Why Internet gambling is on the wrong track


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (2002) in Casino Player.


Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against Internet gambling. In fact, I endorse Planet Poker, the oldest of the major online licensed cardrooms. (See update box below.) And I believe that soon most real-world casinos will be legally operating online gaming services.

The Internet is a great new toy and much more. Let’s think back six years. Most of us were only vaguely aware that there was an Internet.

The World Wide Web, that vast frontier that is the most visible part of the Net, was only a wisp of what it is now. And it’s going to grow greater and stronger. And, in many ways we will come to depend on it even more, and it will govern our lives. And it will govern our gambling


2010-09-13 update: When this entry was written in 2002, Mike Caro had — four years earlier — become the first well-known personality to endorse an Internet poker site. Planet Poker was the largest at the time. It currently only offers play money games. Today, Mike endorses Doyle’s Room — the namesake of his friend and legendary player, Doyle Brunson. See Why Mike Caro endorses Doyle’s Room exclusively.



Fine. We all know that. Teletype is dead; Long live the Net.

Why simulate?

But, wait! I’ve got something to say about this, beyond the wonder of this sudden historic development that has revolutionized the way we communicate, amuse ourselves, and seek information. What I have to say is about how Internet gambling has somehow managed to miss its target.

What I think is that early on, entrepreneurs figured out that you could easily simulate traditional casino games on computer, using programming languages. Today you can build programs that interact with the Web that users can download – or you can use Web-friendly languages, such as Java, to let users run the programs right off your remote computer.

I’m a programmer myself and – in doing gambling research – I’ve simulated all types of games, from roulette to slot machines to poker. It’s completely achievable and you end up with games that are more nearly random than in the real world.

Mistake free

That’s because mathematical formulas for generating the next card off the deck or the next winning number at roulette or keno are not quite as subject to physical bias. Another advantage is that simulated Internet casino games are theoretically mistake free – no dealer or operator errors, except for an occasional crash when communications are down.

So, it was only natural that programmers and online casino owners decided to simulate the games they saw in the casinos. These were all easy to do, there was a ready-made audience, and it didn’t require much imagination.

But, hold on a second! People will gamble on anything that has a degree of suspense and is easy to understand. Maybe people will gamble on anything, period. But the more compelling the game, the more likely it is that people will gamble and the more enjoyment they’ll derive from the experience, if they do.

My questions

So, let me ask you a question. Do you think simulations of roulette, blackjack, and craps represent the best gambling humans can think up for the Internet? Of course not!

Suppose nobody had ever envisioned the concept of gambling. Imagine that gambling were just invented today, at the present state of technology.

You decide to invent something exciting to enable wagering available through the Internet. Will you say: “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s make an image of a cube. On each of its sides, we’ll put dots, ranging from one to six. We’ll put two of these cubes on the screen and pretend they spin and bounce around. Then we’ll add up the dots and make up rules based on what the total is.”

Creative

Not very likely, is it? Instead, you’ll come up with games truly creative and attractive that weren’t tied to real-world physics.

What would these games be like? Who cares? That isn’t the point, and I could come up with seven good ideas by morning, without losing sleep.

So, my final question is, why aren’t online casinos inventing their own new games? Are there so few ideas out there that they need to borrow ones that were created out of necessity to work in the world before the Internet?

Don’t bother; it was just a rhetorical question, but somebody had to ask it. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

13 thoughts on “Why Internet gambling is on the wrong track”

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  1. I am a huge fan of online gaming and I play Xbox as well. The one thing that online poker does not have that I truly enjoy in a regular poker room is the conversation that comes along with playing traditionally.

    Yes online poker is lucrative, there is no doubt to that. Not only is online poker more lucrative online, it is more convenient as well, giving poker players 24 hours of poker access. But where is the conversation? Playing Xbox for example is nothing compared to an online gambling enviroment, since it is simulated gambling only; however, once connected to a table through the network, open conversation is available amongst the players at the table. What if we applied this to online gambling? Not necessarily a new gambling game as you requested.

  2. Comment on the poker games at indian casino’s where the games are delt much like on line poker. There are no live dealers. Thanks

  3. How is it that people won’t trust a computer dice but they will trust a computer card game? It is amazing to hear the stories about how some young poker professionals have made millions of dollars in the game that I love …. online. I have a problem building my bankroll past $300.00 online but have no problem killing it in the live games. Great article.

  4. Wow, great prophetic article Mike. I am guessing that the first step is something like Rush Poker in that it takes poker and does something with it that doesn’t simulate something that can be done in the real world. I have always thought that something like wii bowling is stupid. Or folding the up cards in stud online. It would be an easier game if they were left up.

    Have you come up with any poker games or variations that you think would be a good fit online that aren’t played now. I remember Doyle’s Room use to do Pot Limit Stud and would like to see that come back. Maybe 5 card stud too. As no limit, of course. I liked Cincinnati Kid.

  5. My suggestion to seasoned entrepreneurs is there be a live dealer to replace the “pseudo-random number generators” on every table to create hundreds of jobs and use a software that is compatible to live internet auction software where live bidders bid in real-time to live real-time public auctions. That way you are still 100% mistake free save only possible missdeal. That certainly removes doubt in my mind. You?

  6. Why is internet gambling on the wrong track is a headline statement. What Mr.Caro had to say is about how internet gambling somehow missed it target. Well let”s recapitulate. I have to admit that i rule out lack of create imageination.So what i think is internet poker needs union and them technically called “pseudo-random number generators” is not going to gain the strength to compelle union. In fact, it will only to continue to compelle division. Why? Cause union is for strength and the missed target. I am a Texan so,Come And Get It.

  7. Without the Internet, we used cubes and marbles to gamble. But, is it lack of imagination on the part of the online casinos that prevents new Internet-inspired games? Perhaps the online casino owners know something about gamblers and people in general that we all know: They are superstitious. The unknown frightens people. People are familiar with casino games. That familiarity may be the reason those folks are willing to plunk down their money and entrust it to a computer. Folks are still suspicious of online gambling and whether or not it is “out to get them” even while playing a familiar game. A new game may be a tough sell, no?

    P.S. Did you come up with any new ways to gamble online? I’d love to play!

    1. Hi, Sandals —

      True, although the games I’m envisioning are mostly player-against-player, lacking any significant house edge.

      Maybe I should have specified that the newly invented games shouldn’t have large house advantages — certainly not as great as government-run lotteries, which take about 50 percent.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

  8. MOST IMPORTANT TO ACKNOLEDGE IS THE TOTAL FACT THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “RANDOM COMPUTER PROGRAM”….THE WORD PROGRAM STATES WHAT IT IS….A PROGRAM….AND IT CAN AND IT HAS BEEN MANIPULATED AND WILL BE SUBJECT TO CORRUPTION…..THAT IS A FACT.

    1. Hi, Jaime —

      Thanks for making your first comment and joining our Poker1 family.

      You’re right. Algorithms don’t generate truly random numbers, no matter how sophisticated the mathematics used. This is why we technically call them “pseudo-random number generators.”

      The best ones tend to be less predictable than what human dealers can achieve, though.

      As a favor, please don’t use all-caps for future comments. These messages may seem easier to read, but — in fact — they are harder. The ascenders and descenders associated with lowercase have been shown in tests to be superior, because readers can identify familiar words more quickly by their shapes. Also — although it probably wasn’t your intent — Internet etiquette often defines all-caps as a form of shouting. Thanks. And, again, welcome to P1.

      Straight Flushes,
      Mike Caro

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