Is reducing variance a viable option for poker operators in the long run?


Online poker platforms are all set to launch their most polarizing game innovation, All-In Cashout. The feature allows two or more players who are all-in, to choose to take their equity as a cash value, minus an admin fee which is 1% of that equity. Another online poker platform introduced the bubble protection, for players who register early. It allows upto 10 players, who bought in before the start of the tournament, to get their money back if they bust in one of the ‘bubble’ positions.

2019 has been a remarkable year of game innovation from experimenting with banning Heads-Up-Displays to forced screen name changes to no downloadable hand histories to real names at high stakes tables and much more. Like any other innovation/feature platforms do come under the crossfire of the poker community.

As more and more players are introduced to the skill-based game of poker, every few years there are proposals for a new form with ‘no bad beats’, keeping in mind safeguarding the interest of the players. However, the idea never sees the light of day; the reason being it hits upon a very real pain point in the game, which is that the variance is brutal.

On the other hand, variance is also what makes poker fun and profitable. Recreational players enjoy poker because the luck element allows them to beat the professionals or at least give them a run for their money. Professional poker players, on the other hand, continue to win at poker because recreational players have enough ‘winning moments’ to keep on playing unless they’ve sharpened their skill set.

Features such as these are a great deal if you can make the most of a third party insurance policy that pays you in EV, rather than cash, but without paying a premium. All-In Cash Out is optional; the board will run out no matter what and is not impacted by whether you take it. However, it will affect how the other people at your table play. The positive? We will be seeing more money flying into the post because there is less fear of getting felted with a safety net.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when poker operators offer it on a large scale. It’s important that operators do not tamper extensively with the variance in the game to an extent that the game loses its original form.