Two demographics poker needs to target

World-Series-of-Poker-July-2010-dealer-tables-300x200Seniors

By Seniors I mean “poker seniors,” which is anyone over the age of about 40. When poker went “mainstream” in the early and mid 2000’s this demographic was pushed aside and replaced by young, brash players.

Before the Poker Boom these middle-aged men were exactly the type of casual players that fueled the games; moderately successful with some disposable income. They were attracted to poker not because they were passionate about the game and wanted to succeed, but because they were getting a bit too old for men’s league basketball and softball leagues but still needed to scratch their competitive itch.

Middle-aged men with good jobs and families had no desire to improve, and are not going to put in the time and energy that is needed to become profitable players. They are completely happy with losing 60%+ of their sessions so long as they can brag about a $3k night every now and then.

In today’s poker world, the new players fueling the game are essentially broke college-aged kids who scrape together whatever cash they can to buy into the low-stakes game are and thirstily trying to improve as players. The only reason they are “marks” is because they are new and haven’t gained enough experience.

Personally I prefer the 45 year old bank manager who likes to play $20/$40 Limit Holdem every other Friday and doesn’t bat an eye at an $800 loss, to the 22 year-old college kid with $500 bucks to his name grinding the $1/$2 No Limit Holdem tables; who goes back to the dorm and uploads hands to poker forums and talks about exploitable three-betting patterns with his poker coach.

So where did they go? Basically, they are pretty much fed up with young kids giggling at their play and talking in Internet lingo. When these were the players fueling the games at the casinos (pre-2003) the profitable players would rarely criticize, ridicule, or act superior in any way; sadly this is no longer the case.

If we want these players back we have to invite them back, and treat them with dignity and respect they expect. These aren’t “College Bro’s” you bust balls with, and until the young crowd understands this I don’t expect a big influx of 40+ year-old poker players.

Women

The absolute disproportionate number of women to men in poker is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but I’m starting to be of the opinion that it’s a matter of genes, and men are simply drawn to a game like poker where women are not –apparently the same statistics hold true in Chess where like poker only about 5% of competitors in tournaments are female. Research studies needed.

Still, even if women will never rival men in terms of sheer numbers, we can do better; there is plenty of room for growth. Think about what just a 10% increase in tournament numbers would mean; you’re talking about 700 extra players in the WSOP Main Event, bringing us close to 2006 numbers! And all it would take in my estimation is a slight curbing of the macho alpha-male behavior (or the even more annoying ComicCon geekishness) that has likely driven away the middle-aged men as well.

Here’s my advice to the men who are wondering where the female players are: Stop snickering, stop being condescending, stop trying to pick them up, and watch your mouths. And for the love of god, can we please be social! Can table talk not be measured by its potential effects on your EV and just be seen as a necessary part of keeping the game friendly and inviting for new players?

Now, unlike the middle-aged casual players I want to bring back into the game, with women it’s simply a matter of increasing the player pool, as I would imagine that they would be on average better players since women drawn to poker would likely have a real passion for the game.

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