GGPoker's Breakthrough Year: The Four Biggest Game-Changers that Led to its Rise in Global Poker Power GGPoker's Breakthrough Year: The Four Biggest Game-Changers that Led to its Rise in Global Poker Power
Courtesy of PokerGO

In 2020, GGPoker virtually come out of nowhere to become a top-tier operator in the online poker world. In 2021, its stature only grew, building its brand to become one of the most popular and recognizable online poker rooms in the world.

It did this through ground-breaking new games, expansion into new territories, and hosting some of the biggest poker tournaments of the year.

For the second year in a row, GGPoker was the international online partner for the WSOP, scoring a huge coup with some of the biggest games in the online world. It made its first moves into the US market in 2021, acquiring a license in Pennsylvania in February, and also expanded throughout the world to new regulated European markets.

The operator made strides in innovation with new game formats, new software, and in-depth training. It introduced the stand-alone ClubGG app for private games and extended it to support live tours. It also added new variations on games like Battle Royale, Flip and Spin games, as well as a new HUD.

At one point during 2021, GGPoker even made it to the top of the pile, at least in cash game traffic. After 15 years of dominance by PokerStars, GGPoker edged ahead of its rival for the first time in June of 2021. The lead did not last long, though — the two operators battled throughout the rest of 2021 for the top spot, with GGPoker regaining the lead several times through the end of the year.

Pokerfuse takes a dive into GGPoker’s huge year, pointing to four key achievements that helped the operator solidify its spot in the top tier of poker operators.

Data provided by GameIntel

WSOP Success

Perhaps the biggest news of 2021 for GGPoker was the extension of its partnership with the World Series of Poker (WSOP). GGPoker shocked the poker world in 2020 when it was able to secure a deal to be the online operator for WSOP games in an unprecedented year when the live WSOP had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The success from 2020 set the stage for a continuation of that partnership. The extension was announced in April, setting things up for another year of exciting WSOP games at GGPoker.

With pandemic restrictions loosening in 2021, the live WSOP series ran in Vegas near the end of the year, but it was after another huge online WSOP bracelet festival on GGPoker in August. The total series ended up with more than $90 million in prizes, which was a bit down from the 2020 total, but still a solid result.

The Biggest Poker Tournaments

GG Spring FestivalIn addition to the international online portion of WSOP, GGPoker threw some of the biggest poker parties of the whole year in 2021. Things got off to a massive start in April with a record-shattering GG Spring Festival, and high rollers were treated to a Special Super Million$ Week with Nearly $17 Million guaranteed, among other series.

Things got off to a strong start in 2021 as the GG Spring Festival (GGSF) smashed records in April. It ran alongside the venerable SCOOP series from rival PokerStars, and set a lofty goal of $150 million guaranteed, compared to $100 million in the competitor series.

In the end, the GGSF crushed the promised prize pools, coming in at more than $178 million in total prizes, making it the second-biggest series ever, behind the $185 million 2020 SCOOP. However, a deeper dive into the numbers showed that the 2020 SCOOP mostly hit that total on the back of higher volume, with 371 games versus 335 for the 2021 GGSF.

That actually means 2021’s GGSF gave away more money per tournament than the 2020 SCOOP, by more than $25,000. Had the GGSF run for 371 games at the same pace as the 335 that went into the books, the total prizes would have been north of $195 million, capping the 2020 SCOOP result.

GGSF vs SCOOP Prize Pool Comparison

2021 GG Spring Festival 2020 SCOOP
Total Prizes Collected $176,724,946 $185,136,133
Number of Tournaments 335 371
Prizes Per Tournament $527,537 $499,019
Total for 335 $176,724,946 $167,171,441
Total for 371 $195,716,283 $185,136,133

There was more than just the GGSF on the 2021 series schedule. In July, the operator put on a tournament series devoted to the latest fad in the poker world — Short Deck Poker. Then in October, it put on a series dedicated to low-stakes players, the Good Game Series of Poker.

GGPoker also threw a few swanky poker parties in 2021, with three different editions of Super MILLION$ Week. With a Super MILLION$ Week in March, September, and December, the high-rollers were well served by GGPoker in 2021.

Game and Software Innovation

It takes more than just big poker games and partnerships to build a world-class poker site, and GGPoker stepped up to the innovation plate in 2021 — both, in terms of new original games, as well as new cutting-edge software. Perhaps the biggest addition to GGPoker in 2021 was ClubGG, a stand-alone free-play mobile app for private poker games.

ClubGGThe ClubGG app was one of the highlights of 2021 for GGPoker. Released quietly at the beginning of the year, the mobile-only app was designed to add a home-game type feature to the GGPoker ecosystem.

ClubGG was also a big part of the overall strategy with WSOP. Through qualifiers on the app, GGPoker sent more than 250 players to the live WSOP this year. Building on that success, the app added more chances to qualify for other live events in the US in December, with plans to expand into the European market as well.

Battel RoyaleBeyond ClubGG, there were several monumental innovations across the GGPoker platform. It added a few new game types in 2021, including exciting variations in flippaments and lottery SNGs, as well as five-card PLO, N-Stack tournaments, and the revolutionary new Battle Royale PKO SNG.

The operator also added new cutting-edge Smart HUD functionality, giving players much more information about their games. Later in the year, it teased a new “Ask Fedor” feature, but few details were available.

Licensing and Expansion

2021 was about more than just epic poker games and technological innovation for GGPoker, however. The operator also made several bold regulatory and expansion moves to increase its global footprint.

Perhaps the biggest and most surprising development in 2021 involved a highly unlikely location for the global poker operator — the United States. In February, NSUS — the parent company of GGPoker — secured a gaming manufacturing license in Pennsylvania, giving the operator its first solid foothold in the US online poker and casino market.

Later in the year, it added another North American country to its footprint, signing a deal with Playground Poker Club, located in Kahnawake — just outside of Montréal, in the Canadian province of Québec.

The North American thrust was on top of moves made across the European continent. The operator was among the first online poker rooms to go live in the new Dutch regulated market, securing a deal with Holland Casino and launching in October of 2021.

The entry into the Netherlands is in addition to GGPoker’s other major 2021 European expansion milestones, including new launches in Belgium, Romania, and Ukraine. The operator also moved to simplify its global licensing in 2021, shifting all international players over to its Isle of Man gaming license.

If 2020 was the year GGPoker shocked the world by rising up out of nowhere to become a global poker juggernaut, then 2021 was the year the operator solidified that position in the top tier of global online poker. It competed directly with previously unchallenged PokerStars — holding its own against the old leader in cash games, tournaments, partnerships, and expansion.

In years past, there was really only one major global poker operator at the top of the heap, and that was the Red Spade. In 2021, GGPoker showed that the global online poker market is at least a two-horse race, and is running neck-in-neck for the lead as it rounds the turn into 2022.