Does improving quality of play hurt the game?

I often think that as the theory behind playing profitably is refined and skilled players improve their EV, the incentive for fun players to keep playing is gradually removed.

For example I play roullette sometimes with full knowledge I cannot win long term. My ROI is something like 95 cents on the dollar, which I’m willing to accept as an entertainment expense. If this ROI was lower I would lose more I would start feeling like a sucker and the game would be less fun.

I suspect a lot of fun and recreational poker players have the same mindset. If they are losing more and thus having less fun, they are going to stop rebuying and new money will stop flowing into the poker community.

I don’t think so.

I would guess that those who put in the effort tend to move to higher stakes as fast as they can, leaving the lower stakes for new blood.


I suspect that as the knowledge of the game increases the EV gap between a recreational player and even an entry studious player will increase.

It might be intuitive to think of poker talent and thus EV as a smooth gradient. I have no data to support this but my thinking is that as poker theory improves, spending time studying gives one a larger EV gain per unit time, thus widening the gap with progress in theory. If an optimal or near optimal strategy exists even a professional who is just starting to take the game seriously will fare much better against a field uninterested in learning and simply there for amusement.

And I expect every table will always be populated with at least some thinking players. If there is money to be made someone will show up to make it, regardless of how low the stakes are as long as they can make a profit from it.

The thing to keep in mind is that even if/when NLHE is “solved” that doesn’t mean that everyone will have the solution. Even if pros play so perfectly that they are impossible to beat, there will be plenty of tables where there are no pros.

Doug Polk has said on a few occasions that he doesn’t really enjoy the game anymore, so I think there’s something to what you said. At some point, you get so deep into the game and understand it so well that it holds few, if any, surprises any longer, and it no longer feels like a challenge, and more like a tedious, if profitable, exercise.

1 Like

I find learning more about the game has increased how much I enjoy it over the years, but I agree I have no desire to sit down at a table where I feel my loss rate will be really high. If that seems like the case at one table, I’ll search around for others.

One thing I like in that regard is that I think you can sit down at a table where there are 7 players a little better than you, and 1 a lot worse, and expect to do fine. And if it is 5 a little better and 3 a lot worse that can be a great table.

There’s also a little mood involved, in terms of how much challenge I feel like facing. Sometimes I’m looking for an easy game, and other times I’m up for a little more of a challenge.