour Main Event champion. From working in the media, promoting and covering poker events, to working for PokerStars, this was an ongoing ticker in the background for me. As media, we waited and waited for our first double, coming close a few times. For it to be Vicky was an unbelievable moment. I remember celebrating with my parents who weren’t quite sure why I was crying at night about a poker event.
If I had to choose an actual live event, it would be the Players Championship. The whole experience felt like something where the entire poker world truly came together, it was joyous. From those trying to win Platinum Passes, to our community of Platinum Pass winners that came together and often supported each other, the amazing stories that the event generated, breaking records for the biggest $25K live event, and Ramon winning $5.1M from a free entry… it was incredible.
The one change I, for certain, do see coming is we will have more female leaders in the online poker industry – both in gaming companies and amongst players. Mark my words.Of course it felt special as so many teams – from live events to PR, marketing, social media, our blog team, our school, our ambassadors, our poker department – were working so hard in the background and entirely emotionally invested, and this rubbed off across the entire business. We celebrated when players won Passes, we closely watched every Pass winner’s journey, and we kept an eye out to surprise and delight the community along the way. So, to see it being enjoyed and loved was truly unforgettable and one of the most rewarding poker moments I’ve ever been a part of.
I do have a secret favourite that remains close to my heart, however. I met my husband while presenting and producing content for the Irish Poker Open for Paddy Power in 2012. He missed his flight back to the US on the last day, and I guess the rest is history!
Name one thing that you think will be different in the online poker industry in 10 years’ time
While the essence of the game itself will never truly change, and we wouldn’t want it to, we’ll keep trying to innovate, modernise, and grow the game. However, I think what will be important is how players are engaged, celebrated and rewarded. Continuing to innovate to bring people closer together in real time with technology will be key. Just look at VR and how that community engages with the game. They are a true community and it’s an absolute blast. The one change I, for certain, do see coming is we will have more female leaders in the online poker industry – both in gaming companies and amongst players. Mark my words.
What is one trend that you didn’t see coming?
I guess it was inevitable as the world becomes increasingly digitalised, but the rise of streamers as a new take on ambassadors and content generators was incredibly interesting to watch. Jason Somerville was ahead of the time there and working closely with him was an eye opener. He paved the way in my opinion.
What is one defining product development in the last 10 years and what do you like about it?
Sit and Go Jackpots redefined everything in how online poker companies attract new players and generate revenue.I would have to say Sit and Go Jackpots redefined everything in how online poker companies attract new players and generate revenue. What is cool is of course the big money you can win in a short period of time but what I prefer is the story behind it.
First of all, it was created by French people so you’ll have to pardon my French chauvinism 😊 but kudos to them for revolutionizing poker or at least part of it.
Then the story behind it is a very good one.
It allegedly happened at a bar after work where they were trying to think how they could incorporate casinos games’ bits into poker without infringing on the French law (which forbids online casinos).That shows how constraints force you to think out of the box.
At the time (2013), I was working at Playtech’s iPoker. Given my position, my prerogatives, and my access to the Winamax software, I helped launch their version of these before anyone else did.
What is one enduring memory you have of live poker in the last 10 years?
In 10 year’s time, I expect every country/state in the western world to be fully (re)regulated, but probably and sadly not all sharing liquidity
Being an operator at a Live Poker venue is far from being all bells and whistles, you must handle every request from your customers, make sure everything goes well with the organizers, it’s a long, tough, enduring job. But I’d say the longest element is when you have to wait for the final table to finish and it lasts for hours when everyone else wants to go home and rest from the previous week.
What is one trend in poker today that you didn’t see coming?
The trend GGPoker is paving the way with, making poker really fun and entertaining again with massive guarantees and innovative features. I mean I got intrigued back in 2017 when they started to emerge in Europe after securing the UKGC license, but I could have never imagined we would be where we are today and that I would be part of it!
What will be different in the online poker industry in 10 years’ time?
I expect every country/state in the western world to be fully (re)regulated, but probably and sadly not all sharing liquidity, even though adding the US, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia and, to a lesser degree, Lithuania and Colombia to the .com mix would be phenomenal.
A fierce battle will have happened, and the industry will have consolidated in the US like it has in Europe over the last 10 years.
Africa and Asia will have already started to be the next frontiers with their population growth and their countries’ economies developing even further.
How has what it means to be a professional poker player changed over the years?
Back when I first started playing, it was all about putting volume in and learning/improving your game by practicing different situations in game. Now solvers are a huge part of the gameThese days to be a professional poker player you have to put a lot more work into your game off of the table. Back when I first started playing, it was all about putting volume in and learning/improving your game by practicing different situations in game. Now solvers are a huge part of the game and are largely seen as something a professional player would use that a recreational one wouldn’t.
How has the role of poker ambassador changed over the years?
Poker ambassadors roles have changed less over the years in my opinion. It is still all about representing yourself and your brand well whilst being accessible to other poker players. Maybe there are slightly less media duties than in the past, but to me, it is largely the same roll.
How has your role in the community changed?
As you grow older and more experienced in life/poker your roll in the community will naturally change. When I started I was seen as an online crusher who couldn’t win at live poker. Whereas now I’m someone who has had long term success standing the test of the time with a stellar reputation to back that up.
How has the game of poker and what it means to be a poker pro changed over the years?
I think that poker has matured as a game, and I think that people have matured with it, so poker has naturally changed. So many people started playing the game and many new countries started playing, and inevitably that’s going to develop the game.
With this, people are going to look for information and all of a sudden you have more people approaching it professionally. You have people talking to their friends about it, and, of course, I think that media, tech and all those things have evolved, and poker has evolved with that. There is a lot more information to be found, there are people doing training schools and all that stuff, so I think everything together kind of works in a sense, where poker just became a more mature game.
I think that poker ambassadors are kind of multiple things now. They play, they teach, they showcase the lifestyle a little bitIt is a game of information and with the internet and technology evolving, there’s more information to be found, which also has shown the depth of the game. I’ve never loved the game more than I do now and the vast depth of strategy that poker shows nowadays.
The game is still changing, it’s just like this ever-moving beast. And I think that as a poker pro, you have to move with that. I’ve also always found it really important that when you get good at poker, you have a certain skill set, but you can apply that skill set in a different way now, whereas back in the day, online cash games were the best thing to do. Then you get live tournaments and then, you know, Pot Limit Omaha starts and Sit N Go’s are more important.
Now it’s back to tournaments where the most action is. So, I think that you have to kind of flow with that. And I think most poker pros have done that. You see so many people playing tournaments now that used to be cash game grinders. I think that’s one of the aspects that makes poker so interesting. It’s a game where you get two cards, but it’s just a new situation every time, as in your life.
How did the role of ambassador change over the years?
I think for poker ambassadors back in the day, it was like the simulation of success or a platform for players to reach. Winning lots of tournament was very inspiring to people, but naturally, when there’s more and more poker tournaments, that aspiration was going to go down a bit, because more and more people winning tournaments becomes a bit less special, so to say. Now, it’s very easy for me to say because I’ve never won a big live tournament.
Streaming has made me much more of, for lack of a better word, like a “poker mentor” to people in my audienceI think that the poker ambassador has changed in a way from somebody who was playing the game and inspiring people just by playing, to now, a way more active role where ambassadors are making content and trying to help their audience, the people that follow them and new poker players to show them the ropes, what is poker about and how they go about playing.
It’s not just like “I’m playing this tournament”, but also “How should I go about that? What am I doing outside that? What are good ways to study? How do you talk to your partner about the game”, all that sort of thing. So I think that instead of just the fact that you’re playing poker at a level that people are aspiring to, you’re also showing them if they’re aspiring to do the same thing, how to get to that and what the process is around that. I think that’s a new angle into it that I personally love very much, because it’s really hard to show people the end stage without telling them how to get there.
There’s definitely some things in poker that you have to look out for, people have to get used to the luck factor and bankroll management and all these things that are pivotal if you want to make it in poker. So, I think that poker ambassadors are kind of multiple things now. They play, they teach, they showcase the lifestyle a little bit, and I think that’s a really good change. I also think that all of these different aspects make it easier for people to connect to.
How has your role in the community changed?
I think this kind of plays into the last question, I think for me personally, the streaming aspect is what gave it such a big twist for me. Streaming has made me much more of, for lack of a better word, like a “poker mentor” to people in my audience. They come to me with questions, they come for advice, they show me hands, they ask me about bankroll management, they win a satellite and they ask me how much percentage they should sell, whether they should play a certain live tournament, or how they should structure their home games. In the past, they would usually ask me about big pots or what did I think in that hand against Phil Ivey or what my biggest win was or something. And I think that has changed a lot.
I think streaming naturally boosts the conversation that I have with people as well, it’s way more of a back and forth, and I do feel a big sense of responsibility in that. If I’m going to turn the camera on and show you what it’s like to be a poker pro, I better tell you what it’s like to be a poker pro and explain it right or show you the steps to get there. And I really like that because I always try and get back to people on social media as much as I can and try to give advice, but you’re contained to one or two tweets. But now, if somebody asks me a question that’s more in-depth about poker, I can actually sit down and talk to them about it for 15 minutes and not just talk to one person about it, but to thousands of people at the same time, which feels amazing. It’s very gratifying. So, I think the role is definitely a lot more open to the public because people can get so close to my stream.
I think now people feel like I’m more approachable and am much more talkative about everything behind it; what gets you to a decision to play a high stakes tournament or a cash game and bluff for your whole stack on the river, like what’s the journey to get there? I think that my role is much more about guiding players, I do like this way a lot better. I mean, I love the game and I really, really, really love poker. And this gives me a much different platform to talk about it. It also gives me a different angle in with people to discuss things that I think are important or that are just awesome about the game.