With news that their COO contemplated a move to “real poker” I feel compelled to comment. In a recent news article he said that Zynga is looking toward expanding into online gambling over the course of the coming year. Yikes. Right now they rely on Facebook to deliver their product. A move to something more independent would make for a “real-er” game, but…jeebus.
If you’ve ever played Zynga poker (and in a bit of irony, it’s the LARGEST poker site in the world), you know that it doesn’t function like a poker site. There’s no multi-tabling, no pop-up screens when it’s your turn, etc. It’s a game, pure a simple (and the people who play are likewise - simple, that is). Tournaments are known for at least 3 or more players going “all-in” on the first hand no matter what cards they hold (the so-called “Zynga effect”), and play is on a level of Ms. Madison’s third-grade class on extended recess. And often, because it IS a social game, the players ARE third -graders.
And yet…I know many “real” poker players who hang out playing Zynga poker. I do, too, when I am completely bored and have about 10 minutes to kill (that’s about as long as it takes to complete a single table SNG). It’s fun to watch in a car-crash kind of way, but I have to think that it eventually destroys any integrity of skill one might have (which is why I limit my time to about 15 minutes). I make a game of it - I don’t play a hand until there are 4 or fewer players, and then I try to make at least second place (winning is hard only because the lucky schmuck who went all-in with 8-3 offsuit when 5 other players called and got lucky and made two pair and hauled in $6,000 while you’re stuck with about $950 of your starting stake). But that’s about as seriously as I take it.
So, can Zynga compete as an online “real” poker site? I’d love to hear what you think, but I can tell you this - I will take them seriously when there’s a World Series of Balloono. Or maybe “Superstore Shuffle.” Seriously?