Editors' preface: PokerNews welcomes the New Year by asking a number of industry experts to share their views on the past, present and – most importantly – the future of poker. Throughout this series, these experts' opinions serve to outline the shape of the modern poker world and provide an indication of what 2009 and beyond might hold. PokerNews also notes that these experts' opinions do not necessarily represent the views of PokerNews.
Contributing to today's question are: Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker Commissioner; Brian Balsbaugh, founder of player-representation agency Poker Royalty; famed high-stakes cash and tournament player Barry Greenstein, a member of Team PokerStars Pro; Matthew Parvis, Editor-in-Chief of Bluff Magazine; Nat Arem, the founder of the PokerDB; and Pauly "Dr. Pauly" McGuire, the author of the Tao of Poker blog and columnist for Bluff Magazine.
Today's question: Can you think of something that doesn't really exist in the poker world today that will be a given five years from now?
Jeffrey Pollack: I think in the United States there will be interactive television components [to our telecasts]. The other thing I would add there is that I think there will be continued, dramatic growth in the number of international participants in the World Series of Poker. That I'm certain of. Not sure if these are bold predictions, but they are predictions.
Matthew Parvis: I'm picturing people playing poker with web cams, but ... I don't think that's really going to be a big thing. I honestly think it's going to have to do with something with poker taxes. I guess we've mentioned it, but I really think in five years from now everything is going to be so regulated in poker that we're all going to be arguing about poker taxes. Are they too high? Are they too small? Ways to kind of get around them, ways to…. I think that in five years we're going to be looking at a regulated industry. I think we're going to be looking at a much wider array of a player base in terms of international, in terms of people who are more amateurs and just kind of playing around for fun, but I do think that we're going to all be kind of talking about how much we paid in poker taxes at the end of the year.
Dr. Pauly: The ability to play poker on your handheld mobile device, whether it's a Blackberry, an iPhone, or a new generation or new device that the kids are going to be using five or ten years from now. You won't have to be sitting in your den or at a laptop to play online poker. You could easily do it wherever you are – if you're standing waiting for a bus or in an airport, you can simply play on your Blackberry or iPhone. I think that would be a pretty cool thing to do.
Now at the same time, too, I believe in five years, the UIGEA will be overturned or amended in some way to allow the existence of regulation of online poker, just because I have a really dismal outlook for the economic future and the financial future of the United States of America, and in order to be able to pay for all of these bailouts and to pay for all of these wars, they're going to have to create a very profitable revenue stream. The only way they can do that is to regulate and tax online gaming, prostitution, the legalization of certain drugs, and probably they'll have to go in and muscle a piece of the porn industry and start regulating and taxing that. Those are viable economic streams of money that are recession-proof and they're going to continue to flourish over the next five to ten years. If the U.S. government gets desperate enough, they can definitely pave the way to start legalizing and regulating these industries that over the last decade or the last 100 years have been seen by our society to be immoral.
Brian Balsbaugh: I predict that chip counts and stats will become completely automated and a big part of tournament poker. I witnessed a major transformation in tracking golfers stats during my time working on the PGA TOUR and I predict the technology will be developed in the next few years that will allow us to compare players' styles over the course of an entire event. Hellmuth finished 45th in the WSOP this year, but what is amazing is that he was only all in one time prior to his bustout hand and he had his opponent completely dominated in that hand. Those kind of stats will revolutionize how we view tournament poker and it's an important step for the game to grow because watching live poker is honestly very boring and people will get tired of televised poker if the game doesn't innovate.
Barry Greenstein: There are two things that I think about. One is I think there will be, especially if the laws change, some better integration between live poker and online poker. We may even see people get to a final table and then play it out live. The way it may happen live actually is different than at first you might think. I think what's going to happen, especially because we have all of these people complaining that there's ghosting of accounts and [other things], there's been a trend this last year to make online poker get a little bit closer to live poker. If you go back four years ago, nobody really thought about playing multiple accounts. They didn't think there wasn't anything wrong with that.
As a matter of fact, I took a poll of people when I was playing at the Commerce one time and I said, "Has anyone ever played in your account and have you ever played in anyone else's account?" I did this maybe two years ago and it was unanimous for both questions. So it used to be the standard that you had an internet account, you let your buddy play on it. If he had money in his account, you'd maybe see what he had starting and keep track, but people really didn't care. Now people do care. Now they want it to be one person per account; that's been the standard, but everybody knows that there will be times when a weaker player is playing in the tournament and then a stronger player will start advising him or possibly even taking over. We've had some scandals even with people actually buying accounts. They're not even friends, but they buy the accounts because they realize at a certain point in the tournament that they have a lot of equity.
As you know, we've have some scandals with people playing with more than one entry in a tournament and some of that still goes on. There are many people who are turned off by internet poker because they still are afraid that some of these things are happening and we know that they are happening; it's hard to really put a frequency on it. What I see happening for some of these bigger online tournaments, is that to play in a bigger online tournament, you'll actually have to have a computer — which many people do now, I'm looking at my laptop and it's that way — where it has a camera associated with it. You'll use "video conferencing" situations where when you play online. People will be able to look at you, they will be able to see that you're playing it. They will be able to see that you're not in a conference with someone else and that it's the same guy playing the whole time. As least maybe as we get to the final table or the final few tables, and you will not only, onscreen, be able to see your eight other opponents as you get to the final table, but so will everyone else have kind of this video room of people playing online, and it will look like live poker that will be played online.
The reason that I'm even thinking of the way it will be handled is in bridge –- I used to play tournament bridge, and there were ways to protect the integrity of the game and make sure people couldn't signal to each other and all sorts of things. They couldn't even see each other. Here you have it where everyone sees each other on a screen. Again, you know who you're playing with. You know it's the same guy and he's the owner of the account. So obviously, this would do a lot to protect the integrity of these big money tournaments.