Will Casino Games Be the Doom of Poker?

4 years ago
Will Casino Games Be the Doom of Poker?
23 Sep

There’s been a lot of talk lately about how far will the Poker Stars and Full Tilt will go in terms of casino games offerings. As for Full Tilt, we’ve pretty much gotten our answer with their latest introduction of table games with live dealers and it is pretty clear what path will Full Tilt (Poker, back in the day) be taking. What about Poker Stars?

An interesting blog entry from the TiltBook user ‘masuronike’ discussed at length the latest idea coming from Poker Stars to introduce Spin & Go tournaments. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these are three-player tournaments featuring ‘winner takes al’ format. But there is a twist.

Instead of the winner receiving three times the buy-in (minus the rake), at the start of every SNG, the random number generator determines what will be the top prize, with possibilities ranging from 2x the buy-in all the way up to 1000x the buy-in. At the first glance, this doesn’t sound too bad, but ‘masuronike’ went on to explain in more detail how this entire concept works and why it turns the skill game into a pure gamble.

The way the algorithm works, there is 75% probability that the tournament will award just 2x the buy in. 15% of the time, players will get a chance to battle for 4x the buy-in, while the big jack pot – 1000x the buy in will happen only four times in 100k sit and goes. In addition to this, these tournaments usually have higher rake (they are already on offer on PokerStars.fr, PokerStars.it and PokerStars.es). ‘masuronike’, who grinds high stakes hyper turbo sit and go tournaments on Stars on daily basis devises a calculation demonstrating that you will not be making a profit in these over 10k sample even if you have 10% ROI after the rake unless you are able to hit a 25+ multiplier and win it.

What this does to the games is taking the skill factor nearly completely out, especially with tournaments being without antes and ICM considerations, further limiting the edge. ‘masuronike’ further explains that this is not good for overall poker image either, as many out there are fighting to show it as the game of skill and this is not helping the cause.

In light of this discussion, it is interesting to take a look at some points from the Amaya 14Q2 call with the shareholders, published in the form of transcript by the Online Poker Report. The rough estimate by the Amaya group is that up to half of players on Poker Stars are playing sports or casino games on other site(s). Full Tilt casino results have been very promising so far, even though it was offered only to a small subset of users.

What these bullet points indicate is that Poker Stars under new ownership might be taking a route so far avoided – the one paved with flashy lights of casino games and big but hard to attain jackpots. To many poker players out there, this comes as somewhat of a disappointment.

By this point, nearly all poker rooms have introduced casino games one way or the other. Some even offer the ‘live dealer’ games, much like those recently introduced on Full Tilt. In the myriad of sites clearly looking to seize as much profit as possible by any means available, Stars were the one always holding their head up high, staying true to the form – poker room for poker players and nothing else. But it seems this is about to change.

Talking about Full Tilt casino, David Baazov, CEO of Amaya Gaming, stated following:

Going forward, we anticipate significantly scaling up the casino exposure to Rational’s player base, including launches into new regulated jurisdictions in Q4 2014 and in 2015. Additionally, we plan to launch a casino client and the ability to play via mobile. David Baazov, Online Poker Report;

Casino offering by Full Tilt is clearly something that will be receiving significant amounts of attention moving forward, which does not come as much surprise to anyone who’s been following the trend things have taken since the Amaya acquisition. Situation with PokerStars is somewhat different, but some major changes are looming there as well in terms of casino offerings.

I would say that this calendar year we expect it to launch on PokerStars as it relates to Spain and Italy, and to have a more broad rollout in terms of Full Tilt.

The investors on call were also very interested in the earlier mentioned sportsbook integration plans and Baazov explained that everything was pretty much ready from the technical perspective of things and the only things to sort out were of legal nature – e.g. licensing and legalizing in different countries etc.

Another thing of interest, mentioned during the call, but not directly related to the topic at hand was the question about the regulation in the USA and Baazov offered his view of things as they are right now.

Eyal, as it relates to the U.S. I think that a lot of states are looking at the regulation because of the benefits of consumer protection, however legislation takes time and it’s difficult to predict when it’ll be passed. We’re going to examine proposed legislation on a state-by-state basis. I would say that as there’s been some public comments made by New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, and at this time we would not make any statement on that but we’re very excited about the U.S. opportunity. California in 2015, we believe other states as well. David Baazov, Online Poker Report;

What’s Next?

It definitely seems that days of ‘pure poker’ on Poker Stars are becoming the thing of past. While it was privately owned, the company had much more freedom to do business their way – even if they were missing on some potential earning opportunities.

Becoming publicly traded made Stars much more profit – oriented (not saying they were not interested in profit before) as major share holders do not really care about players’ feelings. They want the profit, and they want as much of it as possible. Some of the questions from the call made it clear that the majority owners were more than aware that casino offerings could potentially account for a big turnaround and that makes it a must.

While Poker Stars will no doubt remain top of the shelf online poker room, there are already clear indicators that the focus will become much more divided between all the different offerings that are being planned in the near future. How will this impact the poker players who call Poker Stars their home is still hard to predict.

Going back to ‘masuronike’, he explains that, for example, these Spin & Goes will significantly lower the traffic at the hyper turbos, as the fish will be more inclined to play the tournaments that last even shorter and offer potentially a huge prize. If you are someone just looking to play for fun, it is really a no-brainer. Will we see more things introduced along these lines in the future? Will we see Poker Stars turn into another room offering mix of everything and anything – as long as you can gamble on it?

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Ivan Potocki is the editor in chief and one of the lead news writers for PokerTube. His natural flair and enthusiasm for journalism combined with a deep poker knowledge make him an exciting contributor for PokerTube.The experience garnered playing poker professionally for several years and the knowl...Read more


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