Full Tilt Managing Director Previews Upcoming Changes
Full Tilt Poker Managing Director Dominic Mansour published a blog post last Wednesday, mentally preparing Full Tilt customers for changes in the site’s loyalty program and rake structure. In the article, titled “Reshaping Online Poker,” Mansour says that while the industry looks different than it did when PokerStars resurrected Full Tilt in November 2012, he wants to “shake it up some more.”
Lamenting one of the inherent problems in the online poker industry, Mansour writes:
In today’s online poker world, unless you’re the market leader enjoying the ‘more you have, more you get’ network effects of mass liquidity, the ratio of casual to professional player has become unbalanced. This is reflected in two key issues: there are simply not enough casual players in the smaller networks and the skill gap between professional and casual players has grown. The result for the casual player is a worse experience, proven through shorter lifetimes and faster losses. With less casual players at the tables, for new players the negative experience is exacerbated. Unless you’re the leader, the poker economy in 2015 is broken. That affects everything; from the business of running an online poker room through to the user experience of someone playing for the first time.
While I am not involved in the business of internet poker, it seems that there is a lot of truth in what Mansour says. It is very difficult for smaller poker rooms to grow organically. If a potential customer checks out a poker room only to see very little activity at the tables, he is very likely to close the client software and not even bother. Thus, the “poor get poorer” – the smaller sites can’t grow because players won’t let them. On the flip side, a giant like PokerStars is always bustling, so someone who logs on looking for a game will easily find one. Sites with lots of traffic get more of it just because they have traffic. Quality of the product does not matter all that much; if a poker room has fantastic software but very few players, people will look elsewhere.
Mansour continues, explaining what will be happening:
We’re reinventing our rewards programme so that it’s genuinely attractive to all players, not just those that play the most. It’s going to be fundamentally different from anything you’ve seen before and will go to the heart of what Full Tilt stands for: playing for the love of the game. We’re making big changes to our Ring Game lobby to make the playing experience as welcoming and fair as possible and helping to make the game work in the mobile environment. We’re also restructuring our rake to fuel that new rewards system, which is going to connect with players of all levels, new and old, in a highly innovative way like no other online poker site ever has.
He says rake at the micro-stakes, up to $0.05/$0.10, will be a greater percentage of the pot (or, as he puts it, there will be “increasing contributions”) while the rake cap at higher stakes – $5/$10 and $10/$20 – will go up.
He then goes from quite specific to extremely vague:
The ring game changes will make play easy and accessible, designed to level the playing field for players of all poker skill levels, whether they are playing on a mobile, tablet or desktop device. We consider this revamp to be key to Full Tilt’s commitment to fairness, which in turn will attract more players. We believe that good things happen to those who play and the steps that we are taking will see more good things happening to players at Full Tilt, which will encourage the poker ecosystem at Full Tilt to enjoy long term growth.
The changes, Mansour says, will take place within the “coming weeks and months.” They will not be hidden; all will be detailed publicly when they are made. And, according to Mansour, this is not a case of change for the sake of change. “These reforms aren’t off the cuff,” he wrote. “They come from deep analysis of the trends of our brand and customer behavior, the poker industry itself and the wider world.”
According to PokerScout.com, Full Tilt Poker currently ranks tied for seventh with PartyPoker in terms of cash game traffic with a seven-day average 1,000 cash game players. It had once been the second-largest poker room on the internet, but it disappeared after Black Friday in 2011, only to be resurrected a year and a half later after PokerStars’ parent company acquired it in its settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Since its return, it has been unable to reach past levels of success. It is still one of the more relevant poker rooms on the web, but it is not nearly the power that it once was.