Online poker traffic rose 2.3% last week, the second consecutive weekly gain. Among the top 10 sites and networks, advancers led decliners 7-3.
PartyPoker surged 7% and recaptured second place after spending 13 weeks in third. Party now holds a 7% lead over rival iPoker Network. Party's traffic got a boost from the Card Rush promotion, in which players collect instant-win scratch cards. Card Rush prizes include cash, player points, rake race points and freeroll entries. The promotion runs through the end of October.
Several other sites had a big week with gains of 6% or more, including Ongame, Winamax.fr, PokerStars.es, Bodog, PartyPoker.fr, iPoker.it, PKR and IPN. Other sites didn't fare so well, losing 2% or more, including iPoker Network and Revolution Gaming.
Now that it owns the intellectual property of Full Tilt Poker, the originator of fast-fold poker, PokerStars has begun formulating an enforcement strategy for its pending patents. PokerStars says it seeks "broad protection in the area of 'fast fold poker.' If necessary, we will use these patents to protect the inventive elements of the Rush and Zoom products and are working closely with our legal advisors to develop a co-ordinated patent enforcement strategy."
In other words, if the patents are granted with broad enough scope, PokerStars will have the legal muscle and the willingness to either exact royalty payments from its competitors or bar them from offering fast-fold poker at all.
No patents have actually been issued yet, so the end result of this strategy is far from certain. However, if PokerStars were to succeed in preventing other sites from offering fast-fold poker, the damage would be considerable. PartyPoker relies on FastForward for approximately 10% of its cash game players and 20% of its cash game hands dealt. iPoker Network is even more dependent on Speed, which accounts for roughly 20% of cash game players and 40% of cash game hands. If those fast-fold games were shut down, some of the players would likely migrate back to regular games, but others would join the PokerStars family of sites to continue playing fast-fold poker.
PokerStars already wields considerable power in the market with around 50% market share. If that dominant position were combined with a legal monopoly on a highly popular and profitable form of poker, the effect on the competition could be nothing short of deadly.
Top 20 Movers
- PartyPoker passed iPoker Network to take second place.
- Ongame Network and Winamax.fr each climbed a notch to fifth and sixth, respectively, knocking PokerStars.it down two pegs to seventh.
- PokerStars.es surged ahead of Microgaming Network and into eighth.
- PartyPoker.fr gained two spots, landing in 14th and forcing Svenska Spel and iPoker.it down to 15th and 16th, respectively.
- EverestPoker.fr edged out PeoplesNetwork.it to claim 17th place.
Year Over Year
The total worldwide online poker market continues to feel the effects of a tough regulatory environment and a global stagnation in poker's popularity. The introduction of fast-fold poker in the last 12 months has also had the effect of decreasing player counts for the same amount of play volume. According to PokerScout's ACES indicator, online poker traffic has decreased by 7% in the last year.
Year-over-year changes for some individual sites and networks are given below. Results are for the main (.com) sites and networks unless stated otherwise.
iPoker Network 38%
Revolution Gaming (formerly Cake Poker Network) 55%
IGT Poker 74%
International Poker Network (IPN) 46%
Everest Poker 40%
Small but interesting:
Winning Poker Network (formerly Yatahay) 109%