I’m optimistic about the online poker industry as a whole this year. This post outlines some thoughts on this. Really a collection of separate bits and pieces gained from being ‘immersed’ in the industry on a day to day basis. It will be out there in the public domain, so if I am completely off of the mark you all get to laugh at me in a year’s time.
When we look back at 2016 it will be seen as the year that poker finally turned away from the high-volume grinder model which has been on the wane for several years. Poker will move in a more recreational direction with new restrictions on grinders. Word will slowly get around that the game is fun once again and more players will come back in… it will be up to the poker sites to protect them from getting immediately targeted by experienced grinders with their HUDS.
*I have said on this blog many times that I have nothing against individual grinders, and wish them the very best. At the same time I strongly believe that collectively they are suffocating the games and are the key factor behind recent declines. Individuals will always act in their best interest (and why should they do otherwise), so it is up to the rooms to create environments where recreational players can enjoy the games without being almost immediately parted from their bankrolls.
The rooms are now in the process of doing exactly this.
Prediction #1: By the end of 2016, there will be many more restrictions on tools, rewards will be aimed at ‘lucky wins’ type promos and not rewarding higher volume players and the new players will be ring-fenced to a greater degree.
Prediction #1a: The rooms will realize that the micro-stakes are also full of grinders (lots of unpleasant Eastern Euro types etc) are also having a suffocating effect, I think we could see them getting squeezed too... putting this as an 'a' as we could be going into 2017 for this part.
Relative Success of Rooms:
I do not see anyone beating PokerStars in 2016, though I do see 888 and maybe the iPoker Network making some ground on catching them up.
MicroGaming is my ‘dark horse’, I’m predicting some significant growth. Not sure whether they will overtake Full Tilt / Party just outside the top 5 / 6, though they will be moving in that direction. Party might even pick up a few players along the way.
Prediction 2: 888 Close the gap on PokerStars, though not to a big enough extent to challenge their dominance.
I could sum this up in one word… ‘meh’.
No standout rooms, no chance of federal legislation, scarce possibilities in a handful of States (CA being the big hope of course, though not looking likely... maybe PA?)…
Only the Chico network (BetOnline) shows any sign of life at the moment (not allowed to mention the poker room of a large rival sports betting and casino site any more, though they are by far the biggest). Chico could grow, though I’m not holding my breath for anything spectacular.
Prediction 3: Meh (yep, this is an 'official' prediction... you wait and see!)
Having an international network of sites, regulation is always something which makes me nervous. Sure, individually the small countries do not matter – eventually the wider player pool keeps on shrinking though. Ring-fenced pools, bans on payment processing and specifics on how to display bonus offers (thanks UK!) are all work-producing pains in the ass for me.
What I really hope is that Russia do not ban (bad enough that the Ruble is down), Germany doing so would be painful too. Anywhere else, well, we will have to wait and see.
Prediction 4: Some more smaller countries will regulate, if only to take taxes… which ones remain to be seen.
Innovations / Games we Play
This is the hardest part to predict, since true innovations are by definition surprises.
When I look at gambling as a whole there are many more innovations going on in casino and sports betting than there are in poker at the moment. Faster and shorter stacked poker seems to have gone as far as it can go. I’m hoping to see more ideas with random prize pools (or gifts) which can distribute prizes to less experienced players – maybe in the tournament area. I noticed just yesterday that PokerStars have some spin and go variation in the pipeline for their sports betting site (not got the details as yet).
Slots are amazing these days (like a small entertainment industry all of their own), I’m hoping to see some skill based, progressive and creative online slot titles come through. Live Dealer casino is also ripe for some innovation. The main problem with this is speed, which can be solved with some creativity!
There is the ‘gamification’ of poker as a wider theme. I’m watching this to see how it does. If nothing else it may be a catalyst to bringing in new players into the online game.
Prediction 5: Random prizes in MTTs and some amazing slots convincing people who would normally dismiss this genre to have another look.
My Personal Results
I have myself down as winning at least 2 Sunday Millions, my first WSOP bracelet, maintaining a positive ROI in SNGs without a single downswing of more than 20 games all year, crushing live cash games and winning the top prize in the $40 Jackpot SNGs at ACR poker… then waking up, having a strong cup of coffee… realizing it was just a dream and coming back into the office to keep this (and many other) sites up to date for you guys.
Yep, my focus two-fold. First business (which is my real passion these days), second making sure that I continue to love the game of poker, and play only because it is a pleasure to do so.
So, lets come back to this post in December – and see how I did!
GL at the tables,
Submitted by Planet Mark on Fri, 01/15/2016 - 14:47