My name is Dutch Boyd. I am a professional poker player and World Series of Poker bracelet winner. I am what I call a third-generation poker player, meaning I got into poker after Rounders but before the Moneymaker World Series in 2003. I can honestly an confidently call myself an expert in the poker industry. Here are some reflections I’d like to share.
Back in 1999, at 18 years old and fresh out of law school, I was one of the co-founders of an online cardroom, PokerSpot, which went under and left over 1200 players holding the bag for their cashier balance. It was a big disaster for everyone involved and should serve as a cautionary tale to anybody putting too much trust in an online gambling site or buying into the “first-mover advantage” myth. But we did invent real money multi-table tournaments, and after almost a year of trying to peddle the software to someone, we finally abandoned the project and open-sourced the poker software. I like to think this has helped the continued development of online poker.
After Pokerspot failed, I started focusing on making a career as a professional poker player. I propped the 20-40 games in 2002 at Garden City Casino in San Jose, CA… I then saw a huge opportunity in poker tournaments, so I quit the prop ob and started following the professional tournament circuit. I hit my first major break in 2003. I won the very last mega-satellite to the main event, and finished 12th. It was the first year ESPN was really doing it justice, and they had all new production people who didn’t really know much about who was who…. so they focused on results. I was the chipleader for a good chunk of time in that tourney, and in the top ten for three straight days… so I got a lot more camera time than I otherwise would have. Poker was changing and poker stars were going to be made. A few friends were with me, Joey Bartholdi and Brett “Gank” Jungblut, and “The Crew” was born, bankrolled with that initial 2003 score.
We recruited a couple of other guys. Joey left The Crew and then we picked up Scott. We went pretty much broke, but found some backers for the WSOP 2004 and kicked some ass. Gank won a bracelet. Scotty won two. Joey and I both got as close as you can get (3rd and 2nd, respectively). ESPN blew us up, Rolling Stone ran a feature. We’d continue to dominate the poker scene. But by this point we were no longer really that tight of a group. There were some internal feuds. Friends became rivals. But we all knew that we’d always be The Crew… it was more of an experience than anything else. A handful of 7 guys trying to reach a poker dream.
Joey would finally get his legendary win by snapping off the WPT Championship event in 2006 for almost $4 million dollars. At the time, it was the third largest poker tournament in the history of the game. I’d get mine a month later, snapping off the first $2,500 Six-handed event at the WSOP. It was a televised event and had me going up headsup against Joe Hachem, the previous year’s world champion. Up until that event, I was admittedly the (male) poker player with the highest fame-to-earnings ratio. After that win, though, that could no longer be said.
I noticed a stark change in the way people in the poker community treated me after that bracelet win. Before, it felt like everywhere I went PokerSpot was like a shadow. I didn’t really feel like I was accepted in “the clique”. Several high-profile players were pretty vocal about their desire for me to just leave the poker community behind.
But after winning the bracelet, I was now in a very exclusive club of players who have proven in competition that they can win against the best poker players in the world. There are less bracelets than super bowl rings. And by downplaying the achievement and being pubicly critical of players who have crossed that golden line, other players in the WSOP club were somehow taking away from their own achievement.
There is definitely a big difference between a poker player who has one world series of poker bracelet and a poker player who has multiple world series of poker bracelets. In the public eye, there is probably a bigger difference between a poker player with a televised bracelet and a poker payer with an non-televised one. But however you look at it, it is a small club and there is definitely a difference between players with a bracelet and players without one… anybody who has a poker bracelet has to at least be given the respect of having a very small percentage goal and achieving it. And they are among a small number of players to actually know what it feels like to go through the reality soap-opera that leads to and follows the victory.
Poker is without a doubt the most complex game I have ever played and the hardest thing that I’ve tried to get truly great at. Most of my life, I had felt like a big fish in a small pond. I very rarely was intimidated or had the feeling like I was dealing with someone who was significantly more intelligent than I was. But that changed when I started playing competitive poker. The World Series of Poker, particularly the main event, is the biggest pond I’ve found. It is the ocean. And I am quite often at tables with players who make me think that they are thinking on levels that I didn’t even know exist.
For all these reasons, I love poker. But after years of being in the industry and seeing the dark side of the game and the lifestyle, I can’t escape the feeling that poker has turned from a rather small and secluded social problem to a HUGE social vice. Each day, the majority of the hundreds of thousands of real money players online will lose money. Unlike other forms of accepted social vices, none of that money is going to taxes to support schools. Very little of it is even going to minority of payers who CAN beat the game. No, the majority of the money in poker is going into the offshore bank accounts of the operators who have succeeded where I had failed a decade ago.
Being a highly-televised poker player, I often wonder how many college kids out there have dropped out of school because they were inspired by ESPN footage of The Crew. And now, long busted, are grinding away at a crappy job and trying to scrap together their next microroll. There’s bound to be a few… when you’re dealing with very small percentages of very large numbers, the result is still pretty daunting.
I’m convinced that in the future, we will see a fundamental change in the way online poker is played. I believe that poker will become a game where it’s impossible to lose. But at the same time, it will be possible to win much more than it is now. This will become possible because free poker sites will continue to develop and will eventually capture the market. It is already the case that there is a much higher percentage of free money poker players than real money payers online.
As free poker sites get better at figuring out how to convert their free poker player traffic into real money, they will eventually be able to offer higher potential rewards than real money cardrooms. I don’t believe that any of these sites will be making money off of a “membership fee”, which for now seems to be the trend. In my opinion, that really isn’t changing the fact that the site is a gambling site at all… it’s just a gambling site which imposes a very low loss-limit.
This type of membership-based cardroom is a step in the right direction, though. I’ve already even joined the boat by converting one of my poker domain names into an NLOP.com skin. The site is PokerZero.com you can play poker for free and earn real money. Check it out to see an example of where I think poker is going. And if you want to get inside my head a little more, please check out my blog at DutchBoyd.com.
*Dutch Boyd is a professional poker player with close to $2 million in lifetime winnings. He won a world series of poker event in a $2500 Six-handed NL event in 2006. Away from the tables, he is a domainer and web developer and is constantly buying and selling poker domain names and websites. He also occasionally does work as a consultant and is available for speaking engagements.
Dutch was born in Warrensburg, Missouri and raised in Columbia (home to three other WSOP bracelet winners). He currently lives in Las Vegas with his girlfriend, Michele.