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. UPDATE 2018: Online gambling entrepreneurs still suffer by ignoring this opportunity. I’m waiting. — MC

What I wrote below was published in 2002. Strangely, it’s a concept even more fitting for today. Why hasn’t Internet gambling taken us to new frontiers? I’m not sure, but here’s something to think about…

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against Internet gambling. 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

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

Why simulate?

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, 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! If gambling were just invented today at the present state of technology and you wanted to make something exciting for wagering available through the Internet, you wouldn’t 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.”

Instead, you’d 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.


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

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  1. So why did the internet gambling companies kill off ‘7 card stud-pot limit’ ?
    In the early days of online poker in the late 80’s ‘microsoft’ had a programme that was being operated on a leading bookmakers site in the UK with great ‘7 card stud pot limit’ tournaments’ and cash games – Oh, and yes there was Holdem and Omaha and all was good.

    After a few years they changed the programme along with others companies to what is now generaly used ‘I’Poker’ and the ‘7 card stud pot limit’ game was gone ..

    My theory is the companies wanted faster turnover, quick fix games .. The quicker the money turns over the quicker punters re-deposit..

    Then came the casino games, along with every other conceivable imaginary way for the punter to lose their money quicker.

    Maybe one day, some bright entrepreneur will think; ‘lets just play poker the way they did back in the old days’ :)

    But then again, at least the memories of those ‘ 7 card’ games still bring back the smiles of both live and online …

    Good luck and thanks Mike ..

  2. Im almost glad that fulltilt has drawn the kind of attention it has. I mean yeah losing my entire bankroll sucks, but hopefully one day when internet poker returns there will be more goverment guidelines which will make it go in the right direction. Geez did I just say more goverment involvement for the better. You wont hear me say that much mike LOL.

  3. It’s great that some people are starting to think out of the box even many years since you broached the idea. I think Rush Poker at Full Tilt is a great concept and hopefully this will get other people looking at new ways to play current games and developing new games altogether.

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