Planet Mark's Blog. Thoughts, News And Strategy For Poker Tournaments Of All Size

Poker Networks In 2013

There are plenty of poker news sites around. Most of them take the news from 1 or 2 original sources, create dry ‘me too’ copies and then wonder why they are not massive commercial success stories. Yesterday's announcement that Merge are to stop rakeback is an excellent example of exactly this kind of thing (and excellent news too!!). For me one of the key problems (other than poker news being a generally dry and boring subject) is that nobody takes the time to explain what the news actually means to their particular readership… So, today I have addressed this issue for the (hopefully) profitable recreational players / up and coming players demographic who are the main readers of SNG Planet. I have gone through the main sites and networks, summed up the latest news, added my thoughts on where we might see them going in 2013 – then concluded by highlighting what this means to those us who might like to make a little money, but do not consider themselves to be poker pros!

Poker Networks In 2013

#1 iPoker I already have a detailed iPoker Split Special, however there is something more important than the split which came in at the end of 2012… synchronized breaks for tournaments. This network used to be my favorite place to play MTTs, however the other networks all aligned their breaks at 5 to the hour a couple of years ago – and iPoker  tournaments slowly declined from there. The European Championship (ECOOP) was lost and a lot of guarantees went down. I expect to iPoker tournaments come back this year, as people discover how soft they are compared to Stars et al. The top ‘iPoker2’ with all the betting brands is the place to head for cash games and the recent announcement that Betfair will join them is another welcome boost. I will mention my $20 extra free cash offer at leading iPoker site Titan – you can find out more about this in my detailed review.

Action for improving / recreational players: Check out the tournaments, they are fantastic, and the breaks now line up with the other sites!


#2 – OnGame This network has been suffering some large exits lately, with Bwin gone and Betfair announcing their departure. These two brands were huge reasons why OnGame were soft, with lots of sports-betting ‘fun’ players crossing over into the poker room. For me OnGame need to pull something out of the bag pretty quickly in 2013, or risk going into a decline…

Action: None for now, still some great games until Betfair complete their iPoker move, unless some big announcement occurs in the first half of this year I will probably stop recommending this network in the second half of 2013.


#3 – 888 Poker c-888A big success story last year and I expect the momentum will continue. What I like about this brand is that they focus on the casual / recreational player market. With gadget / sports ticket type give away offers rather than yet more grinder ‘points race’ promos and plenty of innovations too.  We could easily see 888 pulling away from the mid-sized sites tier – and becoming a serious alternate to the big 4. I’m not sure that their proposed tie in with Facebook will produce huge results for poker in 2013… since this is initially for the social / bingo / slots games . You never know though, with continued growth of poker and the FB coming through – 888 could have a very bright future indeed!

Action: Check them out… really, if you have not seen this brand since the old ‘Pacific Poker’ days then you are in for a pleasant surprise in terms of software, games and promos – see the 888 Poker Website for more.


#4 – Bwin / Party Well, their player pools are finally together – consolidating their 2nd position in size after PokerStars. There are a couple of notable changes coming this year. First, software – their Android version  just went live in beta,  and this year will see a big redesign / updated full client too. Second their tie in with Zynga has some potential. Whether we will see a huge influx of players from the famous Zynga Poker in 2013 remains to be seen, though just trialing and proving that the social and real money models can have some small synergy would be a great step forwards. This brand are another who are focusing on the recreational market, with the top VIP tier trimmed and tons of promos aimed at boosting casual players... Fast Forward poker is worth a note too - like Zoom / Rush, except full of fish! It will be tough to hold that 2nd position with Full Tilt looking to retake it, lets hope that they manage this – for the sake of healthy competition if nothing else.

Actions: Wait and see, if the Zynga thing takes off this could be the softest poker site ever…


#5 – PokerStars / Full Tilt The rich can only get richer in 2013. PokerStars have been hitting some huge numbers and every grinder and his dog are busy 16-tabling there… I feel that the comeback of Full Tilt could not have been any smoother from an operational perspective, so top marks for that. Some changes are coming in already (renaming things, adjusting schedules, promos), however we have not yet seen the might of the PokerStars marketing department. When we do (maybe 2Q13, maybe sooner) then Full Tilt will start to grow significantly. I would not bet against them regaining the 2nd spot in the first half of this year. It’s a funny love / hate thing going on for me. I hate the fact that one organization will have so much of the online poker market under their control… yet at the same time love both of these sites as a player... hmmmm!

Action: I need to kick myself (and readers) a little harder to look beyond these great poker sites. Sure, you can make good profits on them and the games are high-volume. At the same time there are so many 10,000’s of multi-tabling grinders…  If you have not seen what games look like without them then, well, what are you waiting for!


#6 – US Networks Merge / Revolution / Bovada / Winner Merge’s recent move to a new cashier and integration of betting and casino into a single wallet looks to me like a very smart act. Sure, there was some disruption to payments (now largely behind them). What I like about this move is that playing the US ‘payments game’ for the sake of poker alone was a lot of hard work for only a small proportion of the benefit. Let’s face it, if you want to service the US market then payments is the core competency! So, why not offer all of the forms of gambling that your market could want… Of course, there is more potential for cross over from sports-betting and casino to the poker room than the other way around, which has to be good for the games. I think Merge will do well this year, baring Federal intervention! Yesterday Merge announced that their flat rakeback is coming to an end, with all rakeback players transferring to the VIP loyalty scheme instead. This is great news, I have never liked flat-rakeback, which turns small stakes players into multi-tabling robots - sucking the fun out of the game. While the lowest level players will earn less, things should balance out for those with reasonable volume. Carbon (the leading Merge site) have a generous VIP deal which includes daily cashback and bonuses you can buy with points. Lock are accepting deposits, but getting slow with withdrawals. These are getting through to players – just taking a long time. At the same time they are investing heavily in marketing, especially their stable of pros (Micheal Mizrachi the latest signing). This should pay off in 2013, and the competition between the Revolution Gaming Network (which Lock own) and the Merge Network (ditto Carbon) should be positive for players. We have already seen the guaranteed tournaments going upwards and welcome bonuses leap-frogging each other – hopefully this will continue. Bovada are making steady progress and I like the way that this site are focusing on recreational players rather than grinders. I intend to bring this site into the reviews / comparisons for US players here as we go through the 1st Quarter of the year.

Action: Check out Carbon Poker and keep an eye on Lock. Remember to keep only a small proportion of your bankroll on either site… just in case the Feds get involved again. That’s all for this roundup, I will start coverage of MicroGaming here at some point soon, and I’ll remain vigilant for any new sites / networks which break through this year. Just to finish with the key point for non-pro players who like to win a little money while they enjoy the games in their leisure time… you really do not need to play with the full time grinders, they suck the life and profits out of the games. Make 2013 the year when you improve your own profits by seeking out some easier games – I’ll look forward to some nice xmas presents at the end of this year when you see how much bigger your bankroll has grown after making the switch!!


Gl at the tables, Mark

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