The Heatmap

The power of Match Poker Online’s ranking system lies in recording a vast array of data about player performance in duplicated hands. This data is not only useful in benchmarking and ranking skill – we can also use it to display interesting, helpful and educational material to our players.

At every “Match Over” screen, we can show you, in real time, how you placed among the thousands of users who played the same hand as you. A major challenge in doing this, however, is that there can be a massive number of data points to display. That’s why we have chosen to display this information as a “Heatmap”.

The heat map shows you the results of all players – and the concentration of those who won chips (coloured green) and those who lost chips (coloured red). The yellow coloured sections show chips won or lost by the rest of the players (i.e. there are players who won/lost chips in those places, but in very low proportions).

An Example of the Match Poker Online™ Heatmap

In the above example, we can see that:

  1. most winning players won between +100 to +350 chips (shown by the green band);
  2. around 40% of players were in this group (starting at the 40th percentile and ending at the 80th percentile);
  3. your score is shown by the figure in a circle. You won 300 chips;
  4. this beat 74% of all players who played your hand;
  5. the 50% mark of all players (i.e. the “median” – represented by the vertical line) was around +150 chips;
  6. a lot of the players who played your hand lost chips, with most losing players losing from between about 25 chips to about 275 chips, with the average around 150 chips;
  7. it is clear that most people are winning chips in this position, however it is also observable that a number of players are losing chips at around the -150 chips mark (and that this number is not insignificant). Further, if you lost about 150 chips, then you only beat about 20% of past players.
Some other conclusions you could draw are that:
  1. people who play this hand from your position are mostly winning a small number of chips;
  2. a significant portion of players play the hand differently and lose a small number of chips. (This point is certainly interesting, and you might want to review the hand in The Lab to see what it is about the hand that might make people play differently and go from winning slightly to losing slightly).

This kind of insight into poker strategy is made possible only with Match Poker Online’s unprecedented and revolutionary big data approach to benchmarking poker performance.

To learn more about the Match Poker Online™ poker player rating algorithm, click here]

Match Poker Online™ Loading Screen

FAQ – Pre-Beta Launch

We frequently get questions about what Match Poker is and how our app, Match Poker Online™, will work. Here we tackle the most common questions – in the lead up to our Beta launch – to give everyone a better idea of what we’re about.

 

What is Match Poker Online™?

If you know how to play Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, then you know how to play Match Poker.
[See our video for a quick explanation].
If you are new to poker, we also explain the Rules of Texas Hold ‘Em and the Hand Rankings in the ‘Beginners’ Starting Point‘ section of our website, too.

Where Match Poker is different is that we will have a database of millions of hands that have all been played thousands of times before. Every hand you play is us dealing one of these hands out to your table at random – not only your cards, but also your opponents’ cards, and the flop, turn and river.

Every time your opponent gets that lucky card on the river that cracks your top pair, instead of being crushed, you won’t even be affected. This is because the number of chips you win compared to your opponents at the table isn’t relevant. What we care about is how well you performed relative to the people who have already played this hand.

If you lose a hand, but lose fewer chips than your predecessors did in that hand, you win Rating Points (RP) and improve your world ranking.

If you win a hand, but you performed worse than your predecessors, you’ll lose Rating Points.

All that matters is how you many chips you won or lost relative to those who played this same hand before from your position. By performing better than average for your current skill level, we award points. We subtract points for performing worse than average for the level you’re at.

This is what makes Match Poker a sport!

 

What do you mean when you say, “Match Poker is a Sport“?

We mean that it is legitimately a sport! In 2017 the GAISF declared that Match Poker was officially a sport. This is the world governing body for sport – and sits above the Olympic Committee. It has given Match Poker the same level of recognition on the world stage as Rugby League.

 

But, doesn’t the definition of ‘Sport’ require some sort of physical activity?

In some places, yes – and that’s why Match Poker is sometimes called a ‘Mind Sport’ – like Chess, Bridge, Go, and others.

 

What are Rating Points?

Rating Points (RP) are how we score your performance in Match Poker. We have a very sophisticated algorithm in place to do this, but, long story short, the better you outperform your category average for a hand, the more points you get! Learn more about our Algorithm here.

 

How do I gain Rating Points when I play?

All you have to do is play well! Sometimes the best action is to fold because you have crappy cards, sometimes you can outperform your predecessors by bluffing – any way that you perform better than average will earn you Rating Points (RP).

We’ll quickly start you off in a rating category. It will probably be a little lower than your true rating category, but we’ll find this out soon enough as you play. As you demonstrate that your skill is above the average for your rating category, you’ll be promoted into higher categories.

We also have Sit ‘n’ Go tournaments in a Match Poker format (known as ‘Scrap’ and ‘Elimination’) which award RP as a reward for placing highly.

 

Do I play against real people at my table, even if they’re not my real competition?

Yes. We believe a true poker experience involves having real people at your table, so we will seat you at tables with real players, even though your real rivals are those who have played this hand before – not those currently at the table.

 

Why should I try to gain lots of Rating Points?

Well, the International Federation of Match Poker runs national and international championships of Match Poker multiple times a year. Those who have demonstrated sufficient skill in our app – through garnering enough Rating Points (RP) – will be given the opportunity to try out for their national team. It’s your entry to being an international (mind) athlete!

 

What if I struggle to win Rating Points?

We’re here to help! Make sure to check out our Strategy Guides section of our website, or head to ‘Training’ and ‘Puzzles’ in our app, and we’ll show you tips and tricks that every professional poker player uses to get ahead in their game. These are guaranteed to help you gain Rating Points if you find yourself stagnating.

We even have a starting point for beginners!

 

Can I win money in Match Poker?

Not in the way you think. We don’t allow the wagering or staking of one’s own money in our app.

…But this doesn’t mean you can’t win money. Like any sportsperson who demonstrates enough skill, succeeding in Match Poker can, we hope, lead to sponsorship deals, prize money for winning large tournaments and perhaps even subsidised costs of international travel.

 

How can I play Match Poker Online™?

The app will be available by December 2020, but you can sign up to be among the first to play at this link: https://matchpoker.com/beta

Match Poker Online™ Loading Screen

The Evolution of Match Poker

If you’ve read our article on The Newly Uncovered TRUE History of Match Poker, you’ll know that the sport of Match Poker originated as ‘Duplicate Poker’ and was explained by Bruce Altshuler and Dan Kleinman in Card Player Magazine in 1993.
Read the transcription of this article on our website.

As part of retracing our beloved sport’s roots, and better getting to know its identity and history, we wanted to look closely at this article and see how Match Poker has evolved from Duplicate Poker to the sport of Match Poker, and then to its exciting new incarnation as a mobile app, Match Poker Online™.
To be the first to try our new app, make sure to register here.

The concept of ‘Duplicate Poker’ – the first incarnation of Match Poker

Right from the outset, Altshuler and Kleinman wanted to create a way of playing poker where luck did not play such a large role. This is the foundation of Match Poker. Their idea with “duplicate poker” – coming from the design of duplicate bridge – was:

“Although players compete against players at their table, their real opponents during each round are the players sitting in the same seat at each of the other tables.”

“…it is possible to have a long string of “bad” cards or bad beats and triumph by limiting your losses on such hands. Conversely, if you have an abundance of great cards – but do not win enough chips on those hands compared to the other players – your score will not be good even if you win more chips than you lose.”

They had even determined the logistics and equipment needed to play it in a live setting:
“Instead of discarding their hands after a fold, or at the completion of a hand, the players merely return their cards to the slot on the duplicate board. After the hands have been played, the boards are passed to the next table.”

Their focus on ‘points’ in this game, instead of ‘chips’, perfectly aligns with both the scoring system used by the IFMP in live events AND the rating algorithm used in Match Poker Online:
“…the scorekeeper determines the average or par for each seat during the round… For example, if the par result at seat No. 6 was minus $150, and you managed to hold your losses to an impressive minus $70, then your score for that round will be plus 80 points (you scored 80 points above par for your seat).”

Our app, Match Poker Online, applies a similar logic when awarding rating points to players; playing a hand better than average (for your rank) is the only way you can expect to win tournaments (or hands of ranked play) and therefore receive Rating Points (RP).
Learn more about the World-First Ranking System that Match Poker Online uses

Opposition to the concept

Altshuler and Kleinman’s detailed article was a response to an earlier letter in Card Player Magazine, entitled “Reader Says ‘No’ to Duplicate Poker”. Its writer, who calls himself ‘Andrew Anonymous’ declares that he has “not the slightest interest in any form of “duplicate” poker that puts a premium on skill”, because:

“With meager skill, I have managed to turn a small profit joining only games in which I show a decided advantage over players of talents yet more meager than mine.”

So, right from the outset, he acknowledges that poker played in this way would be a much better judge of skill than in regular poker – which is precisely why he doesn’t like it. He wants to keep picking off players with less skill, which is entirely reasonable for a person looking to turn a profit.

But his letter does convey an interesting point; that for those who lack skill in poker, a duplicate poker game like Match Poker would be harder to win. At Match Poker Online, we see this as a necessary corollary of any true sport – that the more skilled will usually win.

But another issue arises from Andrew’s letter. Will those poker players who know themselves to be luckier than they are skilful be interested in a game that substantially reduces the influence of luck?

In Match Poker Online, we offer a solution. In our app there will be a strong focus on players being able to access the data we collect in order to learn how to improve their play. Through a hand-replayer that compares your actions with the pros, to puzzles, to breakdowns of famous poker hands, our app will become the best place for learning how to improve your poker play by looking at the actual hands you have just played. The skills you learn in Match Poker Online will help you in either a Match Poker setting or a traditional one!
Learn more about Match Poker Online’s unique learning tools

This way, every poker player can learn how to win.

And, in Match Poker Online, you can taste success from the outset, because in most of our tournaments and in Rated Play, you will usually be playing against players of a similar skill level to you. There, you can learn to excel!

That’s probably why Andrew Anonymous conceded: “I suppose, however, that inevitably, “duplicate poker” will catch on… Perhaps this will be for the best after all. With the experts withdrawn to the new, more skillful form of the game, ordinary poker players who primarily rely on “luck” may enjoy softer competition.”

It seems that even those who dislike the idea of playing in events of skill see the benefit that a game like this would have on traditional poker, not to mention the poker community as a whole.

As a team sport? Yes, they covered that too!

In Altshuler and Kleinman’s 1993 article, their description of how the sport works in a team setting follows the exact same premise that IFMP plays at their live, international events:

“Duplicate hold’em also can be played as a team event with teams of four to nine players. Each teammate would participate in a different seat at each table with the winner being the team that finishes with the most points.” Indeed, having teams of six (so far) is exactly how the IFMP run their events.

Altshuler and Kleinman, in this article, also outline how to score a game like this: “After a certain number of rounds, the field is cut to a final round. In the final round, everyone stays in until the end of the event. The winner will not be known until the final scores are tallied.” The IFMP also apply this approach in their events, which has the added benefit of ensuring inclusion and team cohesion – nobody goes home before the final hand is played.
Click here to learn more about the IFMP and their live Match Poker events over the past decade

But oh, how far technology has come…

The real treat in reading the Altshuler and Kleinman article is to see how they struggle with some of the issues where, today, technology offers radically better solutions. In 1993 there were no smartphones and the World Wide Web was barely three years old!

For the last seven years, the IFMP has run its competitions without physical cards. Players sit at a table (or can even be in lounge chairs) and receive their cards on a smartphone or tablet device. Sometimes they play with real chips but sometimes these too are digital.

It goes without saying that, in Match Poker Online, the entire game is virtual – played on a smartphone in the palm of your hand.

This opens up a world of possibilities that couldn’t even be considered in 1993. Altshuler and Kleinman describe a tournament played between 24 players. In the Match Poker Online app, our servers will be able to host thousands of players participating at once. This will form the premise of our ‘Main Event’, a tournament that progressively culls 20% of the field, each day, over a number of different ‘days’ to eventually land a handful of players at the final table.

Because a duplicate poker (i.e. Match Poker) competition will, as the writers put it, “place a premium on skill”, any player who wins our Main Event will have proven themselves worthy to compete for a spot in their country’s national team. In these final trials for a place in their country’s national team, they will be joined by the players who hold the most rating points. There is even the possibility that this could be an Olympic team – read about this unbelievable prospect here.

Duplicate Poker has come a long way since 1993. First conceived with aluminium ‘boards’, Match Poker is now about to blast into the future in its newest incarnation, a mobile app: Match Poker Online. We look back at our beloved sport’s roots and are humbled at the journey it has taken from a simple conception to a world-recognised sport.

Fittingly, Altshuler and Kleinman end their article like this: “With duplicate events, poker tournaments will never be the same.” We at Match Poker Online couldn’t agree more!

If our app sounds like something you want to be a part of, you can get early access by registering here!

The Newly Uncovered TRUE History of Match Poker

What we thought we knew…

Our team of Match Poker gurus have always been interested in our roots – in the origins of what is now the sport of poker. We learned that, in 2008, the Harvard Law Professor, Charles Nesson, became a keen advocate for this new way of playing poker.

I believed it was time for [poker] to shake loose from the awful reputation it built up through its genesis as a gambling game,” Professor Nesson explained. “It has had an equally distinguished history as an academic pursuit.”

Professor Nesson believed that strategic thinking, taking risks based on limited information, empathising with an opponent, and even showing strength from a position of weakness, were all skills vital for playing poker – and for practicing law.

So he introduced poker to his first year law students and the Harvard Poker Thinking Society and brought the game of poker, and its higher-level reasoning skills, to countless Harvard law students.

But the concept he took to them was not ordinary poker, but rather “Duplicate Poker” – based on the concept of ‘Duplicate Bridge’ – the form of competitive Bridge that is recognised as a mind sport. In Duplicate Bridge, all tables are given identical shuffles of a deck, which ensures that all the cards dealt to a table are the same at each table. This way, a player’s performance is only important in a relative sense; e.g. “given that you and your bridge partner were dealt a losing hand, did you perform better than all the other pairs that were dealt that losing hand?

Nesson was an enthusiastic supporter of ‘Duplicate Poker’. The premise was that if identical shuffles were dealt at two different tables, the person in position 1 on table 1 could be compared against the person in position 1 on table 2. The player who wins the most chips (or loses the fewest chips) out of the two of them could usually be said to have played that hand better or more skilfully. Aggregated over lots of hands, this game could separate the skilled poker players from the fish and the ‘luck boxes’.

The rest is history. Duplicate Poker was then taken up by the International Federation of Poker (IFP) as a way of turning poker into a sport. The sport was then renamed ‘Match Poker’, the IFP became the IFMP (to recognise that they promoted ‘Match Poker’), and they have been running international competitions since 2011. You can read more about the IFMP and the international events they have run here. Match Poker became a legitimate sport in 2017 when it was approved by the GAISF (the Global Association of International Sporting Federations).

But was Professor Nesson’s adoption of Duplicate Poker the first? After a little bit of research, an article on Cardplayer.com may point us towards Duplicate Poker’s creator.

The First Clue

In this article on cardplayer.com, the writer has interviewed a man named Randy Peterson, saying, “Peterson, a 53-year-old ex-police detective and a judicially recognized gaming expert, created the game [of duplicate poker] in 2001.

Peterson has built a reputation turning games of chance into games of skill, such as he did with Bingo. Could he have been the brain behind the game that would one day become Match Poker? Maybe it’s not that simple. In fact, the article makes reference to E-PokerUSA, who were also offering duplicate poker on their site at the time the article was written (2006). There certainly seems to have been tension between Peterson and E-PokerUSA with Peterson claiming that a patent he took out in 2001 was the final word on this topic. However, another discovery by our intrepid investigators may render this argument moot.

After copious digging, our team found evidence that this was not the first time the concept of Duplicate Poker had been elucidated. In fact, we found proof that Peterson did not invent the game in 2001. A detailed description of the exact workings of a game, specifically referred to as ‘duplicate poker’, had been published in Card Player Magazine eight years earlier, in a ‘poker strategy’ article in their August 13, 1993 issue…

The Discovery

Its title: The Game of Duplicate Hold’em… the Future of Poker Tournaments, by B.J. Altshuler and Dan Kleinman. You can read the two-page article transcribed on our website here.

15 years before Nesson taught his pupils the breakthrough game that was to become a world sport, these two Californian poker enthusiasts had explained the workings of the game perfectly: “Although players compete against players at their table, their real opponents during each round are the players sitting in the same seat at each of the other tables.

…it is possible to have a long string of “bad” cards or bad beats and triumph by limiting your losses on such hands. Conversely, if you have an abundance of great cards – but do not win enough chips on those hands compared to the other players – your score will not be good even if you win more chips than you lose.”

Is this article by Altshuler and Kleinman the first public exploration of the idea of duplicate poker? No. In fact, our investigators were able to dig backwards in time as far as March of 1993 to a letter written into Card Player Magazine titled ‘Some Ideas’…

Did duplicate poker – Match Poker’s predecessor – originate from a Letter to the Editor?

As plainly as this, an E. M. Wilkinson from Sydney, Australia, writes:

Here are a couple of ideas I had…

How about a poker tournament with the same spread of cards dealt to each table, a bit like bridge? The suggestion is a short-term way to find the best players in a group without the usual factor of good/bad cards getting in the way.

Described simply, yet accurately, have we here finally found the source of the idea for Match Poker? Could Match Poker have come full circle – originally conceived by E. M. Wilkinson in Australia, written about in a magazine based in Nevada, adopted by a professor at Harvard, Massachusetts, played for the first time internationally in London and then renamed by an international sporting body in Switzerland, only for an online version of the game to then be in development by a team back in Australia?

The answer is NO. We found out more! One last letter in Card Player Magazine may reveal the answer…

In the July 2nd issue of Card Player, 1993, a man known only as ‘Andrew Anonymous’ responds to E.M. Wilkinson’s letter of March 1993, with information that may finally reveal the roots of the sport of Match Poker…

The end of the line

He writes, “This is a reply to E.M. Wilkinson’s letter in the March 26, 1993, issue. The idea of “a poker tournament with the same spread of cards dealt to each table, a bit like bridge,” is not original”.

Andrew Anonymous may have evidence that the idea of this game existed before Wilkinson had “some ideas”. And this evidence points back to the author of the August 1993 article, when he writes;

About a fortnight ago, a Bruce Altshuler appeared at a Normandie Club in Gardena bearing a strange contraption… Altshuler explained to the small crowd gathered round him that his contraption was a “board” for “duplicate poker” along the lines of the “duplicate bridge” boards used commonly in the bridge pairs championships.

So it was Altshuler! “A fortnight before” Andrew Anonymous wrote his letter, before Wilkinson wrote about the idea (and some 8 years before Randy Peterson patented it), B. J. Altshuler had already been walking around displaying a hand-made aluminium board which held the duplicated hands to be dealt. This puts us at a date in June 1993, still after Wilkinson’s article. But wait, Andrew tells more:

This repeated a similar scene perhaps two months prior at the other poker parlor I have attended… shall we presume Altshuler has been peddling his idea and contraption at other clubs as well?

This takes us as far back as the trail goes. If Andrew’s memory is correct, this would date to early 1993, but is it before Wilkinson’s letter?

The answer probably lies in the fact that, if Altshuler already had already built and was displaying his contraption at this time, it stands to reason that the idea on which the contraption is based can be traced back at least as early as 1992 and so it was, most likely, his idea.

Regardless, the concept was memorialised in the August 13, 1993, article by Altshuler and Kleinman. They are therefore, probably correctly, credited with the invention of duplicate poker, to which the sport of Match Poker traces its roots.

So, from all of us at Match Poker Online, thank you Bruce Altshuler and Danny Kleinman for creating the game that we are so passionate about!

Tracing this history was like finding the meaning of life for us. It is further proof that what we’re doing is something that people want – to have the opportunity to compete internationally in the game that they love and be recognised as the best!

Make sure to read our article on how Match Poker has evolved from these humble origins as ‘duplicate poker’, to the IFMP’s Match Poker, to its future as a mobile app unlike any seen before: Match Poker Online.

How Can Poker Be A Sport?

A sport should not rely on any element of “luck” specifically integrated into the sport.”

This is one of the five criteria for an activity to meet the definition of ‘sport’ – according to the umbrella organisation for all Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations, the GAISF (Global Association of International Sports Federations, previously known as SportAccord).

As far as ‘sport’ goes, the buck stops with them.

But, their definition of sport is not limited to competitions requiring physical exertion. They also regard mind games, like Chess and Bridge, as sports – ‘mind sports’.

In poker, players with greater skill (including in being able to read and deceive other players and who play with greater consideration of the odds), do better in the long run. Indeed, poker has been acknowledged by courts in America[1] as being a game of skill.

But this still does not elevate poker to the level of ‘sport’, because the turn of the cards can strongly influence who wins and who loses a given hand. Thus, the influence of chance is so significant that poker is an activity where the “element of “luck” (is) specifically integrated into the sport.” Therefore, it can never be accepted as a sport.

Then along came Match Poker to turn all of this on its head.

 

‘MATCH POKER’

Match Poker is a way of playing poker specifically designed to offer poker as an official world sport.

To meet the definition of “sport”, Match Poker was designed so that a large part of the luck inherent in poker was removed. This was achieved by ensuring that:

  1. The hand dealt to everyone at your table has been dealt thousands of times before – with the same cards on the flop, turn and river.
  2. Everyone’s result on the hand is then compared to the results of every player who previously held the same cards as them.

To illustrate how this works, when playing Match Poker, receiving a bad beat from the unfortunate turn of a card is unlikely to affect your score negatively. This is because everyone in the same position on other tables was dealt the same “bad beat” cards – so even if you lost all your chips, you probably did not perform badly relative to them.

The above image shows how identical tables can have different results – which can be attributed to players’ different skill levels.

Match Poker competitions have been played internationally several times over the past decade, between countries all over the world. These have been run by the International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP), and are discussed in depth in this article.

The result is that Match Poker has now been provisionally accepted by the GAISF as the 7th world mind sport – alongside Chess, Bridge, Draughts, Go, Xiangqi and Mah Jong – sports which, combined, represent more than a billion players. Match Poker is a sport.

A SPORT… ONLINE?

The idea sounds absurd. When people think of sport, they think of games like football or tennis. It goes without saying that people have to be in the same place as each other in order to play a sport. This is not true for Match Poker.

In a mind sport, the competitive aspect is not between players’ physicality, dexterity, or finesse. When the competitive aspect is between minds – prizing intelligence, quick-thinking, insight and strategy above all else – the sport does not need to be played in a single location.

Cards can be virtual, and the location can be online – where people access a simulated poker table from internet-connected devices. And, since the game is played digitally, copious amounts of data can be recorded, analysed and interpreted.

In an online environment, a player doesn’t just compare their play to other players in the same position as them at a handful of other tables – they can compare their play to every single person in the database – that’s everyone who has played that hand configuration before!

This means that a player can find out that they played a particular hand better than 92% of players on Earth, or perhaps that they received the 253rd-best result out of 42,593 people who have played that hand before!

After playing enough hands, and with a sophisticated-enough algorithm, every player will be able to see not just how they played a bunch of hands compared to the world, but how they are as a player compared to the whole world.

All of these elements are exactly what a brand-new, revolutionary app, called Match Poker Online™ brings to the world. Currently in development, the app will do everything mentioned above.

In online play, the same hands are dealt asynchronously to players. Match PokerOnline then applies a statistical algorithm to the results of play of each hand to more accurately rank players. This algorithm should be better able to take into account the changing meta-game present in professional poker, providing the best possible official source of player rankings.

Additionally, the app will allow you to re-watch any hand you have played, compiling all the data available on that hand and people who have played it in the past, and will tell you if and when your actions align with those of the best players in the world. [Read more about the app’s hand-analyser tool here]. Every call, raise or fold you make will be compared against the actions made by the best 25%, 10% or 1% of players in the world and the app will tell you where you diverged from them.

No learning tool like this currently exists – where a player can get instant feedback on every decision they make. And, in Match Poker Online, if you improve your play you can expect your world ranking to increase too – leading to you maybe representing your Country in international sporting contests – and, potentially, the Olympic games! [Read our article on how Match Poker may one day become an Olympic sport!].

Maybe you’re not ‘worldwide’ material. But perhaps you could rank highly just in your hometown or in your suburb, in your job, or amongst your mates. After all, Match Poker is a sport – why shouldn’t it be run the same as netball, or football, or all other popular sports around the world?

When you combine this with sit ‘n’ go tournaments, puzzles for learning, and a whole array of additional features to be introduced after launch, Match Poker Online is shaping up to be one hell of an app!

If you want to be the first to play this revolutionary new form of poker in just the palm of your hand, make sure to fill in this online form so we can email you when the beta launches!

[1] Washington Post article – 2010. In United States v. DiCristina, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein ruled earlier this month that poker is a game of skill and therefore not a violation of the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA). Judge rules that poker is a game of skill. Poker pro says: Duh.

A Worldwide Federation for the SPORT of POKER

What is The International Federation of Match Poker?

The IFMP is the governing body of sports poker, promoting poker and its Match Poker™ variation as a skill game and a mind sport.”

Founded in 2009 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the International Federation of Match Poker has spent over a decade building, changing and evolving poker into “a mind-sport of strategic skill”. The result is Match Poker, a variation on Texas Hold ‘Em that so significantly reduces the influence of chance that this form of poker has been recognised, by the major global governing sports body, the GAISF, as a sport – a mind sport.

Poker, in all its forms, is a highly competitive game involving skill, cunning, insight, risk-taking and outwitting your opponent.

And whilst the money in poker attracts some, most players see, in poker, a competitive and intellectual pursuit. It is these people that the IFMP is campaigning for with Match Poker.

The IFMP is focused on the growth, development and perpetuation of the sport of poker throughout the globe. In this way, IFMP is to Match Poker what the ICC (International Cricket Council) is to cricket, or what the International Hockey Federation is to hockey.

The IFMP collaborates with other members of the International Mind Sports Federation (contract bridge, chess, draughts, Go, Xiangqi and Mah Jong), the International eSport Federation, and SportAccord, all of which now recognise Match Poker as a sport.

We discuss the specifics of ‘Match Poker’ in other articles, but the focus here is to shine the light on the IFMP and its endeavours to create a form of poker that will allow its players to become prestigious, world-recognised mind athletes.

The IFMP is, in every respect, the governing body of this sport, by way of:

  • Being a not-for-profit entity;
  • Working in partnership with WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and;
  • Registration in Lausanne, Switzerland (home of the Olympic movement);
  • Being approved by the Global Association of International Sporting Federations (GAISF), an entity that works closely with the International Olympic Committee.

IFMP now holds an ‘Observer Status’ membership with the GAISF. Other unique sports and games in this category include dodgeball, rafting, rugby league, table soccer and jump rope.

A GLOBAL MOVEMENT

Since 2011, the IFMP has been running international competitions of Match Poker (formerly known as ‘Duplicate Poker’). Because authorities have accepted Match Poker as ‘non-gambling’, events are not restricted to licensed casinos – they can be played anywhere.

The IFMP Nations Cup 2011, played on the London Eye with the Thames below and Westminster Abbey behind (credit MatchPoker.sport)

The 2019 Nations Cup Final, comprising the best teams from the European and Asian championships, was originally bound for Peru, however civil unrest in Peru followed by COVID-19 forced the hands of organisers to make arrangements for this event to be hosted online for the first time in history.

Earlier this year, over the course of two days, over 100 players from 12 nations fought it out on a specially-made digital platform, with Ukraine ultimately taking first place – for the second year in a row. Australia and Lithuania brought home silver and bronze, while India and Taiwan followed respectively in fourth and fifth positions.

The slogan for the event, “All In Together”, beautifully encapsulated the vision of everyone involved; that the Nations Cup is about more than just winning – it’s about the coming together of all nations as they strive to make Match Poker a widely recognised international sport, even through times of hardship.

IFMP MATCH POKER COMPETITION RESULTS

Year Competition Location Winner
2011 Nations Cup London, England Germany
2013 European Nations Cup Paphos, Cyprus Ireland
2013 Asian Nations Cup Sanya, China China
2017 Sicilian Match Poker Championship Capo Mulini, Sicily Syracuse
2017 Nations Cup Oxford, England Ireland
2018 Asian Nations Pairs Challenge
(heads-up format)
Bangkok, Thailand Singapore
2019 Nations Cup (2018 – Delayed) Dublin, Ireland Ukraine
2019 European Nations Cup Kiev, Ukraine Spain
2019 Asian Nations Cup Taoyuan, Taiwan India
2020 Nations Cup (2019 – Delayed) Virtual (in lieu of Lima, Peru) Ukraine

Throughout the last decade, there has been a proliferation in the number of Match Poker federations, with over 60 member nations across six continents that now recognise the IFMP as the authoritative body of the sport.

A small collection of IFMPs member nations are above. “At the heart of IFMP are its member nations. IFMP consists of National Poker Associations and Federations from around the world with each member federation holding a seat on the Congress of IFMP.” (Credit MatchPokerFed.org).

THE NEXT STEPS

The IFMP have their sights set on encompassing the entire world, increasing the number of officially sanctioned IFMP events. Potentially, Match Poker could one day be considered as an Olympic event, provided that further opportunities to participate are made available to more nations…

… and that’s where we come in.

Match Poker Online is a crucial step in achieving the IFMP’s ultimate goal. By bringing the sport to everyone around the world in the palms of their hands, poker can finally claim the mantle it has always rightfully deserved as a wonderfully competitive game requiring great effort, finesse and skill.

If this sounds like a movement you want to get behind, be sure to sign up to the open beta at https://matchpoker.com/beta and be amongst the first to play this revolutionary new game as soon as it launches!

Why Poker Players Will Soon Be Proud to Tell People Their Profession

There is a massive difference between how poker is seen by many people and its true intrinsic skill, beauty and value.

Many people see poker through a lens of dark, seedy, smoke-filled, gambling rooms full of larger-than-life characters and tall tales of fortunes won and lost – an activity more sinister than exotic, tinged with illegality if not immorality – an activity you would certainly not want introduced to your son or daughter.

And your daughter probably feels the same way, which is why many professional poker players hesitate to tell anyone, much less a possible girlfriend, what they do for a living. (See the article by Redditor u/Karimxche, “Why Most Poker Players Struggle With Telling People Their Profession (Especially on dates.)”)

But that may be about to change. Soon poker players may be proudly strutting the world stage as sporting champions, as mind-sport athletes, possibly even as Olympians.

Poker was a world open to very few until 2003, when an accountant from Tennessee, with the unlikely name of Chris Moneymaker, won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event and transformed poker into a multi-million-dollar global industry, played by hundreds of thousands of people daily, both live and online. Suddenly flagship poker tournaments were being televised and streamed online to a multitude of viewers across the globe.

To the untrained eye, however, it still appeared to be just a game of chance, with fortunes made or lost on the turn of a card, much in the same vein as casino games such as roulette, craps, baccarat or electronic gaming machines (‘slots’), where luck solely determines the result.

The great game theorist John von Neumann, who died in 1957, saw it differently. He viewed poker as the perfect model for human decision making, for finding that balance between skill and chance that accompanies our every choice. He saw poker as the ultimate strategic challenge, combining not just the mathematical elements of a game like chess but the uniquely human, psychological angles that are more difficult to model precisely.

Professor Tounas Sandholm, a leading researcher in artificial intelligence, put it this way, “Poker is the main benchmark and challenge program for games of imperfect information”.

Italian Poker Player, Silvio Pizzarello. Image courtesy International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP)

Then Match Poker came in to turn this all on its head. It was designed to remove most of the elements of chance inherent in poker and replace them with skill.

In Match Poker, the hand you play has already been played by hundreds or thousands of other players, with the same cards on the flop, turn and river – and with the same cards in your opponents’ hands.

Match Poker’s scoring system then ranks you against all of the players who played those exact cards previously. So, your play is judged not on how much you won or lost on the hand, but on how your result and play compares with that of every other player who played that hand.

This innovation opens the door to some extraordinary possibilities:

  1. We will finally be able to determine who the world’s best poker players are.
  2. We will be able to set up local, national and international teams to play each other, in international mind sport events – perhaps even an official Olympiad.
  3. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll be able to tell your next girlfriend that you are a professional poker player – and do so with pride.

This will then, finally, realise the dream of Harvard Law Professor, Charles Nesson, more than 10 years ago, who said:

I believe it’s time for [poker] to shake loose from the awful reputation it built up through its genesis as a gambling game. It has had an equally distinguished history as an academic pursuit …Strategic thinking, taking risks based on limited information, empathizing with an opponent and even showing strength from a position of weakness – are all skills vital for playing poker – and practising law.”

A World Sport

In 2017, Match Poker was officially recognised as a sport by the governing body of world sport – the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). Match Poker was granted Observer Status, making its legitimacy as a sport equal to that of Rugby.

Said Patrick Baumann, GAISF President, “This is an exciting time for [Match Poker and the other Observer sports] … we will do everything within our remit to help them realise their full potential as International Federations within the global sport’s family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.”

While some may prefer their definition of ‘sport’ to include an element of physical exertion, the fact is that Match Poker has, for nine years, been officially recognised as the fifth ever world mind sport, alongside games such as Chess and Bridge.

One key aspect that mind sports have, which regular sports lack, is the ability to play over the internet and so compete on a regular basis. This is now possible via the mobile app

Match Poker Online™ – which will be free to download and play later in 2020. Sign up now to be part of the beta!

Through Match Poker Online, the hope is that the app will forge a pathway for players to become part of national, international and, perhaps one day, even Olympic teams of professional Match Poker “mind athletes”.

Become a better poker player with Match Poker Online™

When the Beta for the Match Poker Online app goes live soon, one of the major features that will be readily available to all players is our unique ranking algorithm (see our previous One-Minute Article) that will not only determine where you stand in comparison to the best players in the world, but help you to quickly improve your game through our series of innovative poker coaching and education features.

UNIQUE HAND ANALYSER

The key to becoming a world-class poker player is to consistently make the best decision when faced with imperfect information. “Should I have raised in this position pre-flop instead of flat-calling? Have they got the nuts, or are they bluffing? Can I take this hand off them, or will I get caught?”

There are a million and one questions that a player will ask themselves after the end of each hand, but what if, as soon as that hand is over, you could go back and find out what everyone else thought the best course of action was… or actually see what the optimal play was, according to the best players in the world?

In Match Poker, you are playing hands that have been played hundreds or thousands of times before, so you can review what decisions you made and then compare these to what others have done in the same position. No other poker site or coaching tool in the world offers the ability to do this.

Note: Images are from the Alpha development phase and may appear different in Beta gameplay.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know that, when you weren’t sure whether to re-raise or not, the majority of the best players did the same thing you ended up doing? Wouldn’t you like to know if, in that hand where you lost a bunch of chips, most of the best players folded after the flop? We offer you exactly that.

Note: Images are from the Alpha development phase and may appear different in Beta gameplay.

This image shows Hand #753216. Currently, we are looking at Seat 7. We can see here – at the point in the replay where the viewer has paused – that almost all the top 10% of players (well, 95% of them) decided to raise.

With a tap of a button, you can instantly compare your play to the best 25%, 10% or even 1% of players across the globe. By analysing your play at every turn, you’ll soon find yourself rising through the ranks! Be the first to play the Beta by entering your details here.

AND MORE LEARNING TOOLS:

To further help improve your game, we’ll be incorporating Puzzles that will deliver specific scenarios where you can hone your skills in certain areas, such as playing position and bet sizing.

Our Famous Hands feature will take you through key hands from real-life championship events to evaluate how you played the hand compared to how the pros did in the same situation.

You’ll also have the ability to compare your play with those closest to you – simply jump into a tournament, play a series of random hands and then send them to your friends to play to see who plays them better. Let them know that you’re ready to take them on in your next home game!

At Match Poker Online, we’re dedicated to helping you become the best you can be – to help turn you from a poker player into a world champion mind-sport athlete (perhaps, even for an Olympiad – see our first article!).

To get early access to all these features, and many more, register now for our Open Beta by clicking here or check out our website and social media for more information and updates!

A World-First Ranking System

All throughout the world, poker fans are often engaged in heated debate as to who the best player is and how that is determined. For a game that requires so much skill, the element of chance still makes it incredibly difficult to come to a consensus.

Even so, the ranking of professional poker players – much in the same vein of sports such as tennis, golf or chess – is a necessity; after all, it makes it easier to track who the biggest fish in the pond are… or who should be picked for national teams.

At present, the closest that the poker industry has come to being able to determine where you stand is through one of two ways: The Hendon Mob, which simply ranks players based on total amount of tournament winnings earned, and the Global Poker Index, which calculates a player’s standing based on their performances in eligible tournaments every week over three years.

The Hendon Mob may be the most simplistic way to rank players, but it does not factor in how much money a player has lost getting to that point. As for the GPI, the problem now is that the system puts those who have little to no access to the game due to the COVID-19 pandemic at an even further disadvantage.

The truth is, there is no one system that can accurately rank poker players based purely on their skill

…until now.

In Match Poker, you play the same cards, in the same position, and with the same flop, turn and river, as the players you’re being compared with. Therefore, your play is judged not on how much you won or lost on a hand, but by comparing your play with that of every other player who has played that same scenario.

Using our unique and sophisticated ranking algorithm, Match Poker Online™ is able to then calculate where you stand – in your town, region, country, or even the world – in real time.

And the more hands you play, the more reliable the ranking will be.

Match Poker Ranking Screen

The Beta of the Match Poker Online app is launching soon. Be sure to join thousands of players across the world for your chance to not only prove your worth, but to perhaps represent your country as an elite mind-sport athlete.

Stay informed by signing up at https://matchpoker.com/beta or follow us on social media. We look forward to seeing you on the virtual felt soon!

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POKER… AN OLYMPIC SPORT?

For over 200 years, the game of poker had long been associated with smoke-filled card rooms, full of larger-than-life characters and tall tales of fortunes won and lost.

It was a world open to very few until 2003, when an accountant from Tennessee, with the unlikely name of Chris Moneymaker, won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event and transformed poker into a multi-million-dollar global industry, played by hundreds of thousands of people daily, both live and online.

Just like major sporting events, flagship poker tournaments were suddenly marketed and sponsored, televised and streamed online, to a multitude of viewers across the globe.

But for all the fame, fortune and glory that comes with poker in the modern era, the game still carries much of its clandestine baggage. This has made it incredibly difficult to truly legitimise poker in the mainstream.

But one form of the game is set to change all that…

 

What really is poker?

To the untrained eye, poker is perceived as a game of chance, much in the same vein as casino games such as roulette, craps, baccarat or electronic gaming machines (‘slots’), where luck solely determines the result.

The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

In poker, a player must rely on not only the knowledge of how the game is played, but use their psychological and mathematical prowess to directly influence the outcome.
The great game theorist John von Neumann viewed poker as the perfect model for human decision making, for finding the balance between skill and chance that accompanies our every choice. He saw poker as the ultimate strategic challenge, combining not just the mathematical elements of a game like chess but the uniquely human, psychological angles that are more difficult to model precisely.
While in normal poker the random turn of a card can make a significant difference to your result, there have always been ways that thinkers have found that allow them to build on the skill inherent in the game.

This is where Match Poker comes in.

In Match Poker – a variant of the world’s most popular game of poker, No Limit Hold’em – you play the same starting hand of two cards, from the same position as thousands of other players, with the same five community cards coming out on the flop, turn and river.

Match Poker’s scoring system then ranks you against all of the players who played those exact cards – and against those exact cards. So, your play is judged not on how much you won or lost on a hand, but on how your play compares with that of every other player who played the same cards.

This innovation opens the door to some extraordinary possibilities:
a. being finally able to objectively determine who are the world’s best poker players.
b. being able to set up local, national and international teams to play each other in international mind sport events – perhaps even in the Olympics.

This concept first came about more than 10 years ago in the form of Duplicate Poker and was enthusiastically embraced by Professor Charles Nesson and his students at Harvard University Law School.

“I believe it’s time for [poker] to shake loose from the awful reputation it built up through its genesis as a gambling game. It has had an equally distinguished history as an academic pursuit … strategic thinking, taking risks based on limited information, empathizing with an opponent, and even showing strength from a position of weakness – are all skills vital for playing poker – and practising law.”

Professor Charles Nesson, Harvard University

Becoming a World Sport

From the vision that Professor Nesson shared for the future of poker, the International Federation of Match Poker (IFMP) was born. A non-profit organisation, the IFMP serves “as the global governing body for Match Poker” and has run live international championships of this form of the game since 2011, with the very first event hosted on the London Eye.

FirstComp
Inside one of the London Eye’s capsules during the first ever Match Poker competition (credit MatchPoker.sport)

In May this year, the 2020 IFMP Nations Cup was the first of their championships to be hosted remotely and online due to the coronavirus pandemic restricting international travel.

Six sessions of 50 hands were played with 12 teams participating: Germany, Spain, India, South Korea, Ukraine, Lithuania, Singapore, Belarus, Poland, Australia, Taiwan and Ireland.

After an intense battle across two days of play, Ukraine managed to hold onto its lead against Australia and retained its hold on the championship trophy, with Lithuania, India and Taiwan following in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

A World Sport

In 2017, Match Poker was officially recognised as a sport by the governing body of world sport – the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF). Match Poker was granted Observer Status, making its legitimacy as a sport equal to that of Rugby.

“This is an exciting time for [Match Poker and the other Observers]… we will do everything within our remit to help them realise their full potential as International Federations within the global sport’s family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.”

Patrick Baumann, GAISF President

Some may prefer their definition of ‘sport’ to include an element of physical exertion, so the fact is that Match Poker has, for nine years, been officially recognised as the fifth ever world mind sport, alongside games such as Chess and Bridge.

One key aspect that mind sports have, which regular sports lack, is the ability to play over the internet and thus quickly develop and maintain not only global fellowship and support for the game, but also provide an opportunity to compete on a regular basis to both novice and veteran alike.

The IFMP has now endorsed a new mobile app, Match Poker Online™, to bring the sport of poker into the spotlight and onto your device.

Going Online

Using the exact same principles as a live Match Poker tournament, any player will be able to log into the Match Poker Online app, play a series of hands, and receive a ranking on how well they played those hands compared to everyone else who has played those hands before them.

After playing enough hands, the app’s sophisticated algorithm will be able to tell you where you rank in the entire world in the sport of Match Poker.

Best of all, it’s free to download and play*.

Through Match Poker Online, it is our hope that this app will forge a pathway for players to become part of national, international and, perhaps one day, Olympic teams of professional Match Poker “mind athletes”.

Match Poker Online will also become vital in a player’s education and training in mastering the game in all forms, providing feedback and coaching in real time through the use of the app’s special features, such as:

  • Learning tools and puzzles, which will help you grasp the fundamentals of poker and an insight into implementing strategy to further develop your game;
  • Our ‘Rewind’ feature, which not only shows you the action of the hand you just played but also details, at each juncture, what the best and worst players in the world did at that point;
  • Famous Hands, where you can replay iconic hands from key moments in poker history and see how your play and results differ from that of the pros.

Naturally, Match Poker Online will also cater to those who are simply looking to play a private ‘home game’ with their friends, or jump into a standard single (SNG) or multi-table tournament (MTT).

*Not all these features will be available on Day 1 of the Beta. Not all features will be free, but many will be.

As of now, we have completed the Alpha testing phase of the Match Poker Online app and we will be releasing an open Beta to the public in the next few months.

To ensure you receive notification for when the Beta goes live, as well as updates on the app’s progress directly from the mouth of developers, sign up at matchpoker.com/beta.

You can also follow us on social media and on our website.

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From all of us at Match Poker Online, thank you and good luck – not that you’ll need it!