A New Era of iPoker?

A New Era of iPoker?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Recreational players are dropping like flies and online poker is in crisis. In an attempt to fight this problem, the iPoker network has announced some harsh new changes - but what are they, and what do they mean? We explain.

iPoker’s newest overhaul explained

Boasting some of the highest player traffic of any online network, there’s no doubting that iPoker has its finger firmly in the pie of online poker. This means that they are subject to the same overarching concern of all poker sites at the moment – that recreational players have the same chance of surviving in the current online climate as a snowman in the desert.

iPoker have already made attempts to try and combat this, with last year's well-publicised network split, designed ostensibly to help “extend players’ life time expectancy on the network”. However, arguably the segregation of ‘top-tier’ iPoker 2 skins such as bet365, Titan Poker and Paddy Power from the generally smaller skins on iPoker 1 did not improve matters enough to make a lasting difference to the poker ecology.

This month, more drastic changes were announced – but why, and how will it affect play on the iPoker network? We take a look at what these revisions will mean for the average player.

Table Variant Consolidation

Before, iPoker offered seven different table types, such as shallow, normal, and 50BB. Now, the decision has been taken to prune table variety and consolidate game types. From hereon out, there will be four different table types – shallow (20-50BB), Normal (40-100BB), Ante (100BB, antes) and Anonymous (30-100BB).

With regards to Sit N Go tournaments, all 10-max tables will be converted to 9-max. In addition, all multi-table Sit N Go tournaments with more than 18 players will be removed.

What does it mean? While on the surface the reductions may seem harsh, it should actually have a positive effect on the user experience.
Recreational players are much more likely to stick around in a lobby that is sleek, simple and streamlined, and reducing some of the unnecessary and unattractive clutter could help to achieve this.

USD ($) Table Removal

While before iPoker players could choose to have their balance in either USD, EUR or GBP, all American currency will be slowly phased out over the new year.

What does it mean? This is perhaps the most controversial change so far. iPoker legally cannot accept US players, so they have decided that there is no need for any US dollar tables. However, this may well have a huge knock-on effect on rake. It is likely that the rake cap won’t change, so where before it would be capped at $3, it is now capped at the considerably more pricey limit of £3 or €3. Of course, this would create a hostile environment for grinders – but it is unlikely that recreational players will notice or understand the implications.

Removal of High-Stakes Tables

A massive amount of tables at the highest stakes will get the chop, with iPoker citing that they are unpopular and therefore not cost-effective. This means that all Pot Limit Omaha and Fixed Limit Hold’em games at stakes 50/100 and above will be axed. High stakes No Limit Hold’em will also see mass cuts, with only 50/100 6-Max and 200/400 full ring left intact.

What does it mean? Although running costs are cited as the main reason for the high-stakes table removal, this is also an attempt from iPoker to enforce ‘player protection’. If a recreational player is a big loser, then it’s better for both them and the skin if they lose a small but steady amount regularly, rather than a huge amount in one fell swoop – not only will the skin receive more rake, but the player will get more enjoyment from their money.

We catch up with Neil Channing, pro player and founder of iPoker skin BlackBelt Poker, to get his take on the differences.

“The changes, particularly the removal of the high-stakes tables, will hopefully go some way towards addressing the imbalance in the poker ecology. Put simply, it’s good if the recreational players get to enjoy their money for longer, because the games run longer and it attracts more people to the network. A cynical grinder might say that it’s like that expression – you can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once. If you get the money off the guy over a long period of time, then he’s more likely to enjoy it. It’s better for pros to get their money that way, rather than smash somebody for their whole bankroll in one hit and have them think ‘you know what, poker’s not really for me’.

“I remember when they bought in $3/$6 PLO on Pokerstars, and that was the biggest game online at the time. I even remember when they went to $10/$20 LHE on Paradise Poker, and I said to people then ‘That’s enormous, people are gonna go broke!’

“iPoker is a much smaller community now, and of course there aren’t enough people that are prepared to just blow 10 grand in a session to sit down and play $10/$20 HU on many tables. I don’t think the changes are a bad thing at all – if you think about it, what percentage of poker players are playing $5/$10 or above online? We’ve been running our skin for five years, and the average online player in cash games plays $0.10/$0.20, so it’s not going to affect them. At the end of day, iPoker don’t need professional players – they want to run a network of recreational players, and that’s got a much better chance of lasting.”

Tags: iPoker, bet365, Titan Poker, Paddy Power, Black Belt Poker, Neil Channing