In a jam-packed episode about the happenings in the world of online poker, Nick and Mike discuss the upcoming release of The State of the Online Poker Industry Spring 2019 from Poker Industry PRO, the newest game from partypoker – Short Deck Hold’em, West Virginia welcoming online poker, more info on the UFC-themed games on PokerStars, updates to Stars Rewards going global, Zynga Poker introducing Spins, and more!


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello, and welcome everybody to the 10th episode of the Pokerfuse Podcast. It is March 28th, 2019. Nick, we are officially in double digits. How are you doing this week?

Nick: I’m doing very good. Double digits feels like a water shed moment. I don’t know if I believed deep down we’d get this far 10 weeks in.

Mike: Yes, it is quite a milestone I guess, for now anyway.

Nick: How’s your week been? I never really ask you.

State of the Online Poker Industry

Mike: My week has been very interesting. Been a lot of attention paid to our upcoming, The State of the Online Poker Industry report. That has occupied a lot of my time this week.

Nick: I climbed out of the cave of report writing. I think Monday or Tuesday this week. Then dumped 20,000 words on your desk and ask for you to make it shine. I’ve had probably a much better week than you have, honestly.

Mike: It’s definitely a departure from my normal duties, it’s something that is a necessary thing to do. It could be a nice change of pace though. I’m ready to change back.

Nick: [laughs] There’s something that has been frustrating this week is— To give people a little bit of a look behind the curtain of how report writing like this works. Last Friday, we put the end of the text. We put a stop on the text. You have to at some point, freeze the text, proofread and then publish it. Obviously, during that time, your report can get outdated. What we do is we contact all the stakeholders in the industry. We’re talking all the operators, journalists, all the regulators around the world. Just say, “Take a week off. Don’t do anything. Just show us the common courtesy here. Don’t do anything. Go to the beach. Do some internal work, retreats. That kind of thing. Just give us a week or two to put it out.” We sent that around last week. Yet again, people went and did stuff.

Mike: I think they were very dedicated to their jobs and didn’t want to take a holiday. That’s it what it seemed like.

Nick: It’s extremely frustrating. Whilst Mike is proofreading it, we’re also making text changes. This week though for real, it’s going to go in lockdown. Honestly, if you do anything over the next seven days, it’s basically not going to exist, because it won’t exist in The State of the Online Poker Industry Spring 2019, the industry tome and reference material for the year. Keep that in mind when you’re putting together your press release for software updates or if you want to pass a bill in your state or something like that. It’s a dead zone next week.

Mike: Right, so we’re officially locking it down as of tomorrow, end of business tomorrow.

Nick: Do you think we should take this opportunity to sell our report a bit to our listeners, Michael? Should we save that for one more week?

Mike: No, let’s take that opportunity because I think there’s probably a large portion of people out there that are like, “What is this report anyway?” I don’t think we’ve really described exactly what it is.

Nick: This will be our third report, I think, where we basically take a snapshot of everything that’s happened in the last six months. Everything that we think is going to happen in the upcoming six months and give a snapshot of the status of the Online Poker Industry. Every time I start sketching out the skeleton of this report, I think, “It’s going to be really hard to find anything to write about what’s really happened in six months time.” Then you look back, my word, a hell of a lot has happened. Now, it’s just a case of trying to manage it. We cover quite a lot of topics.

Mike: What kind of things had happened? Just, for example.

Nick: That’s a good question. There’s been a lot of product development over the last six months. I think one focus of the report very much is the direction the industry is taking in and improving their software platforms in new product innovation, and next-generation software development. Pulling Online Poker, kicking and screaming in this generation of poker software. That’s definitely been a thing.

Mike: Yes, what other things? We’ve seen some developments with regards to rewards. That’s been pretty prevalent in the industry.

Nick: Yes, at least we’ve had, definitely we talked about, would’ve talked about in the report a year ago as well. That was definitely something that, again, has been multiple updates in the last six months about how operators look at rewards. Then of course, just beyond these internal industry things, we take a look at the wider scope of Online Poker within the larger market developments and regulatory developments. Again, it’s been another very busy period for that with the European shared liquidity so we take a real deep dive there in one feature that we’ve got into everything that’s happened in the last six months, where do we think it’ll go in 2019 and the stakes of where it is today and who the winners and losers are with the market there.

Mike: We’re also talking about the financial reporting of the companies and their health as a company from those perspectives. As you mentioned, the regulatory market is also a big part of the report as well and in this report, we actually have some special features which we haven’t introduced in previous reports.

Nick: Yes, we had and maybe we’ll save this for teasing out and later on but we’ve got one or two pretty exciting interviews lined up for these one or two deeper features, take a look at one or two of the key topics that we see over the last six months. We have interviewed a lot of really very interesting stakeholders in the industry giving different perspectives on these matters. It’s quite a good job for us to do reports like this because it allows us to start planning one or two months ago, reach out to people and get some really interesting outlooks and take a bigger picture look of things. It’s really handy for us. The end result is very useful for the industry. If you are a Poker Industry PRO subscriber already, you will be receiving your copy much like you would have received our previous copies. Mike, if they are not a subscriber, what should they do?

Mike: If they are not, there’s a couple of things they can do. First of all, I would suggest go to and click at the report section and there will be a link there where you can get some information on how to either become a subscriber or purchase one-off copies of the report. Another thing you could do is you could look for some promotion of the report on Pokerfuse. and there, there are links within those articles there that go directly to the buy-page where you can get more information again on becoming a subscriber or getting the one-off report purchase.

Nick: There we go, awesome. With all that out of the way, shall we talk about all the things that have happened in the last week that really shouldn’t have happened if people had listened to our advice?

Mike: [chuckles] Let’s do that.

partypoker Short Deck Hold’em

Speaking of product development, we saw an announcement this week where partypoker has released a new game. It is called Short Deck Hold’em. It is very similar to the Six-plus hold 'em that we saw PokerStars recently release. Basically, it’s probably the hottest game over the past year that has been sweeping both live and Online Poker rooms and there seems to be quite a buzz about it. Nick, what can you tell us about partypoker’s version of Short Deck Hold’em?

Nick: There’s quite a lot of interesting strands here that hopefully, we’ll touch in this bit. Short Deck Hold’em as the name will probably suggest and if you’d listened to our previous podcast, we were live when PokerStars released their version in January, but obviously, the deuces through fives are stripped from the deck. Other than that it plays much like Texas hold 'em with the one rule change that flushes beat full houses.

Mike: Yes, flushes beat full houses.

Nick: I remember when this happened back in January, we had difficulty remembering it but that’s one rule change. partypoker’s rankings are the same, they are slightly different ways that you can deal with this game but they are doing the same with PokerStars. It’s also played with an ante both partypoker and PokerStars died that way. It’s with a live ante form the data which again both games have gone live with. On partypoker, it’s gone live for cash games. We believe that tournaments are going to come very soon.

Mike: What party did was they modeled their game after the Triton Poker Series, is that correct?

Nick: That’s what the press really said. They said that, “We are the only site online made who have made a Short Deck game exactly like what you see on Triton Poker Series.” The Triton Series they have both high stakes tournaments and cash games televised and it’s very popular there. Our first question was what does that mean because immediately we couldn’t exactly tell what made their version different from say PokerStars interpretation or, in fact, the site before them. PokerStars weren’t the first people to spread this online. Mike, would you like to explain the one difference?

Mike: The one difference as we understand it is partypoker is allowing people to take money off the table while playing in this game.

Nick: I didn’t realize that that was the thing that they allow in the Triton Series. Obviously, it doesn’t make any sense in tournaments in their cash games. We have just before we recorded, we were like, “Why do they have that in this game?” I suppose it’s like on Triton, so if you’re watching it, you can go and play and play that same game. I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched any of the televised Cash games where they play this. Maybe it’s a big deal when people take money off the table. My question to you before we were recording and I’ve to get your thoughts on is why normally, in poker, can you not do this which as I remember it when I learned poker 15 years ago, is called going south, trying to take money off the table, which is a big no-no, is a big ethics thing that you can’t do, so-

Mike: Also, called rat holing, right?

Nick: Yes. Yes. Of course, yes. There’s lots of things they’re trying to stop people from rat holing, from jumping between tables. My first question is why do we have this rule and why in Short Deck can you take this rule away?

Mike: Yes. That’s a pretty big question. My mind immediately went to, well, if you have a minimum buy-in for the table and you’re able to take money off the table, if you go below that minimum buy-in, you’re effectively short stacking the table, so that could be one reason, but that’s probably not what they had in mind.

Nick: Yes. As we understand it we know exactly sure how they have configured the tables, but when we asked them the example that we were given is that table might be set up where it’s got a hundred ante buy-in and then if you take your stack up over 300 antes, you can take money off the table to bring it down to 300, so you’ll still sitting very deep. I [crosstalk]

Mike: Is still 3X the minimum buy-in?

Nick: Yes. See now, I’ve said it. I’m wondering if it allows you to take it back down to the hundred ante-buyin. I think how it was explained to us was that you could— The cap, you could bring it down to might be larger than that buy-in, so you still sitting deep, but like if your stack gets really large, then you can bring it back down, unlike when it’s described like that it’s like, “Well, yes, why don’t you have this in all games, right?” Sure you don’t want people to be able to sit at the minimum, which is 100 and then go down to 50 in short stack, but why not allow people to, “Okay. If you go over 200 you-” Otherwise, people don’t want to play that deep, they’re going to leave anyway. They’re then going to wait and sit at another table., so why not let people take money off the table? It seems like a no-brainer to allow it under those kinds of terms.

Mike: Yes. That’s a good point. Initially, you would think well people- and I think you brought this up in our conversation earlier. People want a chance to win their money back. That’s just this approach that people have, but as you say, if I’m really concerned that I’m playing way too deep, I’m going to leave the table. If I don’t have the option of taking at least some of that off the table, you’re going to lose me as a player altogether.

Nick: Yes. If always feels like that I did— Yes, maybe you can take money off the table because people want to win it back to is almost like a throwback to live cash games in smoky back room type thing, and it’s an old vestige of a rule which has brought itself online, and something that maybe— Maybe I’ll listen to what both I think put up cards on the table and say like we’re not particularly knowledgeable about high-stakes cash games and maybe there’s reasons why this isn’t permitted, but to me it only just seems as he says, like a fairly old rule that we could probably do away with.

Again, under the idea of maybe you have to keep at least 100 big blinds or maybe 200 big blinds, but if you go well over than that you can take your money off the table because again if the alternative is people just leave anyway then-

Mike: There’s probably tons of people out there that are listening right now yelling at their computer, or their radio, or their phones saying, “You guys don’t get it.” Well, you know what? Yes, we admit, we don’t get it, so if anyone knows or has any brilliant ideas of why or any information around just the practice of taking money off the table, once it reaches a higher threshold than your buy-in, please, get in touch, let us know tweet at us, send us an email. We’re definitely interested in learning more on this topic.

Nick: Yes. Definitely send us angry tweets pokerfuse, I am pokerprojones, Mike you are @SpookyBugs. Have a mention of all three of us and tell us how uneducated we are. We want to encourage that as much as possible. The aspect which I’m slightly more educated on, which I find just as interesting is PokerStars and what they’re going to do now. PokerStars has released their game in January, their Six-plus hold 'em. There’s big a big question over, whether this game would only have a limited run or whether it will become a permanent game. We talked about it quite a lot in this podcast over the previous weeks. I genuinely wonder whether partypoker releasing their version changes the equation somehow on PokerStars’ end.

Mike: Yes. You would think it would. Just to backtrack a bit when Six-plus was first released by PokerStars, I’d believe we thought it was going to— Well, let me back up even further before it was released, we were speculating that this one was so popular of a format that it would be permanent. Then when it was released, there was some mixed signals about whether it was going to be temporary or not, correct?

Nick: Yes, we definitely got the vibe that they were putting more into this game launch ahead of time. We were introduced to the game when we were in the Bahamas in January, they had some live and tell with Lex where we played it live and we talked about the strategy. It just felt like this wasn’t just, their novelty games that they’d have this year which might be fun for a few weeks but probably doesn’t have longevity. This feels like a game which is a game that could absolutely last for a long period of time. Since it’s released and were absolutely talking that, that was the case but then they did trickle out some emails to customers saying, “Oh, for a limited time only.”

I think some people took that to mean well, exactly as it says. I think we were still a little bit skeptical in addition to the fact that they were seeking approval in Italy. In fact, in the last week went live in Italy six months old, which is the first time that they have done that, that they’ve proven and launched it in a segregated market. Which again, shows that they feel this game has more lasting appeal than their other games.

Mike: The other interesting thing to note is they have indicated in Italy that they will be rolling this format out in tournament versions.

Nick: This game absolutely of all their novelty games suits tournament. Obviously, and it’s in the Triton Series. It’s a lot of fun in tournament formats. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t have this in tournament games. From the start, we thought this absolutely will come in tournies and why not ? It makes absolutely sense. Now in Italy, it’s almost like there was some web copy that said it was coming in tournaments, this wasn’t an official release. This was us spying. Maybe some evidence that this was going to happen rather than PokerStars are saying absolutely, “It will.”

I would be shocked if going into this spring period with scoop and whatnot that we don’t see tournaments. Maybe not in the scoop schedule, although that hasn’t actually been released yet so that’s possible but around that time that we don’t see the spread in tournament format. The other interesting aspect here is that maybe they had planned to make it a limited time and then bring it back by popular demand. I think Pokerstars really want to do this. McDonald’s only has— What do they only sell for them to [crosstalk] ?

Mike: The McRib. What they do is they create this artificial scarcity by having a product available only for a limited amount of time, that creates a demand so that they can bring it back but now as you point out, with more of their competitors offering the game, that could undercut that artificial scarcity, if you want to call it that that’s created by having a limited run.

Nick: There’s no doubt that partypoker have launched this for the long haul. The press release they sent out said that it was launching in cash games heads up 6-max, 8-max and full ring which is absolutely ridiculous and it hasn’t been the case right now. It’s just at 6-max which makes a lot more sense so I assume that that was— I mean you wouldn’t ever have six and eight and nine that’s crazy and no one does heads up anymore. I’m not quite sure what that was all about.

This is definitely a big launch for them. They’re looking for this to be a permanent game, in my opinion, there’s no question about it. In the lobby of the software, this is a new type in the software. It’s got a blind lobby so you just clicked I want this by and want to play this number of tables and it launches which is a very PokerStars’ thing. The PokerStars have done this a lot with their novelty games so this is absolutely a big launch for partypoker and it’s coming in tournaments, that’s been confirmed. This isn’t going anywhere from Party’s perspective.

Mike: I think that this game is only going to grow in popularity. The more people that get to play it, the more popular it’s going to become because it is such a fun game and addresses a lot of the things that make poker or can make poker boring for some people like folding a lot of hands. This makes it statistically correct to play a lot more hands and therefore, it’s more of an action game, people are always more involved. I think this is a pretty big deal.

Nick: There we go. partypoker’s Short Deck it is live in the .com market. It’s live in the UK. It’s not yet live on some of their other smaller regulated rooms. We checked in Sweden and the Czech Republic, I’m not sure about Denmark but it’s not live there yet, but presumably, it will roll out there in the near future. Short Deck Hold’em, PokerStars and partypoker now. Be sure to check it out.

West Virginia Legalizes Online Poker

Drumroll. It is the segment where we talk about US regulation. Mike, again, in the last 24 hours, a thing happened that you’re going to educate us all on.

Mike: Yes, that is online gambling in Online Poker specifically is now legal in the great state of West Virginia.

Nick: Yes. We have been following this for the last few weeks. This was expected to happen, is that correct?

Mike: Yes. I believe, back on March 9th, had passed all of the hurdles that it needed to and was only awaiting the signature of the governor to make it law. I was checking the West Virginia legislative website multiple times a day to see if it had been progressing. I don’t see a lot of media coverage coming from that part of the world for me. That was my best conduit to what was going on. It is listed today as being enacted into law. I believe that it was left to lapse. The governor did not actually sign it but there is a condition in the law of West Virginia that if it is passed by both the house and the Senate and the governor elects not to sign it or veto it that it will automatically become law and it lists today’s date as the date that that happened.

Nick: Okay. This just happened. We haven’t covered it on any of our sites yet. I can understand, Mike, if you can’t fill all of my questions here, but I’m going to fire a few at you and we’ll see with that. Online Poker and online casino, not sports betting?

Mike: I believe sports betting is already legal in West Virginia. I’ve seen quite a few newsletters come through with Chris Grove’s name on it. I know he’s been following very closely the sports betting situation in that state. There was an incident with two of the— I believe it was two of the operators taking down their online sports betting activities because of some contract dispute. I’d have to do a little bit more research to find out exactly what happened there or people can go to, which is, I think, Chris is still the editor-in-chief over there. I’m not entirely sure.

Nick: Then, from the sports side, as well is an excellent resource there. It’s casino and pokers added on to an existing sports betting legislation, we think.

Mike: Correct.

Nick: The population of West Virginia is?

Mike: Good question. I’m going to guess completely. Listen, I know I’ve probably written on this topic in the past, but I’m going to say five million-ish.

Nick: Five million. It’s small.

Mike: I’m going to look it up while we’re talking.

Nick: Okay. You remember from the previous podcast that I think we said that it was double the size of Nevada.

Mike: No. Nevada is— wow. Now, you really got me. I could start from the bottom. Delaware is one million. I think Nevada is three million and New Jersey is nine million and Pennsylvania is 13, 14 million.

Nick: We noticed that it’s small. We don’t expect this to be a huge— I saw them there before you. Where are we? It’s ranked 38th with a population of 1.8 million.

Mike: I was way off. 1.8 million, yes. That’s tiny.

Nick: Partly, yes. Less than the size of Nevada. This is not going to be a gamechanger but it’s always to have another state, a fifth state so it’s 5/50. Now, 10% of these states have regulated Online Poker. Next question, what do you see as the next steps then?

Mike: What we’re going to see is we’re going to see regulations developed by, I would assume, the regulator there. Then, licenses issued and that whole process before we see the first virtual poker hand dealt in West Virginia. My best guess would be it’s possible that we might see it right before the end of the year, but it’s most likely going to last into 2020 before we actually see it go live.

Nick: Yes. When we think Pennsylvania pass their law, how long ago? It’s over a year ago, wasn’t it?

Mike: Yes. It was over a year ago. Now, New Jersey did act quicker. The other thing is without the Wire Act being settled law, it seems very unlikely that operators are going to be eager to get into West Virginia. You’re looking at half the size of Nevada. Nevada has got one operator, and though they don’t reveal their revenue statistics anymore until there at least at three operators, it’s hard to tell for sure. Without the World Series of Poker for six to eight weeks over the summer, I would say that even one room would struggle in Nevada. Now you cut that population in half, I’m not sure there’s going to be anybody beating down the doors to launch an operation in West Virginia if they cannot combine those player pools with other states.

Nick: When we look at Nevada, as we say, it’s a larger population. It’s the World Series of Poker. It’s a gambling Mecca.

Mike: Yes, tourist destination, Frank.

Nick: Yes, for both internal and international tourists, and that just about has one Online Poker room and that’s because it shares liquidity with Delaware and New Jersey. Now, probably if it was still segregated, it probably would still take as long as an Online Poker room, it would be very small. I think it’s probably fair to say that if the warrant interpretation stands as it is, there will be zero Online Poker rooms in West Virginia.

Mike: There may be a company or two that may want to launch just to gain control of that market in the hopes that in the future they’ll be able to combine player pools, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be in a rush.

Nick: Well, with all that in mind, it’s still positive progress. Again, we’re still hoping to have some kind of clarity on the Wire Act in the coming months.

UFC Themed tables on PokerStars

Last week, we talked about a new UFC themed game would come to PokerStars, a new Spin & Go game came to PokerStars. We had a really good idea, not to pat ourselves on the back, but a really good idea, I think of how this game could be played, Mike.

Mike: Because the octagon is, what did we call it the pitch-

Nick: The pitch, yes.

Mike: The favorite pitch of the UFC. We thought it was only natural that at some factor of eight would be a good number for the number of players to play at a table for a Spin & Go. We looked at four as being really cool and a bit of a change of pace for Spin & Go players on PokerStars, and that would fit in nicely with the UFC theme but things that we’ve seen this week seem to indicate that that is not going to be the case.

Nick: We thought four-handed would be really fun. We also thought maybe there will be a knockout bounty component, again, fitting in with the theme and also something that’s been done before. Rather than repeat everything, definitely go and listen to last week’s podcast if you didn’t hear that. It was this week’s the Stars have held their first ever investors week which was an absolutely nail-biting five-hour webcast. One could watch or you could go there live.

Mike: Was it really five hours long?

Nick: It was, yes.

Mike: Are you serious?

Nick: 4 hours, 40 minutes, I think.

Mike: Wow.

Nick: They meet the investors and answer their questions and discuss. I hear that they have PokerStars VR there for the investors and analysts to play in between sessions. I hope they had less technical problems, and we have when we tried in the Caribbean. In that, there was one slide, it was like slide 63 of 140 or something like that, they talked about the UFC quite a lot. I actually haven’t gone back and listened to that section yet, but they talked about the UFC a lot and this partnership with PokerStars, and they have a little picture of what we exclusively revealed last week about this new UFC game.

In that picture, it was just a three-handed normal Sit & Go. Everything that we said it wouldn’t be because they were insane to have three-handed, it should be knockout, it’s just going to be [unintelligible 00:29:06] it’s just going to be— Maybe the mock-up was just done really quickly and in fact it’s going to be what we say. If it’s not PokerStars, you still got time to change it, “We will be sending you the bill for that idea.” Really, it was part of [unintelligible 00:29:19] that is, so we can’t take full claim to, but absolutely you need some kind of bounty component in there. Circle back with us guys more will help you out with that.

Stars Rewards Updates Go Global

Mike: Beyond the UFC theme Spin & Go, PokerStars also rolled out changes to their stars reward systems globally this week.

Nick: Yes. I think it was last week we talked about this happening and it did happen. That’s just amazing predictions from us why you should be listening to the podcast every week. It came out in Italy, the Stars Rewards 2.0 We think it’s 2.0 they are not calling it that but it’s something we referenced to a while back. It’s a really big change to how the rules program works, chests are much more valuable, at least three times more valuable. They’ve also made it a lot less top heavy. Before, you had a 1000 chance of opening a chest with thousands of dollars in or something like that. Now, it’s much more reduced. I think the most valuable chest is one in 100. You’ve got a shot getting it. The overall much more valuable, they also are much harder to— They take at least three times as long to earn. We believe I’ll see these changes per player and you earn them over— You move up and down tiers over a month-long basis. All these changes rolled out in Italy and now they’ve gone live in the .com. Market.

Mike: They haven’t said that they’ve actually increased or decreased the overall value of the program. As you pointed out, the ability to earn one of this chest is individualized. From a small sample size of what we’ve seen, it seems like the value of these chest has gone up by a factor of three. That the requirements is a little bit lower. A couple that I’ve seen have not been 3X the requirements that they were previously. Which could mean that they’ve added a little bit of value to the program or it could mean that it’s just been massaged in other areas to try and compensate or accommodate the difference in the requirements?

Nick: We’ve seen the base. I think the minimum requirements for earning the base chest, I think it’s the blue. It’s only like 2.5 or 2.7 times as difficult to earn or something like that. Of course, again, that’s just one number. As you already said other numbers could have been tweaked. Again, I still stick with the fact that I doubt that it’s inaccurate, more valuable because they would be talking that up. If anything is more likely the other way or is just equal. I do think that their main motivation here is to make opening chest more of an interesting engaging experience which I think is a very, very good idea. It benefits everybody. It’s absolutely the smart way to go. I think going back to a month-long cycle is also much smarter. Before it was 304 chest in a day. Again, the chest were very quick to earn. It doesn’t make it particularly meaningful. If it’s like every day, it’s a grind if you want to hit something. 30 days make sense. More interesting to open it up that each one, you might get a few dollars here or there. That makes sense. That’s all gone live across all the markets.

Mike: I’ll be interested to see how they continue to iterate on this program. It has been two years since they introduced it initially?

Nick: It was two years, the summer of 2017, I think [crosstalk]

Mike: Just about two years. This is really their first major change. I’m curious to see if they are going to be implementing smaller, iterative changes or if we will only see these big major shifts in a very long period of time.

Nick: It’s funny because obviously, they could be making small changes all the time you wouldn’t this is opaque. They can be tweaking the numbers or they like. They obviously they made the change to the emptity and reductions. Now and then they run special promotions. They put Spin & Go tickets in there and that kind of thing. This is definitely a pretty integral change. They removed the boost feature. They added in like cash-in feature to cash-in. Exchange partial chests. It was a pretty big software update. In fact, just to correct something I said before. I said it’s gone live in all markets. It actually hasn’t gone live in New Jersey, is that correct?

Mike: New Jersey actually just got Stars Rewards recently. I think toward the end of last year. Prior to that, they were still on the old VIP system. It could be regulatory red tape that has caused them not to move as quickly in that market or it could be other factors as well. We’re not sure, but yet is not live in New Jersey, as far as I know.

Nick: I think in my opinion, the reason why New Jersey stayed on the old system is because I think the market was in that point that they wanted to spend that amount of money to encourage high volume play because that liquidity is a lot smaller. Maybe they got to the confidence that they could maintain liquidity with a much-reduced rewards program or encouraging a very different play style. I think it’s probably more and they wanted the benefits of what a high volume rewards program gives in the New Jersey market whilst it was trying to stay competitive.

Mike: Then why not change to the 2.0 version, I guess? Why not make that change now after you’ve already implemented Stars Rewards at the beginning?

Nick: I see. Maybe it’s just a case of the customers are still adjusting to the new system, so you don’t want to go back to back a few month later, completely change it again because maybe users will get used to the boost feature or that thing. Maybe it’s a marketing message. I’d be surprised by the end of the year that isn’t across New Jersey as well.

Zynga Poker Introduces Spin & Win

Mike: Another thing that relates back to Spin & Gos would be the launch of Spin & Gos on Zynga Poker.

Nick: Yes. Just wrote about that today, the embargo was lifted today that they have launched Spin & Win. Obviously, Zynga being the world’s largest free play air “Social and Online Poker.” These are WPT themed Spin & Win tournaments.

Mike: How do they play? We’ve seen the lottery style Spin & Gos take different formats across different operators. Are they the standard three-player that we see throughout the industry?

Nick: It mostly fits the same format that we saw. Six years ago Winamax launched expresso, that’s how long this game has been around. It’s an out everywhere this this tournament format. Obviously, PokerStars Spin & Go we’ve got where I want to enumerate more. We talked about Unibet HexaPro, which is a fairly recent launch on this podcast a few weeks ago. Zynga’s version, shocking really, that they haven’t released this before, because I think it’s perfect for free play games.

Their format is very similar. It’s three-handed, they’re fast, their games last 5-8 minutes, the prize pool is random, it is winner takes all. The big difference that they’ve got is that the top prize that you can get, some sites, I think when they first came out, the top price was 100, or maybe a few hundred times the buy-in. Very quickly, then operators have 1,000 times the buy-in. Now today, like PokerStars has got a $40 buy-in Spin & Go with a top price of $3 million, which that price triggers one time in 20 million, I believe. I’m going off memory from what I wrote today.

Obviously, it hasn’t triggered yet and may never trigger one in 20 million a year. That’s a 75,000 times by-in multiply. With Zynga’s Spin & Win, the maximum is an eight times multiplier, which we’ve never seen something. I think that’s fascinating, probably speaks to the economies of free play sites more than anything.

Mike: Just my mind was off on a tangent while you were talking. You had mentioned one in 20 million times for that top $3 million prize on PokerStars. I don’t know if you’ve seen Game Intel tweeted something this week about the number of spins that PokerStars runs. I want to say it was 300 million, but I’m just guessing. I was wondering do you remember?

Nick: Was it three? I remember the tweet I retweet I looked at the trend. I can’t remember what the absolute figures were of the [unintelligible 00:38:11] Is that 300 million lifetime, they asked me?

Mike: I don’t know. We should probably pull that up while we’re talking just so we don’t leave people hanging out there. There’s a pretty big range of things that it could be that the information that was in that tweet. I think it’s interesting to compare that to the number of the $3 million prize hitting once every 20 million spins.

Nick: I think the reason why or my guess of why Zynga have gone much lower is that they’re already high stakes games as well, in the worlds of stupidly inflated economies of free play sites. I think their cheapest sitting go is a 200,000 chip buy-in and goes up to— If anything, it teaches you high number maths, because I’m going like, hundred billion versus— I don’t know. You’re dealing with 10 zeros on the ends of numbers. Anyway, the Spin & Win or their high stakes games, because I think the biggest buy-in it’s 10 billion so their biggest prize is 80 billion.

I think the thing is there if you go and have 100X or 1000X Prize, someone’s won 10 trillion chips, which A, maybe their system can’t show that many zeros and B, they would have nothing to spend their money on it, so you can’t cash it out. You’ve already just won their high stakes game. You’ve got all this money. There’s only so many pictures of sunglasses and popcorn to-

Mike: Buying a drink for your friend.

Nick: Yes, exactly. I think they already have this big issue with inflation and just that obviously every day I think you get 60,000 new chips, new accounts, get 1 million chips to start. Why they started such ridiculous numbers, I don’t know.

Mike: They do rake fill because that’s the only way you can really keep the economy from just inflating to numbers beyond control.

Nick: I think they rake. I know PokerStars rake. I know when PokerStars was added to rake many years ago to their free play sites. There was a big hoo-ha about it. I’d be surprised if they didn’t even— They even saw like they have to rake so aggressively to offset.

Mike: Maybe that’s what Daniel Grunwald was talking about. More rake is better in playing chip games than hockey. I’m not sure.

Nick: He very much is— Imagine every new account gets some million new chips. How much rake you need to be raking daily to offset that inflation. You go to the store and you probably can buy a diamond for 10 billion and all that thing. If they go in at these huge trillion top prices now you just have to go to the store and out in a Saturday something ridiculous. Ended up pulled up that tweet. According to PokerStars, these are estimates 300,000 run a day.

Mike: According to Game Intel. It was 300,000 a day. let’s extrapolate that out over 300 days and we’re looking at what?

Nick: These big numbers. Big numbers are difficult.

Mike: 90 million.

Nick: Somethings.

Mike: 900 million.

Nick: It’s not 1 billion. Yes. We’ll see. Big numbers.


Mike: Big, big numbers. How many $3 million spins would hit over that. Well, that’s assuming that all those would be playing at the 40 and above [crosstalk]

Nick: Well, this is the thing it’s going to be a very— The most PokerStars is obviously the 25 cent gets just reading off the graph a 100,000 a day. 100,000 a day we’re talking 3 million a month at that buy-in level. 30 million. We’re obviously in the peak time in the season so this might not be for the annual. Let’s say 30 million of that buy-in a year. That’s by far the most popular. If on that one they had a top rise it might occur once every year or once every 18 months something like that. At this $40 it may never occur. Anyway, we going way off tangent here.


That is the single pokers Spin & Win which is live now on the Facebook on your mobile app. If you want to give it up and give it a go.

Looking Ahead

Mike: Looking ahead to next week. This is one of my favorite times of the poker media calendar. Can you guess why, Nick?

Nick: Is it because we’re going to publish our report?

Mike: No. Well, that too but no. Around this time every year, we get to see some potential spoof articles coming out for April Fools Day.

Nick: Of course, absolutely.

Mike: Trying to determine what news is real and what news isn’t is an interesting time for me.

Nick: That’s actually very funny because this Sunday the day before April Fool’s Day, PokerStars— their Sunday Million is going to be in knockout format. We didn’t talk about that. I’m sure we should have done that.

Mike: Yes, you’re right.

Nick: The segment on that. We’ve written news ask about that, haven’t we?

Mike: I’m not sure.

Nick: Well, it seems-

Mike: Sometimes you just get so much information and you’re not sure whether it actually makes it into an article.

Nick: Well, now we’re doing in our show and we just mentioned is this Sunday PokerStars is having a knockout Sunday Million which is what we should. We don’t have time to talk about whatsoever. Next week we’ll just have to do a postmortem. I tweeted that and somebody replied and said, “Surely, that should be held one day later.”

Mike: [laughs] We will see some interesting news hopefully, or fake news hopefully, next week. That will be something that I’ll be looking forward to. If there’s anything that’s particularly funny please do let us know and who knows maybe we will touch on it in our next episode. All right. It Feels like it’s time to say goodbye.

Nick: I never do the goodbye bits.

Mike: All right. That’s me. Well, that’s it for us this week. Everyone thanks for tuning in and we will see you next week.