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Is it Good to Rush?

Speed Racer
"Speed Racer" (CC BY 2.0) by Tobyotter

It was Rick Bennett who said, "In the long run there's no luck in poker, but the short run is longer than most people know". But Bennet was talking before speed poker had hit the streets. Speed poker is an undisputed hit. Since it was first launched as Titanbet's Rush the format has been reproduced and refined by just about every mainstream provider. There is a market for making things happen quicker than they used to amongst the pokerati.

New, dynamically branded variants are cropping up all the time - the most recent at the time of writing is 888's Blast that offers the eye-catching novelty of a four handed variants along with a randomized prize pool. The one other innovation that 888 are rolling out is a timer - they call it a 'blast timer' - which announces the point at which the game turns into an all-out shoot-out in which all players must go all-in until there is only one player standing. All the signs are that fast format poker is here to stay.

Thinking ahead

Taken at face value that's all well and good. Players enjoy more hands more often along with the sizzle of excitement that comes with playing for big money but minus the inconvenient requirement to actually feed the pot directly. What's not to like?

But there are fears over what this might mean in the long term. What will be the downstream effects of a generation of players whose fold rate is so turbo charged? Is this pull to ever faster and more frenetic play going to do anyone any good - always excepting those sites that reap the benefits of players turning over more money more often?

"speed" (CC BY 2.0) by Sean MacEntee

The case for speed

Now, you can cut this argument any one of several ways. One the one hand, if the short format attracts new players to the tables it can only be of benefit to the game in general - not to mention those who are prepared to let them learn their lessons the hard way. Pulling money into the game has never been frowned on. As Vaudeville's Joe Laurie Jr. noted back in the 1930s, "If you play bridge badly you make your partner suffer, if you play poker badly you make everybody happy."

And why it's good to go slow

On the other hand - so the argument runs - all that quick turnaround, trigger-happy play can easily lead to players developing bad habits. The meticulous analysis that players at the top of the game practise is just not going to be encouraged. Players will be induced to treat the delicate balance between skill and blind luck with less respect than they ought. In short, so the argument runs, fast format poker will see the future of the game sent to hell in a hand cart.

An even handed view

Between those two poles is a more balanced position that says that if speed poker is popular it's because there is a base-line appetite for it. At the same time, there is nothing intrinsic in speed formats that offer a threat to those more conservative, old-timers. And on that basis you could argue that the rise of speedier variants is doing more good than harm. Rick Bennet might beg to differ there but, in the finest traditions of the game, we are all entitled to play at our own pace, no matter what anyone says.

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