Over the past several years, live poker has become filled with players who wear/use one of the following at tables:
There’s certainly nothing wrong with being on a smartphone at the table since everybody is glued to their phones these days. But when you combine this with hoodies, sunglasses, and headphones, it merely feels like an online webcam table.
This being said, LA’s Commerce Casino will hold a unique poker tournament on April 29 that cuts out all of these things. Here’s a tweet from tournament director Matt Savage on the $100k event:
“The @CommerceCasino $100,000 GTE $350 “Social Experiment” will be no electronic devices allowed, headphones, hoodies, or sunglasses allowed.”
Obviously this will appeal to some poker players. But will the Social Experiment poker tournament take off and become a larger part of the game? Let’s discuss the pros and cons of this event below.
Pros of Social Experiment Poker Tournament
One reason why many people play live poker in the first place is that they want to socialize with others. Of course, this purpose is immediately defeated when you sit down to a table with people who are not only wearing sunglasses, but also staring at their smartphones every free moment. If players who enjoy the social aspect can’t find a decent game, they’ll eventually stop playing in live tournaments altogether.
Another problem is that new players will be turned off from the game when they run into non-social players. Doug Polk recently addressed this in a YouTube news video.
“Nothing’s worse for a new player than to sit down at the table and see eight hoodie-wearing, sunglasses-on, headphones-blaring people on their cellphones, and think ‘man, this is going to be a fun tournament.’”
Polk added, “That atmosphere is bad for the game. We want to make it something that helps new players get involved in the game, rather than try to make it the most comfortable setting for those who already play it. I get that poker is declining online, but it’s also growing in some live areas.”
One more good thing to come out of the Social Experiment is that it will help bring back elements of poker’s boom era. Hoodies and sunglasses have been popular for a while, but smartphones and headphones have only become prevalent in recent years.
This isn’t to say that poker boom 2.0 will suddenly kick-start just because these factors are taken away from players. But it would be nice to see more aspects of mid-2000s live poker, when people actually talked at the tables, and there were more unique characters.
Cons of Social Experiment
The fun thing about poker is that it’s a game that offers many freedoms. If you want to put your hood up and wear sunglasses so that others can’t read you, this is your right. If your favorite artist just dropped a new album that you want to listen to at the table, this is also fair game. And given that people spend hours on their smartphones every day, then you should also be able to.
And this is the Social Experiment tournament’s biggest flaw in that it restricts many of the things that poker players enjoy. Few associate poker with something that’s restricting, but this is exactly what the Commerce Casino’s tourney will do.
The smartphone aspect needs another mention because so many people text and check out news/stories at the table. The world has evolved to the point where smartphones are commonplace in all aspects of society. Forcing people to play for hours in a poker tournament without being able to use their phones is setting the Social Experiment up to feel like an antique.
Final Thoughts on Commerce Casino’s New Poker Event
The Social Experiment $100k is definitely going to have its fans. One of these is EPT founder John Duthie, who tweeted, “I really hope this takes off!”
Many live players are tired of the scene that Polk described, where they sit down at a table full of people who want no social interaction at all. In this case, you might as well stay home and play online poker. That said, we should see events like these appeal to a niche crowd.
But the one thing that could prevent tourneys like the Social Experiment from going wide scale is the lack of smartphones. While these take away from the social interaction, they’re also a common aspect of today’s society.
In summary, expect some players to be big fans of the Social Experiment and any potential future events like it. But don’t expect this to become the new wave in poker.