With the 41st World Series of Poker headed into the widely publicised main event next week, the newspaper USA Today carried an interesting weekend perspective on the rising influence of young guns on international poker.
The whiz kids - most of them barely 21 and eligible to enter the World Series of Poker events, are increasingly dominating entry fields in global poker's biggest tournament. The internet is the place where they educate themselves in every facet of the game and gain often stunning multi-tabling and tough experience before adding live tournaments to their cv's.
Norman Chad, a commentator on ESPN, which gives poker wide television coverage, told the newspaper that Internet play has not only increased the number of entries through online qualifiers but also has transformed into an outlet to develop skills for some of the most successful young players.
"It's a combination of quantity and quality," he opined. "You have to give them credit for doing their homework. They use the technology of the Internet to learn the game more, play the game more, be more intelligent about it and take it to different levels that it hasn't been taken before."
The newspaper interviewed two of the most youthful WSOP Main Event winners yet - last year's Joe Cada and the year previous champ Peter Eastgate, who confirmed Chad's view.
Cada, a community college dropout who became the youngest Main Event champion last year at 21, told USA Today: "Online is a huge learning tool. That's all I did over the last four years. You're able to double or triple the amount of hands you see at a card table. The amount of hands you see and the experience you get translates to live poker. It's the most vital thing there is."
Eastgate, a Dane who was the youngest Main Event champion when he won in 2008 at the age of 22, was one of 120 players who qualified from the UK-based online site Ladbrokes and flew over to compete and ultimately win several million dollars.
"You have to understand there's literally 10 million young players," Phil Hellmuth, an 11-time WSOP bracelet winner, told the newspaper. "The best young players come to the Series and have the veterans outnumbered 4 to 1. You look at the average age of tournament entries now, and there are a ton of kids that are 28 or younger. The young kids seem to be sharp, well-trained, and they put in their time and effort."
USA Today claims that many young players have been inspired by the success of early Internet players like 2003 champ Chris Moneymaker and 2004 winner Greg Raymer, who initially earned their seats at the Main Event through online satellites, and notes that the opportunities to enter the Main Event have kept up with demand.
Full Tilt Poker this year offered 1,305 seats to the Main Event to meet the desire of players to live out their dream at the World Series.
WSOP tournament director Jack Effel, who has helped supervise the WSOP since 2005, said of the Internet generation: "They're becoming better, brighter and more competitive. It pushes all the guys that have been around awhile to up their own game. It's like the evolution of everything. A lot of these guys play online, and it spreads like wildfire."
That said, Effel expects good poker to win out regardless of age.
"It's like every competition," he says. "You have to figure out the right path to play the game. I've seen the game go along and evolve. Some people make it, and some people don't. It's about conditioning yourself, whether you're 21 or 75, to play the best poker that you can."
Source: InfoPowa News