Outflopped – a different type of poker chat forum

published on 10/18/09 at 6:50 pm

Back in the good old days a budding poker player learned the game the expensive way; they got their hard earned cash together in a tight little roll and joined a poker game. If they were lucky there was a friendly regular who would help them with the most basic mistakes, but more often than not the regulars would want to help the latest fish get to grips with the intricacies of the game at the expense of their winnings. The only way a player would improve was to spend hours at the table and learn from their not so inexpensive mistakes.

Then the Internet came along, and with it brought the poker forum — a place where hundreds or thousands (and even hundreds of thousands in some cases) of poker enthusiasts gathered to discuss the game. Suddenly there was a system in place that allowed poker players of all levels improve their game by reading the thoughts of many more experienced players, discussing their own play and comparing it to the play of others. This online poker discussion is arguably the most important factor in the rapid increase in skill of the poker playing population over the last decade. More important even than the information available in the hundreds of poker books on the market today.

Unfortunately the format that existing online poker forums take is lacking in many desirable features and is not conducive to creating high quality content.

A major problem on typical forums is the existence of high numbers of low quality posts. There ofter will exist a question which has a number of great responses, a number of good responses and a number of less than useless responses. Today’s forums display the answers to an question in chronological order, so the first reply always gets seen first by all future readers regardless of its quality. A voting system would allow users to vote up good answers and vote down bad answers. Future viewers of the question will then be able to instantly see what is likely to be the best response and won’t need to read every reply and mentally strip away the unhelpful answers.

Reputation is that little thing in life that people can use to judge a person without having to spend a lot of effort getting that person and discerning their good traits form bad. This is incredibly useful. Can you imagine having to place the same trust in a common criminal as in your president or believing that all your opponents at the poker table are of equal standards until you have seen for yourself how they play? It is safer to believe that the rock, whom you are told plays one hand every two hours, actually has a hand when he 3 bets you and that notorious drunk bluffer does not actually have AA every hand.

Today’s online poker forums make a pedestrian effort to give a reputation to their members. They do this by recording the post count of every member and displaying it by their name. Ever wonder why there are so many meaningless, single word responses? That little number beside the posters name is the reason, and as a reputation score it is woefully deficient. A more advanced and balanced system would allow users to accurately adjust their trust in the posts of another member, a member who they are otherwise unfamiliar with. Suddenly you would, with a high degree of confidence, choose to heed or discount the advise of others – safe in the knowledge that their reputation is accurate and based on the community’s overall affinity for that member and their advise.

Our structure is the only structure…and you will abide by it.

Today’s forums have a preset structure comprising of a number of sub-forums loosely based on the topics that the creators think that the members will post about. No-Limit –> Holdem –> Medium Stakes would be common sub-category where people are expected to talk about medium stakes no-limit Holdem and nothing else. Online Poker –> Software would be another popular sub-category for discussing online poker software.

This is all well and good if you want to talk about exactly that, but the system quickly breaks when people want to talk about anything that spans two topics or does not slot neatly into a preexisting category. If you want to discuss how best to use Poker Tracker for your online Holdem play at various levels, do you ask it in the software forum, do you ask it in the medium stakes Holdem forum? You are forced to choose one and accept that it is mislabeled and will not be seen by many people who are interested in real topic of your question.

A wholly more suitable categorization system would allow tagging of questions where you are free to choose a number of tags that are relevant to your question. Never again would you be forced to compromise where your question located and never again would otherwise prospective viewers of your question be unable to find it.

Set in stone
Have you ever come across information on the Internet only to find that it is grievously out of date? Perhaps you found a link to a great sounding poker app, downloaded and installed it and, only after hours of struggling to get it working, you discover that the author abandoned the application back in 2003.

Perhaps you have happened upon a post on a forum that has a simple typo, a broken link maybe, causing every reader to think twice before realizing the intended meaning of the author?

This type of thing happens all the time on today’s forums and is such a frequent occurrence because once a post it is created it can only ever be edited my the original author, and frequently cannot even be edited by the author after a short grace period has passed.

All these problems can be reasonably solved by taking a page out of Wikipedia’s book and allowing trusted members of the community (remember that reputation thing I was ranting about earlier?) to update any post. The latest up to date information would always be available to view to the casual reader, and the full change history of the question or answer would be available for the inquisitive reader.

Don’t you just hate people who are quick to point out every little thing that is wrong with something but are deafeningly quiet when asked for a solution? I would hate to be that person so, I present to you Outflopped, a poker forum that solves all the aforementioned shortcomings plus has a number of neat features such as…actually, I won’t spoil all the surprises for you. I invite you to come and check out www.outflopped.com to see for yourself. I am confident that you will find the forum refreshingly easy to use — you don’t even need to sign up to post a question.

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