Everyone's Having A Party
Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Rob Yong calls for competition.
I love poker because it brings together people from all walks of life. My 80-year-old dad plays at Dusk Till Dawn four times a week instead of being stuck in the house watching the Discovery Channel and annoying my mum.
And if your bankroll has caught a cold, you can play online freerolls and multi-table tournaments for a couple of dollars with a chance to win big money. I love taking down a big cash game pot after getting someone to fold the best hand or going deep in a tournament with double the average stack. Most of all, I love the friendships that poker has given me with people from all corners of the world.
Despite the bad beats, swings and disappointments, poker is enjoyable, involves some gamble as well as skill, it’s accessible to everyone and can be played online or live. For these reasons, I believe there should be many more new players coming into our game.
Poker Is ‘Unstoppable And Stagnant’
PokerStars’ successful quest for world domination has left the poker industry in an unstable and stagnant position with only PokerStars generating enough revenue to justify investment in grassroots.
In the UK, the Monopolies And Mergers Commission prevents this unhealthy situation happening and any kid who has just passed GCSE economics can tell you that a monopoly is bad for growth and existing consumers.
PokerStars is a world-class organisation but its competition surrendered without a fight and its only remaining threat, Full Tilt, landing conveniently into its laps. Now a publicly quoted company, PokerStars is forced to use its dominant market position to maximise profits for shareholders. That’s very different to being privately-owned by a passionate visionary who had the freedom to make decisions that were good for the long-term health of the game.
Time To Step Up
To reinvigorate our stagnant poker industry for players and operators, we need one of the second-tier online poker rooms to grow a set of balls and provide some competition for PokerStars.
A competitive online poker industry will lead to higher marketing spend, which will, in turn, generate more new players and a healthier poker economy for everyone including PokerStars. For this to happen, we need to see ambition from another online poker room and reciprocal support for its ambition by the poker community. Achieving both is not easy because poker is the least-profitable gaming product.
Poker players are not always unselfish or long-term thinkers; just look at what happened when PokerStars players organised a strike. This resulted in more regulars playing because they thought there was more chance of winning with the strike on.
Full Tilt has gone, which is such a shame as the software was brilliant, so this leaves us with 888, iPoker or partypoker as our potential horses to back. iPoker has a tough job keeping its different skins happy, never mind growing, which leaves 888 and partypoker. Both have shown appetite but partypoker is far more willing to be aggressive.
You only have to compare both companies’ upcoming online series. Despite 888 being a bigger poker room than partypoker, 888’s XXL Series is only $3 million, whereas partypoker is prepared to risk doing its coconuts with $8 million of guarantees in the Powerfest. It’s not always the case to support the business who is taking the higher risk approach but for this project we do need to support the horse that is willing to go all-in for a double-up instead of waiting for aces and anteing away.
Trust Is Everything
In the poker industry, trust between operator and player is everything. We cannot have complete faith in any corporate as their objective is to maximise profits for shareholders, so this needs to be self-policed by players having choice.
PokerStars did a $1 million guarantee for $11 recently and I think $10K was its nearest competition. It could have charged $10 with a $20 fee and we would all still have to play.
Since partypoker restructured into a dedicated poker team outside of sportsbook, casino and bingo, the site is running more efficiently with a smaller team of decision-makers who rail the multi-table tournaments until the early hours and read every piece of feedback from every single player.
I completely trust all of the people at partypoker, everyone is totally committed. partypoker has ‘been in the gym’ for the last twelve months and has come out a lot fitter, abolishing withdrawal fees, shortening cash-out times, tackling bum-hunting, tripling weekly tournament guarantees, improving formats, investing in grassroots and communicating directly with players.
The engine under the partypoker bonnet is being fine-tuned daily and improvements to the bodywork are underway with a list of software improvements being worked on. These have been recommended by experienced online players. In November, partypoker will host the Caribbean Poker Party II with two $1 million events at the wonderful Hard Rock Hotel And Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Players Have The Power
We as players have the power to get behind our chosen horse. I am not suggesting we stop playing on PokerStars but I am suggesting we support partypoker instead of the other sites who do not have major ambitions to grow poker.
Our liquidity is spread across various online poker rooms as well as 888 and iPoker. If we all get together behind one horse, our horse will run faster and grow stronger. While the partypoker software can be a bit annoying at times, only PokerStars is superior. If we support en masse and partypoker does let us down, we can all just log off and say good luck. But in reality, this won’t happen because increased competition in the industry will dictate that poker players are looked after better by all online poker rooms.
I am not quite sure how to describe my personal involvement with partypoker. I guess I would say I am ‘attached’. partypoker was the first online software I ever played on and I respected it for being honourable and shooting itself in both kneecaps by pulling out of the United States market.
I have seen how hard everyone works and am aligned with the approach of putting on ambitious guarantees that are bigger than its player base and reward players when they fall short of the guarantee. In the cold light of day, regardless of my personal involvement, partypoker is the horse we should back if we really give a f*ck enough to get back to a competitive, healthy and growing poker market.
If my view changes, I intend to retire and live comfortably from sportsbetting with Richard Berridge every day.