Merge Gaming Ending Rakeback, Switching All Players to VIP System

End of rakeback for all accounts, new and existing, on the Merge Gaming Network. Change will come into effect end of the month.

All rakeback deals on Merge Gaming skins will cease at the end of January and players will be transitioned to VIP programs, it was announced yesterday.

Carbon Poker customers were informed via email that the new policy will take effect at the end of January 31, at which point “all players will be transferred from the rakeback program to the VIP program.”

A Carbon Poker representative later confirmed to pokerfuse that the change would be implemented across the entire Merge Gaming network.

Merge has been back and forth on the idea of direct rakeback to customers. In June 2011, Merge stopped offering rakeback to new account holders but allowed those already with accounts to maintain their cashback rewards. One year later, soon after the departure of Lock Poker from the network, Merge reinstated rakeback as an option to new players, as well as to any existing customers previously restricted to the VIP program.

Any player on a rakeback account with a current VIP balance will need to use those rewards by the end of the month, as all such balances will be “zeroed out” when they are moved over to the VIP system. Players already on the VIP system do not need to spend points.

Justifying the move, a Carbon Poker representative stated the switch is “... the best way to build and improve the overall poker ecology of our network.”

Merge follows other networks who have moved away from offering direct rakeback.

Bodog, ostensibly with the health of its poker ecology in mind, carried the process beyond VIP benefits and developed a recreational poker model that included removing the list of full tables from the lobby to “protect” recreational from “sharks” and completely removing player names from the table.

The new Full Tilt signaled that it too would go “recreational” when it did not reintroduce the old Full Tilt 27% rakeback model, and instead adopted a VIP system that tops out at 25%.

However, PokerStars, who blazed the trail of VIP rewards over rakeback, continues to embrace their high-volume players by encouraging loyalty through its Supernova Elite program.

Merge has had a particularly disappointing year with traffic down 55% over 2012. iPoker has split its network, PartyPoker has merged its sub sites, PokerStars has launched Full Tilt, and Lock Poker has created a new network in Revolution Gaming. It should come as no surprise that three months after Merge CEO Anthony Tailor resigned the company is adopting a new strategy.

The other major US facing networks are Revolution, Bodog (operating under skin Bovada for US players), the Winning (formerly Yatahay) network and the Chico network. Revolution offers 36% rakeback paid hourly, America’s Cardroom on the Winning network offers 27%, and Bovada offers its “recreational model.”

Merge will hope that network loyalty will minimize the losses to Revolution and Winning while the changes encourage recreational players who would otherwise go to Bovada. The Australian based network will also be looking to expand its rest of the world traffic to rebuild a viable poker ecology on its skins.