Phil Galfond: “Let’s Make Some Changes!”

High stakes pro Phil Galfond offers a number of interesting ideas to improve online poker in his latest blog post.

Phil Galfond
Phil Galfond

A couple of weeks back Phil Galfond left Bluefirepoker where he had been working as a coach for long and also led his blog. One of the best PLO players in the world, Galfond did not leave his fans blog-less, however; on 8th January, was launched, to provide room for his thoughts further on.

His latest entry bears the title “Let’s Make Some Changes” and it did not miss to instantly generate a constructive debate among forum members. The pro shared in it his own ideas and opinion about the possibilities and areas to improve in online poker.

One of the central issues he addresses is the mentality of regulars:

“Game selection and seat selection are part of the soft skills that make a professional, along with tilt control, bankroll management, and all other kinds of work ethic. I thoroughly respect and endorse playing within your means and your comfort zone. I have no problem whatsoever with people who choose only to play in great games. It’s starting to go much further than that, however.

“As soon as a “spot” leaves a game, zero to one hands are played. It literally instantly breaks. It’s worse when the player hasn’t even left the table, but has simply busted his stack, or clicked sit out. Everyone sits out with him, and when he reloads, everyone sits back in. How would you feel if you were playing poker for fun, just lost a $10k stack, and the 5 people at your table instantly sit out? Takes a little bit of the fun out of poker, I would think (...) Some of this issue stems from people having an unreasonably sized fear of playing in a –EV game. Ignore for a second that playing with tough players will make you a better player yourself, or that poker is a sport-like game that you were attracted to because of your love for competition. How many BBs will you lose in EV playing 30 hands with a few regulars? (...) -2bb/100 is a pretty high loss-rate for any regular in a game of regulars. So if you stayed another 30 hands, you’d lose two-thirds of a BB EV at most, if you’re the worst Reg at the table. If you can’t afford that risk, you’re playing above your bankroll,” writes Galfond.

He also considers the sit out problem of heads-up games: “50 people waiting alone at HU tables, 95% of whom won’t play a hand with anyone but an absolute fish.” The pro believes this is something poker rooms should take care of; for instance, by introducing a rule to stay at a table you have sat down to for at least 30 minutes, regardless of your opponent. Only losing your stack means you can leave before the 30 minutes run out. Another possible solution could be, Galfond says, anonymous tables.

Moreover, databases and tracking sites can also be harmful for poker; these make harder for pros to find a game and make weaker players become targets for regulars. To avoid this, Galfond suggests the option to change screen names. This could be effective against multi-accounting as well, since everybody could remain unidentified if so they wished. He admits, though, that this could also cause trouble, allowing other types of scams, not to mention the fans becoming unable to follow their favourites. Galfond’s idea is to allow the change of screen names in every two months with a permanent account name that would also appear in high stakes games.

Additionally, he proposes a set of other interesting solutions, all aiming to

  1. "make playing poker an easy and fun experience for both pros and recreational players;"
  2. "close loopholes that allow unethical players to gain an advantage over those who choose to be more honest" and
  3. "promote the play of more hands."

This latest requirement would be met, for example, by “must move tables,” that is, tables where a game is started automatically if there are at least 4 players on waiting list. He claims that this could double the number of active games even on high stakes.

If you are interested in more details and ideas, visit Galfond’s blog here.