In 2005, while there were many great things that happened, there were also those moments that made everyone wary of the future. As we get ready to enter into 2006, these are some of the things that, as a poker community, we have to take a strong look at and hopefully fix to make the game stronger and allow further growth. With that said, this was "The Bad" of 2005.
1. Legalities In America - The battle over poker's legal state has continued to boil throughout the entire year. If you look back over the entirety of 2005, you'll see several instances where law enforcement and the United States government seemed to be overly attentive to the game of poker.
Each month of 2005 seemed to bring stories of small home games or larger tournaments being raided by law enforcement. Charity poker tournaments from such noted professionals as Phil Hellmuth and Annie Duke were either shut down by authorities (Phil's Cystic Fibrosis tournament in Texas, of all places, was canceled after local officials pulled their support) or flat out not allowed to be started (Annie Duke's fundraiser for Oregon schools was nixed because of vague laws). There were also raids on home games and small tournaments across the country that stretched the imagination. Law enforcement, in some cases, had undercover surveillance that stretched back a couple of years in their investigation before they decided to strike.
The continued war on the online poker room continued in America as well. The U. S. government lost in the WTO courts against Antigua, with the WTO courts basically saying the long held belief of the current U. S. administration that the Wire Act prevented players from playing online was not applicable and violated trade agreements. This hasn't prevented the government (and the relative officials) to continue to promulgate the theory that online poker is illegal. It isn't illegal, it is a gray area that this government has yet to give serious thought to.
The rest of the world seems to have taken the correct approach to poker and online rooms. With regulation, taxation and investment by many through the worldwide financial centers, it has been shown that online poker is a legitimate business and should be allowed. As you can see, the debate in the U. S. on poker isn't limited to the online game or the physical game and it is something that, hopefully soon, will be rectified.
2. Who Speaks For The Players? - As poker continues to grow, those that make their living at the sport have been standing up for their individual rights, from the marketing of their image to usage of their names and so on. What could solve all of those ills is the formation of a strong players' organization that could speak to the problems that seem to come up periodically.
There are several of them that have attempted to start and failed and others that may have a shot at becoming that voice. What they all seem to lack, however, is the trust and belief from the players of the game. This isn't by chance, however; poker has traditionally been a singular game, so the thought of players banding together to attempt to improve their conditions is a novel concept.
As poker continues its worldwide expansion and growth, it is necessary that a central players' organization comes together. Whether an international federation with each nation having its own group or a general organization that can gather the forces of the players, it is something that is now needed to make the changes that many feel are necessary in the game. 2005, unfortunately, didn't bring that about.
3. Are There Too Many? - Even as online poker continued to draw in record numbers of players and astronomical amounts wagered, there were some indications that there are too many products out there for the average poker player.
One such death was of PokerShare.com, an online poker room that lasted a very short time in 2005. In November, the room shut down operations and closed accounts of the players that were members of the room. Other rooms either were absorbed into the large "poker networks" that have come together during 2005 or have labored with few players.
While variety is the spice of life, it can also lead to a general mediocrity of the product overall. With over 200 rooms in existence in 2005, perhaps it is too much of a good thing.
4. Poker, Poker Everywhere - While I may consider it to be a good thing, some may look at the current state of poker and see that, with television's unblinking eye, magazines and poker books filling store racks, poker paraphernalia and unbelievably large tournaments, it is a bad thing.
This argument is used often in the music world. When underground or "alternative" bands or singers who are loved by a small segment of the population come out, the people consider that group to be a personal part of their existence, something that they and they alone can call theirs. Once the aforementioned group gets some critical or financial success and drifts away from those early roots, their original fans say they "sold out" or became mainstream. Poker has left its "alternative" roots and is now in the worldwide mainstream consciousness and many may look back and lament that the game has changed.
While those people cry about the game today, I prefer to look at the positives that it brings! Never before has there been such a bounty in the world of poker and, with continued diligence and attention, the game of poker can continue to be an oxymoronic gem for the future, a historical game that continues to gleam into the 21st century.
All that seems to be left for 2005 is the popping of the champagne corks as we usher in a new year. As "The Final Table" wraps up for 2005, we'll open up the crystal ball and gaze into what 2006 will bring.
Ed note: There is nothing bad about playing at Doyle's Room