PokerScout Report: Online Poker Cash Game Traffic Down for Fourth Straight Week
Last week was another bad one for online poker, as PokerScout reported that the industry’s cash game traffic dipped a fairly significant five percent, the fourth straight week of declining numbers. In the top ten of PokerScout’s rankings, half the sites and networks fell while the other half did actually see their traffic rise.
The most intense competition at the top of the rankings looks to be between the iPoker Network and Bodog. iPoker has been in third place most of the time, but Bodog has been able to squeeze past the international network on occasion. Last week was one such occasion and so far, Bodog, the largest U.S.-facing internet poker room, has been able to maintain its spot behind PokerStars and 888poker. Right now, Bodog is sporting 1,700 cash game players on average over the last seven days, while the iPoker Network has 1,600 cash game players. The two competitors are in a small space all to themselves, as PokerStars is way out ahead with 16,000 players and 888poker has opened a solid gap with 2,000. After iPoker, there is a bit of distance to Full Tilt Poker, which has a seven-day average of 1,300 cash game players. PartyPoker and PokerStars.it are tied for sixth with 1,200 cash game players. Winamax.fr (1,050), PokerStars.es (900), and PokerStars.fr (800) round out the top ten.
In the 18th spot is the Winning Poker Network (WPN), which in and of itself is not revelatory, but there is something interesting about the network. About a month ago, WPN launched Jackpot Poker, its version of the ever-popular Lottery Sit-and-Go format. On April 15th, the first full day for the game, 86 percent of Sit-and-Go tourney’s on WPN were of the Jackpot Poker variety, according to PokerScout. Over the next three days, that percentage went up over 90, so almost every Sit-and-Go on the network was a Jackpot Poker game. We knew the numbers weren’t going to stay that way forever and they haven’t; by May 1st, they had come down by about half.
But here’s the interesting part: Jackpot Poker has had almost no effect on cash game traffic. Now, one might think this is standard, as one would think that it would be Sit-and-Go and/or tournament players who would migrate over to Jackpot Poker, but at other poker rooms and networks, Lottery Sit-and-Go’s drew traffic away from cash games. Don’t know what to make of it, really, but hey, I found it noteworthy.
As mentioned, PokerStars still rules the roost. That is no surprise. But its cash game traffic has been falling and falling hard. About a month ago, PokerScout had PokerStars’ seven-day average at 17,500 cash game players. Now it is at 16,000. Seasonality certainly has something to do with it, as when the weather warms up, poker player spend less time inside on their computers. And it’s not like anyone is going to catch Stars any time soon, but the downward trend does not look good.
It is doubtful that many people have actually jumped ship yet because of this, but PokerStars is also taking heat from players for the disproportional rake in its Pot-Limit Omaha games. In a thread on Two Plus Two, poster “napsus” calculated that in $1/$2 Pot-Limit Omaha games, 71 percent more rake is taken than in the equivalent No-Limit Hold’em games. At $0.50/$1, Pot-Limit Omaha players are paying 76 percent more rake. It gets worse, though, the lower the stakes get. At $0.25/$0.50, Pot-Limit Omaha rake is 102 percent – more than double – greater than at No-Limit Hold’em tables and at $0.10/$0.25, the Pot-Limit Omaha rake is 112 percent higher.
This is all with rake schedules that are just about the same between the two types of games. The reason for the jacked up rake at Omaha tables is simply the result of the nature of the game. Pot-Limit Omaha hands, because players get two additional hole cards, generally have much better pre- and post-flop equity than Hold’em hands. Thus, more players tend to stay in pots and players tend to bet more as the hand goes on, resulting in larger pots in Pot-Limit Omaha, on average, than in No-Limit Hold’em. Thus, even with similar rake schedules, Pot-Limit Omaha players pay much more rake.
While, again, regular players have probably not started moving away from Pot-Limit Omaha in droves, there is the fear that the rake issue could be a problem in the long-term. At the same time, though, PokerScout reports that other poker rooms have the same problem – some moreso, in fact – so there may not be much of anywhere else to go.