Poker via computer! Coming to your couch?


Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine under the title “Remote poker via computer! Is it coming to your couch?”


Listen to this. Tuesday, April 20. A bill to legalize horse betting by telephone clears a committee in the California assembly. The vote is 10-to-1 in favor.

Don’t be surprised. Imagine that until now nobody on earth has thought up the concept of formalized wagering. People risk ruin every day; they keep taking chances every day. That’s life. But for some reason, no person anywhere ever proposed that people make bets and compete for money. It never dawned on anyone.

Now imagine that suddenly in May of 1993, a human is bombarded by a brainstorm which he conveys to a friend. Struggling to grasp the enormousness of the idea, the friend mutters, “You mean, we each put up money and whoever wins takes it all? I like the idea. What would you call it?”

“Elbmag, after my grandma.”

“But, what if this idea turns out to be unpopular?” the friend protests. “Then it would be a blotch on your grandma’s reputation. You must disguise the name somehow, maybe spell it backwards.”

“Yes! I must scramble Grandma’s name! But I can’t spell it backwards. Elbmag spelled backwards doesn’t mean anything. How about elmbag?”

Competitive wagering arrives. The friend nods enthusiastically as the concept of wagering comes alive on earth, just in time for the 21St century. Fine. But since you’ve imagined all that, let me ask you a question: Now that elmbagging has been born, will people invent the deck of cards, the dominoes, the dice, and the roulette’ wheels to elmbag with?

No! My friends, if gambling had just now been invented, it would be almost entirely reliant on computers, electronic communication, and spectacular new multimedia environments.

Not long after consulting with my America’s Mad Genius Brain Trust, I predicted that in 50 years — except for nostalgic uses — there wouldn’t be a single traditional deck of cards employed in any major American casino.

The Mad Genius’ odds against passage. That’s this horse-wagering-by-phone bill shouldn’t surprise you. Such betting will happen. So will big-money poker among opponents thousands of miles away, linked by computers.

Unfortunately, the chance for passage of this particular legislation is remote. I make it 17-to-1 against. More and more, though, gambling will resemble the way it would have looked had it just now been invented. Casinos will change, and betting will change. You’ll change, you’ll learn to elmbag, and you’ll like it. — MC

Published by

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.

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