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New poker network blasts off, and this time it's Cereus
(November 25, 2008)

The Cereus poker network is here at last, but is it absolutely the ultimate? Players are pouring in to find out.

The long-anticipated merger of UltimateBet and Absolute Poker went live today in a suprisingly smooth transition that undoubtedly had the owners smiling. Absolute Poker remained in operation while UltimateBet went down for maintenance hours ahead of the merger, building anticipation for a relaunch which has been months in the making.

The results did not disappoint, at least from a traffic perspective. UltimateBet came back online around 7:30 am Pacific Time with new software resembling that of Absolute Poker (see screenshots below). Within an hour of the relaunch, traffic on the network had doubled. Cereus now appears to be headed toward a peak of some 4000 real money ring game players, close to the expected sum of traffic from the two sites when they operated independently.

Not all players were happy with the merger, however. The choice of Absolute Poker's software as the standard for the network left some UltimateBet players unimpressed. One member of the popular 2+2 poker forum posted an "official petition" to bring back the old UltimateBet software.

Despite the pockets of discontent, the player count appears to be high enough to land the network in 7th place in the PokerScout traffic rankings, nudging aside the International Poker Network and leaping ahead of the nearest US-friendly competitor, the CakePoker Network. Cereus poses little threat to the top two sites serving the US market, though. The network has only one-third the traffic of Full Tilt Poker and one-sixth the players of industry leader PokerStars.

For more than a year, UltimateBet and Absolute Poker have been co-owned and operated by a shadowy corporate structure involving private companies Blast-Off Ltd. and Tokwiro Enterprises. Tokwiro is a front company owned by the former chief of the Kahnawake, Canada, Mohawk tribe which hosts the network's servers.

Both sites were rocked by cheating scandals in which high-ranking insiders played poker on the sites while using special access to gain knowledge of their opponents' hole cards. The cheaters bilked players out of millions of dollars, losses which the sites have had to refund out of their own pockets.

Have an opinion about the new Cereus Network? Have your say here.

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