Tweets, texts and what’s the wireless password?

Free WiFi

In the real world some people question whether we are allowing technology to take over our lives. Most of us are never a few feet from our phones and get anxious if the bleep of a text sounds and we’re not able to take a peek. Just as the grass is always greener, the person on the end of the line is always more interesting than whoever it is you’re dealing with in real life.

This applies especially to high stakes poker where the days of social interaction have all but ceased. They’re in the deleted file, waiting to be emptied from the trash.

But does anyone care? A look around the average tournament room is to see several hundred mostly men fiddling with something in their laps. It would suggest not.

The question arose last week in the aisles of the Grand Connaught Room, which served as the new lavish host venue for EPT London. With bountiful supplies of tablets, phones, and free Wi-Fi, any last sepia images of the now prehistoric game was forgotten. The world in which players spoke to each other, or at least paid attention to each other, in order to obtain information, now an unnecessary awkwardness.

These days all that information comes from elsewhere. Betting patterns, hand ranges, or depending on which country you’re from, “hunch”. None of which requires you to look up, let along look someone in the eye. The game is largely won and lost online, played there so quickly that there’s little time to check emails, tweet or text, because your right pointy finger is in action all the time. Playing live though leaves you with agonising minutes between each hand and the need to fill it with some kind of activity.

But has something been lost because of that?

There are of course various reasons why conversation has been jettisoned. It’s all very well trying to talk to the guy next to you, but what’s that gibberish he’s saying in reply? There were 54 nationalities represented at EPT London and not everyone drew a table where they could speak freely.

So instead players are more likely to be found naval gazing, both figuratively and literally, watching hours or box sets or Twitter. This has changed some of the game’s fundamentals, with attention spans decreasing and levels of patience on the wane.

Future text books will say nothing of watching each hand, keeping track of how your opponents are playing, and gaining maximum information. Instead, they will likely make alternative suggestions on how to pass the time, such as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, or keeping your fingers loose by texting and tweeting so your right hand doesn’t suffer cramp when you return to your online domain.

But perhaps instead of thinking of this as the end of an era it should be celebrated as part of the game’s natural evolution. If it’s true that players of this generation are better than the last, and will be worse than the next, then is it really surprising that the current lot can watch TV and play at the same time?

Perhaps there really is no need to follow every hand while trying to commit it to memory. Perhaps instead, after the installation of free wi-fi and Duracell Powermats at every table, organisers should throw up enormous screens on the walls to show communal TV shows, like on airliners in the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps then at least players would have something to talk about.

All fantasy of course, especially as poker players tend to talk only of one thing when they emerge from private reverie: “What’s the wireless password?”