iPoker Network to End Tier System
After three years, the iPoker Network will finally merge its dual-tiered player pool back into a single, unified network, so reports PokerStrategy.com. The change is expected to take effect tomorrow, August 11th, 2015.
Back in September 2012, the iPoker Network made the extremely bold move to divide its network into two tiers in an effort to increase the percentage of recreational players on the network. It was largely viewed as boneheaded at the time and if it has been a positive for Playtech, the parent company of the iPoker Network, those results are not obvious. At the time of the split, PokerScout.com reported that the network had a seven-day average of 2,900 cash-game players. Today, that number is just 1,250, less than half what it was. In 2012, Playtech brought in €17.8 million in online poker revenue. Last year, revenues were down to €13.8 million. Now, it is entirely possible that the tumbling liquidity and revenue figures are the result of industry-wide downward trends and that the network split actually helped mitigate the problem, but the strategy clearly didn’t work THAT well.
For years now, online poker rooms and networks have been trying to attract more recreational players and fewer professional grinders. Recreational players are generally less skilled and therefore lose money at the tables. This money, of course, goes to their opponents, who can then use that money in other games to generate rake for the poker room. Many of those recreational players, as long as they are having fun, end up re-depositing, injecting cash into the poker economy. Poker pros, on the other hand, tend to be winning players (after all, they wouldn’t be pros if they consistently lost). Sure, if recreational players lose, they have to lose to somebody, but since pros make money playing poker for a living, they actually withdraw funds on a regular basis, hurting the poker economy.
Those professional players and other “sharks” also have the tendency to ruin the experience of casual players. As Full Tilt’s Managing Director, Dominic Mansour, said when discussing his site’s recent ring game changes:
Heads Up games were being adversely impacted by the minority of experienced players who targeted ‘weaker’ opponents rather than take on all challengers, and secondly, new players who tried out the Heads Up games found it intimidating and confusing (asking themselves “why are all these guys not playing each other?”).
Shyam Markus, Full Tilt’s Poker Room Manager, added in an explanation on Two Plus Two that the abuse of casual players in the heads-up games was so bad that the more a new player participated in heads-up games in his first month on the site, the less likely he was to return for a second month. He hated his experience that much.
Poker rooms have tried all sorts of things in an effort to get more recreational players at the tables, but the iPoker Network’s decision was definitely out there. It divided the network into two tiers – Tier 1 was for its member rooms –generally the largest ones – who had shown the ability to recruit new players who actually stayed and contributed to the network’s economy. Tier 2 was the lesser tier, populated by member rooms who did not attract the types of players the network wanted. These rooms often recruited players simply by offering higher rakeback than their competitors. Unfortunately for the network, players seeking great rakeback deals are almost always pros or serious amateurs, not the recreational players the network wants.
In order to qualify for Tier 1, rooms had to have a minimum of 6,000 active players per month and add at least 850 new players per month. Each of these needed to contribute at least five dollars in rake (or tournament fees). Things like deposit to cashout ratios were also reviewed.
Players from Tier 1 rooms were segregated from those at Tier 2 rooms at No-Limit tables up to $2/$4. Sit-and-Go’s with buy-ins $30 and below were also segregated. Games above those levels remained combined, as did multi-table tournaments.
At the time of the split, some reshuffling of poker rooms did occur, as sites did not want to end up in Tier 2, which was seen as essentially a death knell. Titan Poker, the flagship site on the iPoker Network and a founding member of Tier 1, absorbed Celeb Poker. Pokerhuis and Gutshot Poker, seeing the writing on the wall, left the network, while Everest Poker joined.
Regardless of whether one wanted to look at iPoker’s tier system as a reward for those recruiting recreational players or a punishment for those who didn’t, the experiment is over as of Tuesday. All rooms on the network will share liquidity once again.