In this column we deliver you the latest and most interesting online poker industry news from across the world and all platforms.
PokerStars, GGPoker, partypoker and the flourishing high stakes tournament action
It wasn’t just traffic that rose during the Corona lockdown months, it was also the stakes involved especially in the tournament area. Now the big poker sites keep competing in this field, offering more high stakes tournament action.
In what many people describe as the heyday of online poker around 2008-2011, high stakes cash games were the ultimate experience to play and to watch. But while the big cash games moved more and more offline and into private settings, high stakes tournaments became a lot more interesting. Tournament players are not shunned as less skilled anymore as they were quite often around 10 years ago.
But high stakes tournaments mainly stayed in the ‘offline’ world. The occasional WCOOP Main Event of some rare high rollers might have hit a $5k buy-in once in a while, but the amount of high roller action and buy-ins we see today is definitely unprecedented.
And everybody wants a piece of course. A lot comes down to trusting the online poker provider and choosing your games that way but while live high stakes tournaments are on hold a lot of players spread their play across the different operators.
These are mainly partypoker, PokerStars and GGPoker. The three poker sites have been battling it out over the past months trying to win over the low rolling masses AND the high rolling elite. Partypoker even introduced the use of real names at the tables to increase safety and trust.
High roller tourneys like PokerStars’ High Roller Club had been introduced already before the pandemic, but it was more low profile. Nowadays more focus is put on an expansive high roller tourney offering across the big sites.
Here is an overview of the regular high roller tournament offerings:
– PokerStars High Roller Club: Daily $530 & $1,050 tourneys, Sundays also $2,100 events; total prize pool ca. $750k per week across 27 tournaments; $75k Leaderboard in June (offering might vary)
– Partypoker High Roller Club: All tourneys of $530 and higher are in the High Roller Club with guaranteed prize pools of $3.5 million per week (might vary); $100k Leaderboard
– GGPoker High Roller Reboot: Daily tournaments with a bigger schedule on Sundays; total guaranteed prize pools of $6 million per week; no Leaderboard
Traditional operators try to catch the home game train
In last week’s column we already spoke about the way PokerStars has finally given their Home Games product a little more love. But they haven’t been the only one, of course. Poker Operators are responding to a growing need of players to take their private poker action online. The Corona pandemic only amplified this.
It became obvious that the big guns in online poker had not offered optimal solutions, however, and so many players started moving towards play money mobile applications instead, using agents to do any kind of real money conversion. Applications like PPPoker, Upoker or Pokerbros are leading the market and are a clear step ahead, offering a more advanced experience entirely built for mobile users.
Some of these play money apps even started developing licensed versions such as KKpoker, so the pressure is on for the big poker operators.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, but sometimes it simply is the mother of focus. Players on PokerStars, partypoker and the likes had been asking for better home game experiences for a long time, but it got widely ignored as a niche request. This has now definitely changed and so the operators followed suit, improving their private games functionalities for everyone.
– PokerStars’ Home Games finally released a mobile version
– Partypoker’s Club Games were added in May with real names being used at the tables
– 888poker’s Play With Friends was launched earlier this month
One of the smaller poker sites Unibet has gone with a non-Club approach earlier this year, allowing players to simply host private rake-free tournaments. This was indeed a tool PokerStars had offered many years back, but it was retired eventually.
Let’s see if the traditional operators will be able to catch this train in the end. This is definitely a new massive market that will be very influential to the poker industry.
“Flash Spins” and “HexaPro Banzai” – Blurring the lines between poker and gambling (even more)
The popular jackpot Sit & Go variants like Spin & Gos, Expressos or simply “Spins” that poker sites have been offering for many years now have always been an eyesore for many poker purists. As you start with just a few chips at a 3-handed table with super fast blinds these games remind more of gambling than our beloved sophisticated poker.
But this wasn’t even enough for most poker sites as they started offering even faster versions of these games, for an even quicker fix of playing a card game and maybe spinning a massive win.
Unibet HexaPro Banzai, PokerStars Spin & Go Flash, Winamax Expresso Nitro and Partypoker Spins Ultra basically all made the same speed changes: 300 chips (15 big blinds) instead of 500 (25 big blinds), blinds go up every minute instead of every three.
While more recreational players are looking for a quick fix and just want to play a few hands of poker somewhere around their busy personal schedules, professional players snub their noses at the variant of Jackpot Sit & Gos. That being said, Spin & Go pros do exist and it will be interesting to see at what point even the slightest edge will be gone for professionals and these games will simply be a gamble.