(Starting something with numerous caveats isn't exactly the strongest of writing practices, but here we are. I am but one single solitary monkey, who knows none of you bloggers very well at all, who very often is wrong, and has the capacity to insert my head in my ass very frequently. So keep that in mind. The real intent of this is to thank people for all of the hard work they poured into blogs in the last year. While I could simply stick to that and everyone would be happy, I think that's cheating. One of my goals in 2006 is to be more honest, especially in situations when it can actually do someone more good than simply sitting there and keeping my mouth shut.)
2005 was an interesting year for poker blogs, and the bloggers behind them. I think you'd have to conclude it was a pretty damn successful year, with bloggers landing real live paying gigs, traveling the world to cover major tournaments, playing and cashing in WSOP events, and dropping many, many hammers on unsuspecting fools. Two WPBT events were held in Vegas, both drawing more degenerate folks than the previous one. Lots of blogger tournaments were organized and held, including satellites that sent bloggers to WSOP events. Many friendships and connections were made that would otherwise never have existed. Perhaps more amazingly, everyone continued to get along really well. Which is no small feat, especially when bringing together a fairly motley crew of degenerate types who like to gamble.
It's hard to quantify, but I think that the phenomenon of poker blogs in general gained more respect in 2005, becoming a bit more legitimate. Or, you know, less gay. Poker sites began to take notice of the blogging phenomenon, including hiring bloggers, sponsoring blogs, offering freerolls and other promotions, and in general being more proactive about seeking out advertising relationships with bloggers. The scale seemed to tip slightly away from the general notion that blogs about poker are largely an exercise in vanity by amateur players and swing towards the inkling of recognition that Hey, some of these bloggers not only play poker well but they can also write.
I honestly have no clue if we saw growth in the overall number of poker blogs. My guess would be yes, but that it tapered off towards the last half of the year. I could be completely wrong here, as I'm just going on my general impression of how many blogs I added during the year, when I became aware of them and added them, etc. Needless to say, I've got nearly 300 poker blogs in Bloglines these days, and find it hard to imagine that there were more than that when 2005 began.
So that's all the good stuff. Which brings us to, well, the not good stuff. I won't say "bad", because it isn't, but I think there are a few areas in which 2005 could have been a better year for poker bloggers.
I don't know a subtle way of saying this, but we really need to work on getting our shit organized. As the blogging phenomenon in general becomes more legitimized, so too do the opportunities offered to bloggers, especially bloggers in industries that have very high profit margins/customer or sale. Like, you know, online poker.
Simply put, we're well-positioned to use our collective audience and reach to secure advertising deals and/or sponsorships by online poker sites. Add up all the unique visitors of all the poker blogs and take that number to the ten largest poker sites, and see what the highest bid is for, to buy up all the ad placement on all the blogs for a month. It would be a very, very large number.
But we continue to ignore that possibility, all doing our own little thing, with some people putting up affiliate banners and links, some choosing not to, and in general ignoring the possibility that we could actually make money from all these blogs, collectively. We fall all over ourselves thanking PokerStars when they offer a freeroll for bloggers, yet we provide them with advertising that would, if purchased in an organized market, cost them far more than what they spent on prizes.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful, as I'm not. I'm just saying that we need to stop viewing ourselves as marginalized citizens of the poker world, happy to get a few scraps tossed to us here and there. That's bullshit. And the sad truth is that unless we step up and demand it, collectively, we're only going to get more table scraps in the future. And table scraps are better than no table scraps, don't get me wrong, but there's no reason to accept that, not now, when we could be sitting at the table ourselves.
On a slightly related note, I don't think that 2005 was a good year for poker blogs as far as spreading and disseminating knowledge. We get high, high marks for half of the blog equation, which is connecting and building beneficial, rewarding social structures. The highest marks possibility. But we get pretty damn low marks as far as actually helping people play better poker.
I'll be the first to admit, though, that for many people the social aspect is always going to be more valuable than increasing your BB/100. And, honestly, even I can admit that it probably should be the case. Money is just money and there are many, many things you can't put a price tag on. I get that.
That said, there's no reason you can't have both. People far too often fall back on the crutch of "I'd post some strategy stuff but other people do such a better job and I really don't know what I'm doing anyway, blah blah blah." And to that I have to cry bullshit.
Everyone has something valuable to share, that could help other people play better poker. Even posting the most jacked-up, wrong-headed strategy in the world has value, especially if it generates discussion. That's the whole point of this blog thing, as far as getting things out there, even if it's rough, even if you decide 3 months later that damn, I was really clueless when I wrote that. You learn more by being wrong than being right, and there's no shame in being "exposed" as having chinks in your armor and not, in fact, being the world's most perfect, infallible poker player.
I look back on some things I've posted here and just absolutely cringe. That's the point. That's the reason we all have these damn poker blogs anyway. The whole idea that any one thing can always be perfectly right, as far as poker goes, is wrong-headed to begin with, as so many situations are fluid and change depending on the circumstances. So don't just sit on the sidelines, waiting for the handful of people that post strategy stuff these days to actually post strategy stuff.
With all that babbling out of the way, now it's time to really stir up trouble.
Best Poker Blogs of 2005
1) Tao of Poker: Usually you have to choose between volume or quality, but not so with Pauly, as you get both. It definitely helps to be able to do the blog thing full time and get paid for it, but that's sort of a chicken-egg argument, as only a top-notch blogger would get the chance to do that, anyway. Pauly gets big props for mixing in all sorts of other themes and content, including personal stuff that many of us shy monkeys steer well clear of.
2) Poker Grub: Grubby gets the nod here for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is living the Vegas life and honestly reporting the results, even when they aren't fun to report. He's also a damn good writer, includes poker strategy from time to time, and is willing to let people into his life.
3) Guinness and Poker: Yeah, yeah, huge surprise, but you have to give the wee man his props. Even if you bitch and moan and claim that 90% of the content is aggregated these days, at least he's willing to do that, which can itself be a shit-ton of work. Throw in all of the organizational work Iggy did, both in the virtual and real worlds, and this is a no-brainer.
Most Disappointing Poker Blogs of 2005
1) Guinness and Poker: Bet you didn't see that coming. With greatness comes great responsibility and expectations, and I can't help but feeling disappointed in general with the fact that Iggy keeps offering so few windows into the poker strategy side of things. Yeah, I know, it's -EV to take the time to teach people to play better poker but come on matey, toss a few more bones our way.
2) The Cards Speak: Again, I'm risking angering the poker blogger gods, but this is for the same reasons above. 'Tis a very good blog, indeed, but I kept finding myself wishing that Henry had more time to post more, as in the past, and was frustrated with a good number of the infrequent posts that appeared, as they mainly seemed recaps of previous stuff that was posted for the sake of checking in. Yes, I know, I'm a greedy asshole, always demanding more and more, ignoring real-world issues like job demands and what-not.
3) The Poker Chronicles: Broken record, as it's the same refrain as above, but I wish Matt would post more strategy as in the past.
Most Dedicated Poker Blogs of 2005
1) Nickelanddimes: Drizz keeps bringing it each and every day, mixing in poker content, life content, and all sorts of other good stuff. And all this despite holding a day job, like so many of us monkeys. Just don't rely on his teaser or parlay picks.
2) FeliciaLee: Despite many reasons not to, Felicia continues to contribute all sorts of poker content, strategy, and general commentary. Like Pauly, it helps to not have to punch a timeclock every day, but she's been doing it for years, for absolutely no reason other than to educate other people about poker in general.
3) Tao of Poker and Poker Prof's Poker Blog: These sort of sleep in the same bed, so I'm including them as a pair. Hard to beat either the frequency of posts or the depth of content, including coverage of actual real live poker events, sometimes under non-optimal conditions.
Best New Poker Blogs of 2005
1) The Obituarium: Metrosexual tendencies aside (and the technical fact that he posted for a few months in late 2004), Speaker gets much credit for regularly posting lots of juicy poker content, as well as other engaging insights into life in general. Plus he has good taste in literature.
2) Poker with WillWonka: Gets the nod here for lots of poker content, lots of stats, strategy, and the willingness to question and share all sorts of results, both good and bad.
3) threebet33: This one is slightly cheating, I think, as I seem to remember this was a pre-existing blog that stretched back pre-2005, but I'm including it anyway. Regular, well-written insights into a mid/high-stakes world in Vegas that many of us simply dream of.
Most Thoughtful, Literate Poker Blogs of 2005
1) Poker Perspectives - Maudie's Poker Blog: Maudie's not only a damn good writer but she tackles the juncture between life and poker in a way many of us shy away from. Plus she can apparently take a steel chair shot to the head without blinking.
2) BG: Again, a damn good writer who isn't scared to let people into his life. Also likely wins the award for most literate blogger who can also find his way around a wine list.
3) Up for Poker: Nearly every post is well-written, with the trio touching on all sorts of issues large and small, poker and non-poker related.
Most Entertaining Poker Blogs of 2005
1) SirWaffle: Just when you think he's settled down and the insanity is over, it begins again.
2) Bobby Bracelet: Despite his single-minded quest to type the word "junk" more times than any other human in the history of human people, Bobby Bracelet still manages to entertain, mixing in trusty standards such as nut cancer as well as showing the fearless ability to also mock the handicapped and disabled.
3) DeadMoneyInc: Ambien hallucinations and repo man tales are a powerfully entertaining combination, indeed. Just post more in the future and stop making me jealous about you just won $172,178 in ten minutes playing on Titan.
Best Poker Strategy Blogs of 2005
1) DoubleAs: He disappeared a bit from time to time, especially as far as strategy posts, but he's definitely still at the head of the class, as far as successful players that take the time for -EV pursuits such as posting and responding to questions about poker strategy.
2) The Cards Speak: Even if the volume was down and the content slightly recycled, Henry still posts some of the best poker strategy out there.
3) Donkey hunter: Likely a surprising choice, but one of the few bloggers willing to devote the time to discussing strategy in light of actual hands, using real-world situations to illustrate both his thought process in various situations and strategic concepts as a whole.