After Party Poker left the US market in 2006 it became apparent that PokerStars would hold the number one spot in the online poker world for as long as they employed competent personnel. They were already the number one tournament site even before thousands of US Party Poker players looked for a new home.
PokerStars has maintained their high level of service and they have deservedly kept the number one spot for over six years. The other online poker rooms and networks have had to settle on reaching the number two spot. That spot has been held by Full Tilt Poker, Party Poker and now iPoker. Of the three, iPoker seems to be the most deserving of this honor that they currently hold according to PokerScout.
History of Number Two Online Poker Room Post UIGEA
Full Tilt Poker claimed the number two spot quickly after the UIGEA passed in 2006. They held this honor until Black Friday when their business was exposed as a fraud. After Full Tilt lost their gaming license, Party Poker and iPoker competed for the number two spot. Both networks offered players alienated by Black Friday the chance to enter their VIP programs at an elevated tier. Neither site saw much in the way of long term traffic gains from this marketing.
Eventually Full Tilt Poker reopened under the control of PokerStars’ parent company Rational Group in November 2012 and regained the number two spot. Party Poker regained the number two spot when they merged their player pool with bwin in December 2012. This was short lived. iPoker eventually took over the number two spot.
iPoker created a controversial platform in 2012. They divided the network into two groups, iPoker1 and iPoker2. Contrary to logic, iPoker2 is the most desirable side of the network. This group includes heavyweights Titan Poker, William Hill, Paddy Power, Poker770 and Bet365.
Three major licensees joined the iPoker2 platform after the original launch. Winner Poker transferred from iPoker1 to iPoker2 after the network split. Everest Poker closed their standalone skin and migrated all of their players to iPoker2 in November 2012.
Betfair began their move to iPoker2 in January 2013. Betfair gives their existing players the option of playing on either their Ongame skin or their iPoker2 skin. All new players are directed to the iPoker2 skin and do not have the Ongame skin as the option. All Betfair players will be on iPoker2 by the end of July.
Ladbrokes has announced that they will be moving to iPoker later this year. While online poker is not a substantial revenue generator for Ladbrokes this will still give the network a boost that will help it stay in second place.
There has been a divisive discussion about whether the iPoker split was a success, but the poor decisions by bwin.party have left that discussion all but moot.
Bwin.party Blunders Cost the Company Number Two Spot
bwin.party had every opportunity to be hold second place in terms of online poker traffic. Unfortunately, their dishonesty has left players and affiliates with trust issues that will be hard to ever reverse.
The most notable mistake that bwin.party made was secretly restricting their high volume, winning players from the general player pool. It seems that bwin.party thought they could get away with this move but savvy players caught them at their game. Even after proof was demonstrated bwin.party support continued to deny any such action had been taken. Eventually the group admitted that some tests were implemented that kept winning players from their recreational players, though they still refused to release details. Only a small number of players are affected by this move but it sends a clear message that bwin.party does not want their players to win and that they have no problem taking secret action against them. This is a terrible public perception for any gaming company.
As if that was not bad enough, bwin.party also dropped their heavily promoted Palladium Elite tier. This dropped the top VIP rakeback rate from 50% to 30% on March 31, 2013. Although announced before the table restrictions were discovered, this drew the ire from many of the same players that also felt cheated by the table restrictions.
While many players felt put off by bwin.party’s actions, affiliates had an even bigger complaint. Marketers that had promoted Party Poker for years were told that their commissions would be slashed dramatically. Some affiliates even lost their affiliate accounts altogether because they either did not refer enough new players or their players were net winners.
These terms were changed midgame by bwin.party’s affiliate program, now referred to as Belosers by some of its victims. bwin.party pointed to a line in their terms and conditions that allows them to change the agreed upon terms without any notice or agreement. To affiliates, this was nothing more than stealing.
In addition to these recent issues, the network botched their heavily promoted Pokerfest III launch yesterday. All but one of the events were canceled on the first day of the tournament series.
Full Tilt’s Place in the Industry
Full Tilt Poker is an afterthought for PokerStars from a shotgun wedding forced by its Black Friday settlement with the DOJ. It is hard for some players to justify playing there when their money may be easily transferred to the world’s largest poker room with just a few clicks. The novelty of Full Tilt’s return has long worn off and in my opinion their traffic will continue to reflect this.
iPoker enjoys the position of having dozens of licensees to offer their product. One bad operator will not take down the entire network. This has been a problem in the past when competing skins poached players, but this issue appears to be under control now more than ever. The competition between skins also helps keep the network’s name constantly in the online poker media and forums.
In my opinion, iPoker will be able to continue their number two position as long as they have learned how not to operate their poker room from others. As long as iPoker and their skins learned from their predecessors’ mistakes they will continue to enjoy their position as second place in the online poker world.
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