It is as common in poker as the hoodie, as familiar as chips, and to some almost as important. Without them many players would be driven insane. Others would even cease to exist, or at least would be unable to prove it. For a phone, or a tablet of some kind, are now as mandatory in poker as a chip and a chair. And there’s no going back.
And maybe there’s good reason to be grateful for this perpetual phosphorescent glow. Even the cynic would find it hard to denounce them completely (take this post for example). And what’s more in a poker sense, they’re invaluable.
It used to be that the only way to succeed in this game was to pay attention to even the smallest of detail in between hands – even if you weren’t involved. Many of us tried that, and soon realised we had little idea of what they were supposed to be looking for. It also cost us a fortune.
But walking around the tournament room today, it’s clear that the phone in your hand or tablet in your lap means you can bypass ignorance – or at least Google it. Sure, you probably would do well to pay attention, but somewhere online is your opponent’s record. A few clicks will often tell you a lot about the type of player they are. If you’re not doing it to them, they’re doing it to you.
There’s another factor, and one probably the most important: boredom.
We may love the game, talk about it, read about it, watch it. But those long periods between hands, those agonising minutes when it’s not about us, particularly on a day like today when play is slow and nothing will be decided, can drive us nuts. We may one day ask ourselves what we have become, and whether the internet might be controlling us, rather than the other way round. Maybe on that same day we’ll switch off our devices and play on without them. We might even enjoy it for a while. Then we’ll get impulsive, mistaking a hand of utter rubbish for a powerful off-suit drawing hand. Before we can text our friends to tell them everything will have gone down the toilet.
So you take solace in whatever keeps your mind and your swiping finger busy at the tables. Could we live without them? Almost certainly. But we’d be fools to risk it.
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Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.