After a brief hiatus, the pokerfuse pair are back to discuss the latest in online poker. In this week’s episode, Nick and Mike chew through the latest PokerStars reveals, including Stealth anonymous tables and Spin and Go Flash. They then take a look at the latest in United States markets, and the overall slowdown in New Jersey investment. Finally, they look at interesting new developments out of Winamax, who recently explored building an internal HUD and launched a new Monopoly-themed promotion.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello, and welcome everybody to the poker fuse podcast. It is October 17, 2019. This is episode number 30. I’m your host, Mike Gentile, along with co-host, Nick Jones, this week on the podcast. There have been new updates to the PokerStars client through the stealth mode, Spin & Go Flash, and swap folding. We’ll get you up to speed on those and more.

Mike: Is online poker on hold in New Jersey? We’ll discuss why we think so and update you on the latest on PokerStars launch in Pennsylvania.

Mike: Finally, Winamax is making waves in the industry once again. We’ll tell you about their efforts to develop an internal HUD, and the recent partnership to connect their brand to the household.

PokerStars Stealth, Spin and Go Flash and Swap Hold’em

Nick: PokerStars stealth mode. There was an exclusive on poker fuse a few weeks ago, a new feature that we expect them to roll out in the coming weeks that will be some anonymous table, something that their competitors have offered for a long time. It sounds like PokerStars is also going to be following through and allowing players in some way to hide their identity at the tables.

Mike: Yes, that sounds interesting. All right, I’ve got a ton of questions, Nick. Maybe you can help me answer some of them first. You said it’s coming. Has this been rolled out in testing anywhere or is this coming as in will be tested soon?

Nick: Yes. We don’t know other than— It hasn’t gone live anywhere; it hasn’t gone on play money or any of the sites. We saw hints of something called stealth, we reached out to poker stars. They did confirm that they are working on anonymous tables and they said it will be coming in the coming weeks or months, so that’s all we know so far. We can tell from the images that there’s going to be— Tables in the lobby are going to be identified as anonymous or not, or stealth or not. There’s going to be a big button to filter, to stealth only tables. Then from that, we don’t know but obviously one can presume that at the tables, you won’t be able to see player’s identities at all in your play entirely hidden, but that’s everything that we know so far.

Mike: It seems a bit odd coming from poker stars. They’ve been traditionally on the opposite side of the anonymous table debate, I guess. They’ve always put out their philosophy as being part of the game as knowing your opponent. This seems a bit of a departure from their traditional philosophy, I guess. Has there been any indication leading up to this, that this might be something that they’re going to go down, or do we have any indication why they’re implementing anonymous tables at this time?

Nick: It’s certainly a trend that we’re really seeing in the industry, but that’s about it. As you say, PokerStars has always been a defender of the idea that once you pick your name, that’s your name for life. They even still have an FAQ up on their website that says, “You can’t change your screen name. These are the reasons why.” It’s like in live poker over time, you can get reads on people. In some respects, it’s a surprise that PokerStars is going to be going this route or at least trying it out, but the reality is that almost all their primary competitors have it to some extent. So, it might just be a case of feeling like you have to offer it because there’s some demographic, some group of people who want to have this option.

Yes, 888 still doesn’t have any anonymity at all, but other than them, I think pretty much all the major European companies either allow you to change your screen name on a regular basis, and/or has optional anonymous tables, or actually mandatory anonymous tables. So, once we talked about a lot on this podcast, they have basically, mandatory anonymous tables and every time you sit down, you get an entirely new screen name. Presumably, it’ll be interesting to see what PokerStars does regarding HUDs, whether they will allow them, but obviously the HUD would only be session-level.

You would have no history based on that player, or whether they will try and ban HUDs entirely, and have a HUD-free experience. We’re not sure whether one of the motivations here is a HUD-free experience. We’ve certainly seen pork stars move away from allowing third-party tools, so auto seating scripts was something that they banned earlier on this year. This could be a move towards at least having an environment where HUDs either aren’t supported or at least won’t have historic data on it.

Mike: That would be like an optional environment, right? There is no indication that they’re moving towards banning all third-party software tools or anything like that, right?

Nick: Right, that’s correct. In fact, that’s perhaps one of the biggest downsides of doing it this way is that, these are going to be optional tables on the sides. You’ll be splitting your liquidity at an NL 200 table presumably will now be offered in both stealth and regular mode. That liquidity is going to be halved. We don’t know how wide PokerStars will roll the sale. I won’t be surprised if say it starts at the market stakes. Again, with all these things it could just be a trial that they stop after a few weeks. It’s absolutely possible. I think they explicitly said it would be a trial. We do know that they’ve put a fair amount of design behind this. This is definitely something we’ve seen from PokerStars in the last couple of years.

Is that if you want to add a feature even if it’s not new to them, they will style it up and brand in a nice way. It’s called stealth not anonymous tables. It’s called a cool iconography in the lobby. Although we haven’t seen it yet, I’d absolutely expect the tables to have a special stealth theme integrated. We’ll see that. When they do that makes you think like they have some expectation this is going to be a permanent feature. But presumably, they’ll be looking to see how the liquidity responds. It’s definitely a downside. You will have your liquidity split across both. Already you’ve got zoom, non-zoom. You’ve got six max and full ring. I’m not sure PokerStars still has deep tables or not. Presumably, it does at some stage. This is going to be just an extra variable that is going to divide their liquidity up.

Mike: If any operator could handle the effects of divided liquidity it’s PokerStars. I’ve got one last question. I’m not sure if you’ll know. I’m trying to think myself if, has there been any input from any of the regulators and the other operators that have gone through with anonymous tables? Is that something that’s been frowned upon, embraced by in regulated markets? Is there anything from the regulation standpoint that we should know about anonymous tables?

Nick: I don’t think there’s any regulator that has really had an opinion on it. From their perspective, all tables are anonymous because you’re not using your actual real name. I think from most people’s parlance expectation when you say anonymous tables, people will think, we’ll all on PokerStars anonymous because you sit behind a made-up name that you can have. In fact, the term is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not sure what a better term would be for— It’s anonymity on top of anonymity really, isn’t it? I think from the regular perspective there’s no requirement to have real names. There’s no requirement to have names that change a lot of the time. That’s never really a factor.

Mike: Because in the end, you’re not anonymous to the operator. There is the KYC, the know your customer. Those regulations are still in place and still players are required in regulated environments to prove their identity. Yes, thinking about it now I’m guessing that the regulators shouldn’t have any issue.

Nick: From an integrity point of view PokerStars will still be, their game integrity team will still be able to look at a person’s play, and look for potential cheating or collusion. There’s obviously that anonymity will be unmasked from that level. In fact, we should point out as well that PokerStars plans to allow players to view de-anonymized hand histories 24 hours after you’ve played. After you play the game, the next day you look and see like, “I was playing against this guy.” Presumably, you can then import it into your tracking software and build up a history against that player and still have all those stats, but when you’re sitting down at the table you won’t know who you’re playing against.

That’s an interesting decision that some operators don’t do with their approach to anonymity the PokerStars will still have. Again, it’s saying, they say they’re doing it from a game integrity point of view. They allow players to feel confident that they weren’t cheated or colluded against. That’s something that we’ll see when they launch this.

Mike: All right, that’s one of the new features over PokerStars. There’s some new games as well. What can you tell us about that one?

Nick: Spin & Go Flash, it’s actually similar on what I was saying just before. That this is not a new game to them, but they have done it in a pretty stylish way. Spin and go as everybody knows right now superfast, three-handed. Lottery sitting goes, random jackpot prize, everyone’s got them. Few months ago, maybe, let’s say three or four months ago, I’m going to guess, Winamax launched a game. Their game is called Expresso. Can’t remember whether they have the X or not. They launched Expresso Nitro. I hear that you like really, really fast sitting goes only last 10 minutes. How about one that only lasts two minutes, but it’ll cost you the same amount? Doesn’t that sound fantastic? It turns out I did, was fantastic is by all signs they’ve been extremely popular.

The stack sizes, I think are 300 instead of 500 chips, but more importantly, the blind levels increase every minute rather than every, I want to say, three minutes. The end result is these games do last. I think on Winamax they last two minutes to three minutes. PokerStars has implemented exactly the same. Ultimately, they are called Spin & Go Flash, but other than that they are exactly the same. They deployed in Italy first. We reported this a few days before it went anywhere. They’ll exclusive up on poker fuse. Then they debuted on Italy a couple of days later, and I think within that same day they had gone global. They are live today in the lobby.

Mike: I wonder how successful, obviously, if they’ve copied it, you would think that they’ve had some indication that it was well-received over on Winamax, but it seems like we’re getting closer and closer to all-in showdown, and removing skill completely. When you’re talking about a two-minute three-handed game, how many hands can actually be played during that time?

Nick: Yes. That’s definitely the question. I think with Spin & Go the break, the amount that you’re paying to play is particularly opaque because it’s ultimately defined by the paytable and how frequently the different prizes payout. I’m not saying that it’s not shown. Poker absolutely says it on the website, but from a casual player who brings up their phone, or if I got time to play a 10-minute game or if I got time to play a two-minute game. Ultimately, I think from the perspective of a serious poker player, we always talk in the language of how much you’re paying and break for the time you’ve gone.

How many hands you get to play for that money, but there’s obviously only one perspective. From PokerStars selective obviously, why would it have to be the number of hands you get? Why does that have to be a factor? Ultimately, from a casual player’s point of view, why do they all to pay the same for a two-minute game, for a 10-minute game? I want it to be over faster. I want the same. It’s the same chance of winning the same prize.

Mike: I wasn’t thinking of cost when I was thinking about the number of hands, I was thinking more about skill.

Nick: Yes. Absolutely. Again, from a client casual player’s perspective, maybe, I guess they don’t care. Ultimately say, they’ve been pretty successful. I actually think perhaps the most interesting aspect about this though, and Winamax adopted and PokerStars has copied isn’t the structure which is the same, but it’s the way that they’ve integrated this into the client. When we’ve seen let’s say, Spin & Go, they’ve launched a six-plus version or they’ve launched an Omaha version, it’s a different time in the lobby. You bring up the Spin & Go Lobby, and then you go, the default will be the holding tab. You can click on another tab, play the Omaha version.

With Nitro and Flash, it’s the same lobby. You’re on that first default Spin & Go hold on screen, and you’ve got all the buy-ins, and then you can either click the play now button, or you can pick this sparkly new blue button play flash, and that will launch a flash game. The friction of making that decision of which game you want to play has been practically removed. I think that’s probably why a lot of the reason why this has been so popular is that its front and center of your decision-making choice. Again, someone plays and goes, “That only took me two minutes rather than 10 minutes, I’ll play a few more of them.”

It is obviously not going to get professional players excited. It’s not going to get serious of players who value skill excited, but obviously, it gets enough casual recreational players excited that it was enough for I did copy and again. PokerStars has taken this idea but patched it up really nicely. Their tables are really cool. The animation effects are a lot of fun. They’re really using their new game engine to make the games more engaging, and lots of animations in the background and lightning bolts and all this. It’s a cool experience and it lasts you a couple of minutes.

Mike: This sounds a bit weird, but just hearing you talk about it’s got me interested in checking it out. It does sound really cool. Remind me again what stakes is in Spin & Go Flash available?

Nick: That’s the thing. It’s available on all the same stakes as the regular one is. I can’t even remember what’s listed right now. It could be anything 50 cents, maybe the lowest up to $100, but they’re running the full gamut of what they have in the regular game in the Flash version. They basically doubled the number of Spin & Go games that are available and running constantly.

Mike: Interesting. All right, what else have we got going on over in the PokerStars’ development pipeline?

Nick: I don’t know, you tell me. I thought that was it. Is there more? There’s probably more.

Mike: I do see one more note on my board here, Swap Hold’em. Did we talk about this previously?

Nick: Yes, all we know there is that it’s progressing. We talked about Swap Hold’em months and months and months ago that we saw this. I think it first appeared in the filters of the tournament lobby, that was it. This was back W Coupe time. We talked about it on the podcast because we debated what it could be, but that was it. It went on. What we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks is that we’ve seen a lot more image assets suggesting, well, not really suggesting with this game, at least suggesting that it’s moving towards launch. It’s going to be a game— could well be a cash game as well as a tournament. We don’t really know anything more about it. The imagery doesn’t give away anything about what this game will be, but it does seem like it’s going to be a real thing. That’s about it.

Slowdown in online poker in New Jersey and readying for Pennsylvania

Mike: As everyone knows PokerStars is the worldwide leader in online poker, and they are currently getting ready to launch in another market in the US. That would be Pennsylvania. They are currently in one market, which is New Jersey. The question that I have posted in an article on Poker views this week is, is online poker on hold in New Jersey? There seems to be some indication that that could be the case. I threw out my argument as to why I think it is. I’m curious, Nick, what are your thoughts?

Nick: Well, what do you mean by on hold? Break it down for me.

Mike: Well, it’s something that is not being actively, I won’t say promoted, but maybe vigorously promoted is the term I’m looking for. It seems like there is not a lot of attention being paid to online poker in the New Jersey market, outside of the market leader who is They obviously were quite active this year, especially around the World Series of Poker. They ran some online events that all of which were offered to players in New Jersey to participate in, but beyond that, we have PartyPoker and PokerStars not making the same kind of waves in New Jersey that they are in other markets around the world and in the dotcom market as well.

Nick: We saw PokerStars is running the NJ COOP on there. I saw that as a headline on the site quite recently.

Mike: They are, yes. That’s typical for the fall season. They are running their NJ coupe. However, we have seen that guarantees have really stagnated in that series in the recent years, whereas their counterpart W coupe, and we’ve talked about on this podcast where they keep pushing the envelope, they keep making it bigger and better every year, and pushing and pushing to new and higher amounts. But that doesn’t seem to be the case in New Jersey. That is one of the reasons that I’m saying, you know what? Maybe things are on hold, maybe they are waiting for the other shoe to drop in Pennsylvania, launch there and then eventually be able to combine player pools with Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Nick: Yes, and I guess it’s just the reality is the market. It’s been around four-plus years, New Jersey?

Mike: Yes, when? 2014, end of 2013? Mostly in 2014.

Nick: So, we’re in the fifth year then. I think when it launched, we had a lot of networks all jostling for position and investing a lot on the expectation that this would be the first of many. The situation is ultimately exactly the same as it was four, five years ago, and I can’t imagine a lot of the investment that we had. I remember right at the start, the poker podcaster network, in particular, we’re really pushing on. I told them and guarantees that Golden State Super Series, they always wanted to be the biggest in the market.

We saw some really one-upmanship between them and PokerStars with who had the biggest. It was a $1 million guarantee series, then a 1.1 then a 1.11. Particularly, we want to see the market reversal with now obviously, WSOP/888 on top. PokerStars are still doing their thing, and I think Borgata/party poker really accepted playing third fiddle, and I think they’re going to play Super Series is a quarter of what it once was. I guess it’s just accepting their bedding in for the long haul now, can’t just afford huge marketing expense.

Mike: Yes. We haven’t even seen them Schedule a Garden State Super Series yet this year. Typically, they run one in the spring and another in the fall. The spring one didn’t run. So far there’s been no announcement in the fall, but I guess that’s not too surprising. We had Tom Waters on this podcast, this very podcast talking about—Basically I heard his words echo in my head when I was listening to you talk earlier about how the market is exactly the same as it was five years ago. It’s not surprising that things are looking like they’re being scaled back. I would imagine that once Pennsylvania happens, we will see party poker get in there, but last we checked they still were not advanced in their application to become authorized by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

It begs the question of how far ahead are they going to let PokerStars and potentially the second online poker operator, which at this point I expect will be a World Series of Poker. How far are they going to let them get ahead before they actually dive in and jump in the market? Because I would think that if they let, let’s assume that PokerStars launches and shared liquidity becomes a thing. I would assume that at some point, they’re going to have to jump into Pennsylvania, otherwise risk their operation in New Jersey because then they will be way behind the curve there.

Nick: Well, I guess the question will be, “Do you launch in Pennsylvania before there’s the opportunity of shared liquidity?” Maybe they’re happy for PokerStars to make that plunge where ultimately for the foreseeable future they will be separate player pools. Yes, PokerStars we able to build up that player base. Again, maybe everyone’s just feeling burned by New Jersey that that’s exactly what they did five years ago, and ultimately the cost wasn’t worthwhile. You may as well spend all that money on the time that you could launch a cross-state liquidity network, and you still got the question of the Wire Act hanging over and that’s far from a concluded issue. Maybe everyone is just looking to play the long game now.

Mike: It’s definitely up in the air was actually the subject of a session over at G2E in Las Vegas. That’s a gaming conference where they had a panel specifically talking about the future of the Wire Act, what’s going to happen there. I know if you want to look, you can look through Twitter, Steve Ruddock, I believe was live-tweeting it. There’s been reports as well around the Las Vegas review journal. I found an interesting writeup. One of the early ones that I saw was on Yes, that’s where it was. They had some good content there about what actually happened and some of the things that were said on their panel. One thing really struck me is, it seemed like the panelists were saying that if the DOJ fails again at their next juncture, which is the appeals court process here, that they may then take things to the Supreme Court.

Or as expected, they may just throw their hands up and see that this is not going their way, and perhaps put their efforts into other endeavors. But to me, I don’t know. I think that really doesn’t consider a lot of the early reporting that came out at the time that this new opinion on the Wire Act was released. That’s the reasons that the DOJ put forward are directly correlated with the efforts of Sheldon Adelson. If the DOJ was making this opinion based on the influence of Sheldon Adelson, then it doesn’t rely on logic to say well, they can see that the path is not clear, and therefore that they’re going to spend their efforts elsewhere. You’re not relying on logic at that point. You’re relying on influence.

Even if they get shut down at the next level which is the appellate court level, the next step then would be the supreme court. Who knows? I can’t say how far Mr. Adelson’s influence goes. Maybe it does end up taking a wrong turn for the online gaming industry. I don’t know, Perhaps that’s a pretty dim view of things. I guess for the topic of influence not even to be raised was a bit surprising to me given that perhaps G2 is being held in the Venetian, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson. Maybe that’s a reason why it wasn’t brought up. They didn’t want to get kicked out of their hotel rooms. Perhaps that’s the reason. I don’t know. It struck me as something that wasn’t getting much attention in a lot of the coverage about where things are headed with the Wire Act.

Nick: Yes. Maybe there’s the case of— Politically if Donald Trump doesn’t get a second term, then there might a lot of different motivations and machinations going on behind the scenes. If this stretches on to the point that we’re going into 2020, 2021, the whole political landscape might be different and that could certainly impact influences on a big scale.

Mike: That was one of the main points was raised as well that there could be just a change in administration. Therefore, change in the DOJ’s priorities, which I anticipate if there would be a change that the DOJ’s priorities would be very different. This is probably not something that they would pursue. That is a very legitimate point and a good reason to have hope that this is going to land on the side in favor of online poker.

Nick: Well, let’s just finish on a slightly on a more positive note about PokerStars plans to launch in Pennsylvania. Although they haven’t yet, we’re still expecting that to happen any week now. We have some more exclusives up on Poker Views just about their planned— I think the last podcast we did three weeks ago, we talked about the MTTs schedules. We’ve since the had a few more little exclusives about their single plans, their cash game plans, and live casino and sports that they’re going have.

Mike: The last article that we published took a look at their casino games offerings. You can see through the screenshots that we have of the lobby that casino games will be integrated into the online poker lobby, as well their sports-betting platform FOX Bet. From the looks of it, the casino games are going have slots and table games, and the usual selection of games that you would expect. We don’t expect there to be any live dealer games that go live at launch. Eventually, I anticipate that those will be part of the offering. At the beginning, those are probably not going to be something that the players in Pennsylvania are going to see from the get-go.

On the poker front, we’ve looked at— I can’t remember exactly what we discussed here on the podcast, but we can go back and review some of it. Tournament schedule for MTTs are definitely similar to those in New Jersey. One of the main differences we saw is the guarantees are going to be a bit bigger, and the buy-ins are actually going to be a bit smaller. There’s definitely seems to be more value to be had on the MTT schedule in Pennsylvania. Again, this is all prefaced and the fact that things can definitely change before launch happens. We’re just going on what we’ve been able to determine from the peeks that we’ve gotten into the PokerStars Pennsylvania client. We also expect there to be singles at launch.

There are no heads-up tables expected to be a part of the initial offering. Zoom tables are not expected to be there at launch. All in cash out which we touched on a little earlier in the episode is also not expected to be part of the launch. We will see cash games as expected, most of which will be no limit Hold’em in the six-max format. We also expect that the run it twice feature will be available at launch in Pennsylvania.

Nick: Of course, you never know it might be 100% Spin & Go Flash by the time it launches. It might be one big go flash button.

Mike: The flash could be down to one minute by then two, who knows. 30-second Spin & Goes. We believe everything is progressing toward launch. I know that I threw a prediction out there of 30 days. I’m not sure how long ago that was. I think that-

Nick: I think you got maybe a week left on that.

Mike: I think maybe toward at the end of October was the end of that range. If I had to revise that it wouldn’t be by March. I definitely expect PokerStars to launch online Poker in Pennsylvania. If not by the end of this month, but then by early November. I know that the next Pennsylvania gaming control board is scheduled for I believe the 30th. That could be the final approval needed before things kick-off. I’ve got the feeling that we’re really close there.

Winamax’s internal HUD and Expresso x Monopoly

Nick: We talked with a Max earlier in the podcast and we wanted to just a final segment on them because they’ve been doing some really cool stuff themselves. We talked about them with Expresso Nitro which they launched a few months ago. In fact, an article penned by you Mike, on Poker industry pro this week looked into the apparent exploration of the idea of building an internal HUD into their software. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Mike: Winamax had a job posting out there for an intern, they were looking specifically to develop an internal HUD. The position was scheduled to be filled by December last year, and the project was scheduled to kick-off sometime from January to March and last for about six months. It’s quite possible that that project could have just recently wrapped up at the end of September, or who knows it could have been extended as well. One of the interesting things that I found there is that as part of this project, in addition to the internal HUD, they were also looking to develop an API so that it can interface with third-party tools. Not something that I guess we would have expected.

Nick: That’s interesting because we’ve definitely seen other operators consider this route, and GGNetwork is perhaps the one that’s really executed on this plan. They have a full internal HUD called Smart HUD, and then they also have an internal tracking tool analysis tool called— Can you remember its name, Mike, off the top of your head?

Mike: No, but I could scan through it. We have smart HUD and the other one was PokerCraft.

Nick: That’s it, PokerCraft. They have the source Party Poker has got a my game tool, which does the same thing. They don’t have an internal HUD, and as your article mentions, run it once. It’s got a little bit of a HUD in the sense that your opponent’s facial expressions will change depending on how they’ve been playing recently. That is based on and you can even lookup performance based on their preflop range and three bed stats. They’re all done. All those three examples are done because HUDs aren’t allowed on the site, and third-party tools are not allowed to integrate on that site.

Even with Party Poker that has banned HUDs, they’ve recently re-added hand histories, but they did their my game specifically because it’s like with this, you won’t need tracking tools. GGNetwork has absolutely no third-party tools. It was interesting that Winamax explored the idea that, “Yes, we want an internal HUD, but also we’re going to make it easier for third-party tools to interface with that, to connect with that. Rather than we have this 20-year-old system of text hand histories and software developers having to read these human-readable hand histories and import them into databases and support all these different file formats.

This would be a sanctioned, official way of connecting and downloading this information. That’s a very interesting path to develop. Of course, we should stress that again, this is literally just probably a proof of concept they were exploring. Perhaps, they would do neither of those things. Maybe they just go hard and ban third-party tools. Maybe they will just have the API. We don’t want to leap to conclusions. Why I’m saying this is what they were doing. It seems like just an internship concept to explore. Just from the idea of an operator exploring that, I think is fascinating. It’s not something that we’ve seen anyone else do.

Mike: Nick, you’ve got a development background. Let me ask you, this API if they were to develop this, is this something that they could technically then not provide hand histories and lock down the API in order to control which third-party tools had access?

Nick: I would assume they would do this with that in mind whether they would, Yes. they could absolutely stop other tools from accessing it because you could have some key system whereby any authorized applications would have access. An API is much more common when you’re talking about accessing online systems, online servers, that kind of thing. I’m not quite sure from entirely on your desktop situation, how this would work. If you don’t have the Winamax tool running, how would you interface with an API?

It’s not entirely clear for me and again, maybe the intern would be exploring exactly that question. Yes, presumably, the idea of exploring this is so that you would have better control over what information, and which applications would be able to interface with the client. In theory, they could build all this and then say, “Yes, we’re not going to allow anyone that has a HUD to use this. It will only be for post-game analysis,” for example. That’s absolutely possible.

Mike: Yes. Apologize to the listeners out there because typically, we would reach out to an operator to try and get them to comment or ask more questions so that we can bring you more information, but Winamax is notorious for not speaking to the media. That’s one of the areas of this story that we cannot bring you because their policy is not to talk to us. If we could get some more information from the operator, we definitely would, but in this case, that just did not happen.

Nick: Yes. They’re normally extremely polite with their no comment, which we have a huge backload of exactly no comment answers. Unfortunately, yes, they as a private company have absolutely no obligations to speak to us or anybody, and they seem to be absolutely fine with that policy and fair play to them. We’ll ascertain anything we can from their clients and from their internal job postings, and other such things. One other thing they’ve done in the last couple of weeks, which got a lot of attention understandably because unless you’re in France or Spain or a few other countries you can’t play on Winamax.

It’s definitely worth highlighting is one of the coolest promotions that I have seen any online poker operator do, is running on Winamax right now and it’s called Winamax x MONOPOLY. I’m not sure if in French you pronounce that differently, but that’s how it’s written. As the name would suggest, they have, I presumed licensed, sorry, the monopoly brand with Hasbro to integrate this promotion into the Expresso tables.

Mike: I have not read the article on this, but I’m going to take a guess that this is some form of card collection game?

Nick: Yes. There’s definitely this collection element and they’ve done games like this in Expresso before. It’s quite involved so it is going to be absolutely high level but for a start, you only play it when you play in a 2x prize pool lottery Sit and Go. When you just get the 2x prize pool, that’s when this promotion is engaged, which is cool. They’ve done this in the past, PokerStars has done it as well. These are the losing ones, that’s obviously if you’re only fighting for two times the prize pool, and there’s three of you, I think everybody knows, that’s the losing one. Anything bigger than that, and you’ve won already basically. This promotion comes—

Mike: So, it’s a consolation prize game?

Nick: Yes, exactly, but what it does is, and I think it’s very smart this idea is that when you play these games you’re like, “Oh, well that’s rubbish.” Although you still want to win, because you then double your buy-in, you’re never going to be a big winner. No one cares. This gives an extra excitement and interest too. Ultimately, something like that happens, depending on their payouts, 30% to 60% of the time, it’s a very common thing to get. This adds a whole level of interest to these games. That’s cool.

Ultimately, most of the time, when you start a 2x thing, a monopoly card will come up. It could be a park lane. In the United States, do you have a different monopoly board to us? What are the two most expensive properties?

Mike: Park Place and Boardwalk.

Nick: Is Park Place a real place?

Mike: Oh, yes. I believe so, yes. So is Boardwalk. Atlantic City is what monopoly is originally modeled off of.

Nick: Hold on. You’re saying it’s originally modeled off, it’s not originally modeled off London.

Mike: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the American version is originally modeled off Atlantic City. Is it originally from London?

Nick: Wow. I’ve always assumed it. It must be. Yes. I’m sure it is.

Mike: My thought is we rip off all your TV shows, and your language, and your country basically just by forming ours. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it’s originally modeled.

Nick: I think it’s mainly because originally the story is the game of monopoly came about by— It was invented by a female who was a real left-wing socialist-communist. The game is meant to be, I’m sure this is true, is meant to be a depiction of how horrendous the capitalist system is, that the landlord has this over you. It was played in these real lefty circles as ironic fashion, sarcastic fashion, and then Hasbro bought it and turned it into ironically, a hugely successful business. Anyway, I’m pretty sure we-

Mike: Wikipediaed it, I’ve Wikipediaed it if you’re interested in finding-

Nick: I am interested. Yes.

Mike: All right. The history of the board game monopoly. Its origin is in the early 20th century. The earliest version known as the Landlord’s Game developed by an American, Elizabeth Maggie, and first patented in 1904 but existed as early as 1902.

Nick: I thought she was American?

Mike: She was American, but that doesn’t mean that she modeled it against— Let’s see a series board, 1906 selling developments created by a monopoly. I don’t know. It doesn’t really say so maybe the Landlord’s Game didn’t have an actual city theme.

Nick: Anyway, so the Landlord’s Game that’s exactly it. It was like this conversationalist experiment. Anyway, in the Winamax version, you compete over different cards, and there’s the stations, and there’s the utilities, and you collect them. Once you’ve got set, then you win a prize. That’s fairly simple, but they’ve got loads of cool things. Sometimes you’ll find over a chance card, and then they’ve got all these different chance cards, and they go to jail. When you’re in jail, you can’t win a ticket until you’ve played three 2x Expressos unless you get out of jail free card. Then they have all these different— I mean, it’s a really involved promotion.

If you look on their website or look at our article about and see some of the imagery, they’ve fully integrated into the monopoly brand they have this big tracker where you can see all the cars that you’ve got in your collection. A lot of work has gone into building this, and obviously licensing this brand, and ultimately, it’s fantastic. See, I can’t think of any other operator that goes to these lengths to create what is going to be temporary. I think it’s over, and by the end of the month, I think it’s over to create this temporary exciting mini-game inside.

It’s something that PokerStars used to do a couple of years ago. They used to have a CardMatch and carton, and pyramid and Jacks or Better, and all these things, and they seem to really move away from that. I can’t think of any other operator that has ever got things like that.

Mike: MPN had like Fish Party, didn’t they? That was-

Nick: Yes. A fish, but they still do. Their fish party is their permanent lottery thing go game with a progressive jackpot prize. You’re right, that is really involved design-wise, but it was permanent, and it’s been around for years. Obviously, they’re probably more justifiable to put in the development resources. To see the operator, I still go to those events I think is really cool, and from using a monopoly brand, as well. Certainly, monopoly, Hasbro is not shy in using the monopoly brand licensing it in everything. In online gambling, there are lots of monopoly slots games, and there are multiple developers have licensed their brand to create monopoly games, but I can’t think of a time that it’s been used in online poker.

In fact, I can’t think of a single time that any real money online poker operator has licensed a real brand like this. I suppose PokerStars with their UFC partnership, and they’ve launched games like that, but for these one-off promotions, I can’t really think of an equivalent.

Mike: I expect this promotion to come back. One thing that we have seen probably one of the biggest times that Monopoly has been used for promotion has been by McDonald’s. They’ve been doing it for years. What they do is they bring it back every year, maybe even twice a year, I’m not sure. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see all of this development that Winamax has done around the Monopoly promotion, reappear at another time, perhaps maybe even twice a year, maybe even once a quarter, who knows?

Nick: Yes, that’s certainly possible. It would be in a way a shame that it doesn’t come back because they’ve clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it, but then they’ve done it with previous promotions as well. Again, I can’t remember maybe in my article, I list the other times they’ve done these 2x promotions, and every time although this one is definitely the most involved. They definitely done ones which have had custom development and custom themes around them, and only lasted a short period of time. Fortunately, we can’t because we don’t have direct access to how many expressive Expresso tournaments are being played. That’s not publicly available data, but I imagine it’s been— Even their cash game traffic is increasing since these promotions launched just, I presume through osmosis and more players on the site.

Last time I looked they’ve given away €300,000 in the first week, I think this promotion through the prizes of this thing. It’s going to be more than a million euros by the time it ends easily. I imagine they’re making more than that in the extra rate that they’re collecting. It’s been hugely successful, I should think and really goes to show that they are our operators still out there doing these things, not to malign other operators. We talked at the start this podcast about some of the design elements that PokerStars are putting into their games, but it’s really cool to see these one-off promotions still being done and driving activity.


Mike: Well, that wraps up this episode of the pokerfuse podcast. As a reminder, please give us a like and a subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can also follow us and interact with us on Twitter. Nick is at @pokerprojones. I am @SpookyBugs.. Thanks, everyone for tuning in.