There is more movement with online poker sponsored pros, Nick and Mike discuss the news and implications. The big three Sunday tournaments all failed to meet their guarantees this past week, the guys look at the extra value created for players and talk about the possible link to the Super Bowl. And, partypoker has released another batch of changes to its online poker software. Find out was is new and what is still in the pipeline.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. It is February 6th, 2020. This is episode number 41. I’m your host Mike Gentile along with my co-host, Nick Jones.

This week on the podcast, the use of brand ambassadors is a common way online poker rooms promote their sites in the game of poker. We discuss the latest comings and goings of sponsored pros and tell you what we think they mean for their respective poker companies.

There was a lot of extra value in the major online poker tournaments this past Sunday. We’ll talk about why that happened and how you can get in on the action.

Finally, partypoker has rolled out a new batch of updates to their online poker software. We go over the list of changes and highlights some of the new features.

Online Poker Brand Ambassadors

One of the more popular ways that poker sites have been promoting their products is through the use of brand ambassadors or sponsored pros. We did see a little bit of activity early on in the year and we’ve seen a little bit more just recently with some poker rooms parting ways with some of their sponsored pros and others maybe not formally announcing but indicating that they will be adding some. Nick, what do we know on this topic?

Nick: Yes, there are three pieces of news from the last three days really. None of them, super big-name people but all pretty interesting because of what they mean for the sites themselves. The one perhaps less related to poker but we can touch on briefly is Magnus Carlsen, Chess World Champion signing on his global brand ambassador for Unibet. Then we believe that Run It Once is going to announce their first-ever ambassador soon. Then PokerStars has said goodbye to yet another. Invested themselves with Fatima de Mello, a 10-year plus veteran of the PokerStars roster saying goodbye. Not sure which of those three you want to start with.

Mike: Why don’t we start with the chess guy, Magnus— Whatever his name is. I’m not familiar with him, but that has a connection, I guess with poker as a skill game. Is he viewed as a sports personality? I’m not sure.

Nick: I’m surprised you haven’t heard of Magnus Carlsen. I would say he probably makes headline news in the UK even if you’re not really into chess, and I wouldn’t say the Brits are particularly into chess, but he’s kind of dominated the sport for the last— I say sport, maybe mind game will be better, but for the last decade-plus I think he’s been world number one for 11 years. He’s one of the best people to ever play the game in history. Pretty personable guy.

It’s a pretty big deal for Unibet to sign him up. Unibet had an interesting history with chess itself. They started offering betting on chess recently. They sponsored the World Chess Championship match a couple of years ago. There’s been some weird stuff with the Norwegian chess association which we don’t have to get into. Anyway, they appointed him global brand ambassador. This is very much a sports betting related thing. It’s not really clear with these deals what his role will be, but sports definitely is the main thing.

I think the interesting thing with this is twofold. One, the message that they’re getting across with the advertising very much fits perfectly with poker. It’s talking about how to gain an edge and practice makes perfect. It draws parallels between Magnus and all the time he puts in away from the table learning and experimenting and exploring the game. With ultimately becoming a better sports bettor to gain an edge. Their tagline is “Luck is no coincidence”, I think. You can watch the advert and almost assume they’re talking about poker. It’s such a good fit for the message that they want to try and get across.

Mike: Do we know what his role will entail? Will he be placing sports wagers on Unibet? Will he be playing any poker? Is he doing any other promotions talking about poker, anything?

Nick: No, certainly, we don’t really know. It could simply be that it’s a deal where they can use his likeness in TV and other advertising campaigns. It might be as simple as that. However, there’s a long-shot hope that he will play some online poker on Unibet because he is known to dabbling on real money online poker. He said in interviews in the past few years that, he’s been asked, “How do you like to wind down?” He says, “Hanging out with friends or fire up a few games of internet poker.

This has not been discussed. Obviously, poker is a small part or a very small part of the Unibet portfolio but given the message they’re trying to get across, getting him to a Unibet live event, I think would be a huge coup for them. I think it’s a great marketing opportunity. Again, if they ever started doing more kind of— Putting poker front and center to promote it and get players in, to then maybe cross-sell them into the sports, this will be a fantastic way to do it.

There’s also a great marketing because chess is huge in some markets, which Unibet might do well with their poker client. I was about to say, India, but I’m not actually sure if Unibet is operational in India or if they’re active India, but yes, I think he’s definitely a poker player, so that’s definitely a possibility, I guess.

Mike: Okay, all right. That should be interesting to see how they utilize him. I will be keeping an eye on that. Let’s move over. Let’s talk about Fatima. Fatima, as you pointed out in your Poker Industry PRO article, was that you or Anuj?

Nick: No. It was Anuj, actually. A very good article if you have access to read that. It’s a really good overview of her history and PokerStars’ history. It goes into a lot of detail there about what this means for the company.

Mike: Yes, but she was the last of the traditional SportStars’ ambassadors at PokerStars, correct?

Nick: Yes, that’s right. If you don’t have access to pro— I did a long thread on this couple of days ago, so if you search for me @pokerprojones on Twitter, you can read a bit more of the history about that, but this is the thing with Fatima is that it’s not surprising at all. PokerStars has actually been saying goodbye to scores of their ambassadors. They’ve lost something like 14 in the last 12 months. Their strategy is cutting these back pretty aggressively and Fatima is perhaps not a name that people would recognize, would know that well. She’s been working with PokerStars for a very long time and she’s been quite involved with a lot of promotions.

There’s a lot of YouTube videos with her in it. She’s been on the Shark Cage. She’s been quite heavily involved in the charitable giving arm as well. She’s definitely been utilized, but it’s not at all surprising that they say goodbye too, and as you say, it kind of ends their long period of investing and tying up big-name sports stars and connecting sports with poker. Fatima might not be a household name, where you and I come from, but she’s a multi-Olympic medalist field hockey, I think?

Mike: Yes, yes, field hockey.

Nick: She was one of the best in her sport and basically, on the year she retired, she signed to PokerStars and has been with PokerStars since. She’s very personable. I think she’d been excellent frontwoman but yes, over the last 12 years, we’ve seen PokerStars sign up the absolute top names in different sports. It’s easy to almost forget about five years ago Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal were sports stars—

Mike: Boris Becker, all kinds of names.

Nick: Yes, Boris Becker was with them for I think eight or nine years. He signed up in 2007 and actually lasted to 2014. There’s a dozen long, speaking the truth. Neymar Junior, I think when they signed him, he was the most expensive footballer of all time. Even Usain Bolt, that was a big thing, that they announced Usain Bolt as a partner.

Mike: Yes, with Kevin Hart too. They haven’t been doing much in the way of celebrity endorsements. I think Kevin Hart may have been the last one.

Nick: Yes, that’s it. All they’ve done in terms of new signings is they— This is also a bit odd. They announced a new roster of streamers last summer. A dozen-plus twitch up and comers who, while fact-checking our article this week couldn’t even find a mention of them on the PokerStars site since that announcement. They’re not listed on the investor page. I’m not really quite sure what happened there.

PokerStars still has a dozen or so people on their ranks. Probably Chris Moneymaker is their biggest name there now but it really— The fashion thing just really highlighted to me the end of this campaign to sign up sports athletes and really connect to the idea. Like, when we were talking about Magnus connecting that, putting the time off the field away from the table learning and practicing. It’s not a luck game. It’s a skill game just like a sports athlete is.

That message is being probably not just posed to us but other operators as well, and here’s Unibet, even trying to get a message across with sports betting, which I think it’s quite rare to see a sports operator going for that. It’s a skilled pastime type thing because you’re playing against the house, generally, they’re pretty empty. You’re encouraging shops, and that’s possible because it’s interesting to see Unibet take that turn.

That’s kind of the end of PokerStars with that message. They ended their sport, they had a team sports star roster, which had up to five or six people that closed a couple of years ago because Fatima was hopefully the last one that was moved over to just their regular team pro roster. Yes, this is the last one in their ranks to say goodbye.

Mike: Yes, it’s even more interesting to see them moving away from the sports star ambassador when you think about their business as a whole. Sports betting has risen to take up a big percentage of the overall business in our gaming. I wonder if there are plans to leverage sports ambassadors going forward now that sports betting is such a large part of their overall business.

Nick: Although that is true, I think that the reason it’s largely is through the acquisitions that they’ve both completed and they’re currently going through. It’s Sky Betting & Gaming acquisition couple of years ago, and soon the Flutter deal which is going through just Paddy Power and Ladbrokes parent. They’re going to have their own marketing plans for their sports. Although their strategy is multifaceted on how they’re going to utilize the different sports assets, I think the ones that are being acquired or—

The Flutter ones are much larger and much better established. Maybe they’re going to be utilizing that skill set and the deals that they have in place rather than looking to expand the BetStars side of things.

Mike: It’ll be interesting nonetheless. Then to round out our ambassador talk, let’s touch on Run It Once. First of all, if there has been no official announcement, how do we know that they’re planning on signing a new ambassador?

Nick: Yes, this is actually revealed on the Phil Galfond challenge, the big heads up challenge that the site founder Phil Galfond is undergoing at the moment. I think it was 100 or 200, 400 PLO heads-up match, 25,000 hands. There’s something like 8,000 hands in, Phil is down €500,000 or whatever. I’ve been checking it on the live stream a bit and I think it was Monday or Tuesday with—

Kevin Rabichow was the co-host with Joe Stapleton. He’s been doing most of the hosting as a commentator on Twitch. It was mentioned there. They kind of revealed it there on the stream that Kevin Rabichow would be their first official Run It Once ambassador. Which is interesting primarily because Run It Once issued this strategy for the last year. It’s notable that they are adjusting course and deciding to sign up a— It’s a classic old school grinder pro as an ambassador.

Mike: Right, so two things to talk about here is what do we know about Kevin? What are his accomplishments? This apparently different course or strategy by Run It Once poker, what does that signify? Which one of those two topics do you want to take first?

Nick: I didn’t know a lot about Kevin. He was really good on the live stream. I really liked his commentary. Writing up the article this week, I did a bit of digging on him. He’s been a Run It Once poker coach for many, many years, like nine years, I think. Maybe that’s not— Six years he’s been a coach. He is high stakes, no-limit hold 'em. Heads up mostly in some six-max cash game player. Has had some success life as well but almost like an old school grinder who makes profit and coaches people.

Mike: Yes, I saw that he came in second for one of the big tournaments?

Nick: Yes, he had a big cash at partypoker North America in 2018 for $500,000. This is big when he is a US native. I’m not quite sure where he based himself to play. He’s an outstanding grind on PokerStars. I saw he recently did some videos on his WCOOP successes. Since that would be a few months ago, he obviously traveled out of the country to play and has a residence outside the country.

You can assume that when he becomes a team pro at Run It Once, he will be doing some playing and streaming on the Run It Once site. As we understand that he’s going to have his own avatar, much like Phil does, and will be playing under his real name, I assume. Rather than the anonymous names that everyone else has.

I would guess that it’s not going to be an exclusive thing he’s going to be able to still play on PokerStars because he plays a lot of heads up and high stakes cash games, which is unavailable on Run It Once. They don’t have heads up tables outside of the Phil Galfond challenge. I’m guessing he’ll still be able to play on other sites.

Mike: It’s also an interesting signing when we look at Run It Once in their strategy as an upstart online poker room. They built a reputation, it felt like, on doing things different, and getting away from a lot of the traditional aspects of online poker. There reward system, for example, was one, their software is another. They had originally planned to have a lot of the representation of their poker room come through their streamer program, which is a way of rewarding people that live-stream-play on the site. This feels like it’s moving in a different direction, but not the first step that we’ve seen of them maybe changing course in that manner.

Nick: Yes. I think changing course is definitely what I take out of this. It’s not what they said a year ago or so when they launched, “We’re never going to have team pros”, or whatever. As you said, it’s with loyalty as well. They never said that they wouldn’t have a loyalty program, but when they launched the two big headline things, which were really interesting and innovative with a streamer program, which was basically anyone could be a site investor effectively.

You can get right back up to 100% plus if you stream your action on Twitch and commentate and they were going to make it more like an open democratic system rather than signing up ambassador or whatever. With rewards, they were like, “All our rewards are launched with this Splash the Pot system, which we talked about a lot in this podcast before, so we want to get into.

We’ve seen, I think ultimately after six months, their traffic levels were very low. They had a pretty rough summer, they hadn’t got their software to the level they wanted and cash game traffic was really dwindling down to the single digits basically like Dorman outside to peak hours.

What we’ve seen over the last six months is a re-invigoration of the site through a few things. Launching any loyalty program really helped Phil Galfond. My guess is I don’t think at launch, they ever thought that Phil Galfond will be playing on the site.

Maybe they did, maybe it was always part of their road-map, and maybe they just expedited it, but it kind of came out of nowhere. It was like, “I’m going to be playing on the site to help promote it.” That helped and now obviously the Phil Galfond challenge has really helped. This again is— It’s an interesting decision. Someone like Kevin Rabichow is obviously not Daniel Negreanu or something. I’m not sure he has reached outside of hardcore online poker players.

What extra they think he will add to the team, I don’t want to second guess this. Maybe they’ve got a bigger plan. We’ll have to see. They haven’t announced anything yet. This was just really revealed on the live stream with no additional details. I think it is pretty notable that they are iterating. They’re willing to accept only maybe mistakes, change strategy where necessary, do whatever is needed to try and keep building traffic.

Mike: Just doing the checking around partypoker, they were pretty active in signing ambassadors over the last year. Has there been any news from them as far as any new signings that we might be seeing in the near future?

Nick: Good question. Not in the last week, but I believe the last one they did, they signed up ex-888 sponsored Pro. Can you remember who that was? It was like in November- December time. I’ll just do a quick check here.

Mike: Do you have an idea of country that the pro might have been from?

Nick: No. I can’t remember. That was their last one, I think. Yes, here we go. It was a Spaniard signed up to their partypoker EU site. That was mid-November. Marti Roca de Torres who is, I think, a successful live pro and former 888 bet star.

Mike: Nothing new this year?

Nick: No, no. They definitely been quiet. Yes, if you go back a year, everyone that PokerStars dropping, partypoker were picking up some. They’ve definitely quietened and down on that front, I think for sure.

Mike: Okay, I’m sure there will be more sponsorship news as Run It Once makes the official announcement and perhaps there will be more to talk about then.

Overlays in the Sunday Majors

Nick: We talked last week about some investment into the Sunday tournaments particularly with GGPoker’s new GG Masters which is a new $300,000 guaranteed Sunday that goes up against the PokerStars’ $109 Sunday Million and the new partypoker Sunday Million. Last Sunday is pretty notable for one thing Mike, what happened?

Mike: All three of those Sunday majors had overlays last Sunday.

Nick: Yes, some of them are more surprising than others that they overlaid.

Mike: Yes. If you look at it, GG Masters has overlaid every week since it kicked off and that’s just over a month or so. The partypoker millions has also been overlaying consistently. The PokerStars’ Sunday Million, I guess is the most notable of the three because it has not been consistently overlaying even though since they made the change to the 109, they’ve been floating, they’ve been around that line. It’s not too much of a surprise, but I think one of the more controversial reasons why some people might think this happened is because of coinciding with the Super Bowl. It was Super Bowl Sunday last Sunday.

Nick: Our article up on pro has a little wink to that somewhat tongue in cheek. It doesn’t seem to make too much sense really, that the NFL would have such a massive impact on sites that are predominantly European-focused. It’s not a big event in Europe in most countries. Canada is going to have a fair amount of impact, but it’s not a huge cohort of players on any of these sites, I would imagine, but it’s notable that this first idea of the NFL having an impact first surfaced exactly two years ago on another very high profile PokerStars tournament.

Mike: Yes, it was the Anniversary Edition. There was what? $10 million guaranteed. Over a million-dollar overlay in that particular tournament?

Nick: Yes, there was $1.2 million overlay, the largest I think in online poker history. Yes, it was on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s when things first— People wondered what it was. PokerStars at the time, did dismiss that as a theory and they said, “Okay, we looked at Canadian player base and their turnout was just as high. We didn’t see any dip on our game, so we don’t think it was that.”

It was pretty interesting to note that, two years later on Super Bowl Sunday and all three sites overlay. As you say, PokerStars with their Sunday Million, it has floated, and there have been two previous overlays in the last year since it switched to 109. What I think was interesting is that last Sunday was probably the absolute peak of the annual season. End of January, beginning of February is generally the highest traffic point. If all three are overlaying then, if it’s not the NFL on a frequent off, they are looking at a tough next nine months of running these tournaments.

Mike: I did some digging around to try and understand what kind of popularity the Super Bowl has outside of the US. I found some statistics and one that really jumped out at me was the percentage of viewership outside the US, care to take a guess what that might be?

Nick: Sort of, everyone who watches it, how many of them are not in the US?

Mike: Right.

Nick: If we’re including Canada, it’s outside US, which is—? I don’t know, you’ll probably say China is massive or something or Japan. I would say like 20%.

Mike: It’s, fully one-third of the audience is outside of the US. While that’s not huge, it definitely does speak to reach beyond the American borders. I think with the rise— With the popularity, maybe not even the rise, but just the popularity of sports betting, I would have to imagine that people in other countries that may not regularly watch NFL are still going to be maybe tuning in because they placed a wager on the game.

Nick: Maybe. If you’re in the UK and you just ask people in the street, ask my friends and family, not single one of them would have known that it was Super Bowl on the Sunday. They probably know what the Super Bowl is, but they wouldn’t know it was then. They wouldn’t know who was playing or what the result was, absolutely. The other thing interesting about this theory is that even if it was big, I’m not sure my default assumption is that’s a bad time to run your tournament because I think unless you’re going to big Super Bowl parties, people are going to be in watching on TV and also playing some poker on their mobile phone.

Actually, Sunday is a good day because it’s a big football day. I apologize, my sports knowledge is absolutely atrocious. I think Sunday is a pretty big football day, but I’ll just assume people are in there on their phones, placing bets and playing a bit of poker. If anything, I would think a big sporting event might be good for poker turn out. Like over-

Mike: Yes, and that’s I think the difference between Super Bowl and regular Sunday football games in the NFL. Super Bowl is more of a party atmosphere. People gather in groups and watch it. They go out to parties, they go to bars. I don’t know. It’s going to be impossible to pinpoint but I do think that there’s at least some impact. Maybe it’s just coincidence but- [crosstalk]

Nick: I think the main takeaway here is twofold. If you’re a player, Sundays right now are perhaps the most value-rich time to be playing tournaments. You can’t guarantee the PokerStars Sunday Million is going to be overlaying and I think they are definitely sensitive to these overlays. We will say their overlay was small enough that they still made a profit with their feed. They still made like $70,000 profit. It’s just that it didn’t completely cover with FA. It’s $15,000 under or something. If that happens frequently, they will switch the mood because they will change the format, but that was fairly down on Sunday.

The partypoker Million, so I noticed this excellent article on PRO that went up today. He called it probably the most +EV tournament players there’s ever been in online poker. There’s been over $1 million in overlay in the 11 times it’s run. You are guaranteed like a 10% overlay every week, effectively, which is huge. They seem to be willing to continue this for the foreseeable. The GGPoker thing again, it’s almost like they’re engineering it to make sure that there’s an overlay. They did their best yet last Sunday. I think there was—

Let’s look at these numbers. There was a $30,000 overlay. That’s still 10% though. That’s still great value for everyone who entered that tournament. They made a loss even once they put all their fee into the event. It’s been like that every week. Honestly, as we saw before, after the first week, they had a 10% overlay and then they upped the guarantee to $300,000 to basically ensure that it gets overlay.

They’re locked into doing this for the rest of the year because they’ve got a leaderboard. Yes, if you’re an MTT player, but you’re not really fussed about growing the Sunday tournament, offers are just giving away money right now. You should definitely hop on that.

Mike: What was the other thing, Nick?

Nick: Yes, the other thing is, from the industry perspective, it’ll just be interesting to see how this year unfolds, particularly with the PokerStars Sunday Million, what else they might do to try and get people in seats because traffic was— Beyond the NFL factor, this is one of the highest traffic times of the year. They’re going to go into dark days of summer. The partypoker Million, in particular, is going to go into darkness. I can’t imagine they can keep affording to put that on every week. It’ll be interesting to see how these change and evolve over the next few months.

partypoker Rolls Out New Software Features

Mike: We saw another slate of upgrades improvements, however, you want to call it, changes to the partypoker software. Just recently, this month, they’ve implemented a number of new features. This keeps in line with them innovating on their software. For over a year now, they’ve made periodic updates. It seems like almost every other month or so, but this update has a number of some big changes. Nick, what do we know about the changes that partypoker implemented into their software?

Nick: Yes. I think we said this before on this podcast. It’s so hard to keep up with all the partypoker’s changes, because they’re so frequent, and a lot of the conduit of the information can come out on Twitter often through Rob Yong on Twitter. Some things get announced and then get changed or pushed back. I think they even struggled keeping up with it this time. Article, that went out this week on PRO and I think Mike, we republished it on Pokerfuse as well this week. Is that correct?

Mike: Yes.

Nick: Check that out on Pokerfuse as well, that breaks down all the changes that we think they’ve done over the last month and a couple things that we expect them to do. Some of them include, and we’ll touch on a couple of these, but they have, we think now launched the King of the Hill system, at heads-up tables. They’ve updated their terms and conditions on third-party tools banning some more software that they’re calling queuing software, which we can explore a bit. They’ve expanded their real-name policy, which is something that they’ve done in the past, dialed back and seem to be now making mandatory, some tables.

They’ve also once again, reignited this conversation about face ID at the tables which somewhat dubious about the practicalities of but we can dive into some or any of them. What do you fancy?

Mike: Yes, let’s talk about the real names. We know that Rob Yong had, I believe, talked about it for the first time on this podcast. Is that correct?

Nick: What do you think? Yes, astute listeners, who have been with us since the beginning really. Moreover most of things we’re about to talk about here, were first talked about by Rob and Tom waters, head of poker at partypoker exclusively on this podcast seven months ago. That does a good show about how much they’re thinking ahead in the future and the things that they want to do and sometimes maybe talking a little bit too loosely about when something is going to come because they got maybe excited about a new feature or that kind of thing.

They’ll say something they’ve done and dialed back in changing. You’re absolutely right. Which one?

Mike: Real names.

Nick: Real names on the tables, that was it. What they said seven months ago is we want to do these real names on the tables wanting it— Somewhere where it absolutely makes sense is with online portions of live events. Online satellites or online day-ones, to ultimately something that filters through to a live day-two. They should all have real names on because hopefully, they will be real people.

When you get to the tournament, you should know who they are at the start and that starts online. We talked about this on the podcast and they said they wanted to do it on all games as well. I think we had some back and forth on the practicalities of that. What they actually did was they actually did roll it out first a few months ago, I think November time, on their High Stakes and their Heads-Up Games, I think, but very soon after they launched it, they made it optional.

There is now— Still, this case, let’s say there’s a $510 table, there’s an optional real names or anonymous names or screen name table. That ultimately becomes— Sometimes you can have that and then you can have their anonymous tables and they’ve got other different table types. They’ve had that for a while, but what they have done now and I think made mandatory is they now have implemented it for all their online portions of satellites and day-ones for live events. I think that is live now in the client.

Mike: Can you give tell me what their reasoning is for these particular online portions of their live events? Why do they feel it’s so important that they want to put real names on to these? They’re going to see the people show up in person anyway. I guess I’m just not getting it.

Nick: I think the idea is, in theory, they would like this. Rob certainly wanted this on all tables and all games. It should be mandatory. Why should people get to hide behind screen names? That’s the idea. I think they said at the time, the most natural first place to do this is stuff that’s going to be live because ultimately, their names will be revealed. That’s an easier transition I guess.

It’s more acceptable to the player base who are used to pseudo-anonymous names to do it on that because they will be like— I’ve got a quote here that they said at the time. Certainly, Rob was talking about this in general and saying how you should absolutely have it and the problem with anonymity data. Then Tom jumped in and said, “I think real name, it makes particularly relevant when you talk about live. When you go to a live tournament, you look at the screen, you see everybody’s names, what their seating position is, who they are.”

“In terms of qualification for these or online day-ones of these events, why are players hiding under an alias? If you think about it, it’s absolutely common sense for you to know who you’re playing in these live events and it just joins the two together.” That’s what he said.

Mike: They want people to be able to take a look ahead of time, who’s qualified on these day-ones that take place online and prepare for the live portion of the tournament?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: That’s what it sounds like. Okay, I could see that.

Nick: Yes, so we think that’s live now. Their King of the Hill system is live as well. We don’t want to get into this too much, but it’s basically just a system to try and get more people to play heads-up tables. It prevents you camping at a heads-up table. If you are sat at a heads-up table waiting for someone to play, someone seats to play, you have to play them or you get kicked off.

Traditionally, you could just sit out and sit out indefinitely until they leave and then hope for a weaker opposition to come along. King of the Hill was first introduced by PokerStars a few years ago. I think they invented the system at the time, I could be wrong about that. They definitely popularized it, I think I’m going to say 2006. Ultimately, I don’t think it works. It didn’t actually generate loads of reg on reg heads-up battles for these tables.

They ultimately switched off all traditional heads-up games entirely. A couple of years ago, they just switched to Zoom-only for heads-up. That was the end of the King of the Hill experiment, as I understand it. Partypoker have now got a King of the Hill experiment. There’s a limited number of tables, let’s say 510 and if you want one, then you might have to sit and play a reg until that reg wants to leave and then you are King of the Hill and get the table.

Mike: Listeners may not know but Nick, both you and I, back in the day played heads-up. I’m curious, has there been any feedback from heads-up players to which they prefer the fast-fold Zoom approach that PokerStars took or perhaps King of the Hill?

Nick: I genuinely don’t know. There’s a lot less chat around heads-up today. I think a lot fewer people do it than they did before. It used to be, you go on to Poker’s out lobby and there’ll be like 40 heads-up tables at one to 50 or even more and they’re just a lot of people sit and waiting for a week opposition’s to come along. I think that world has ended now. I’m not saying there aren’t heads-up pros, but I’m not quite sure how the scene has been received.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters, PokerStars would have done it anyway. King of the Hill, again when you speak to people whether they like King of the hill, if they think they wanted the best in the game, I think it’s awesome because they get to play with reg’s or get to dominate the table and then when a weak recreational comes along, they get them. If you’re a somewhat weaker reg who doesn’t have perhaps the bankroll to be doing battles, you might have just lost your entire opportunity to play those games and that’s obviously negative.

It’s hard to get real opinions from people who aren’t immediately invested into how it impacts their bottom line because it will be dramatic. Let’s say, when we used to play, it would have very much mattered at what point in my career it would have been good or bad. Depending if I was deeply rawed, it would have been awesome because I knew that even if I was slightly weaker, I could just outlast them at the table, the regs until they moved on. Starting out, it would have made it impossible.

Mike: Yes. Interesting development. All right, what else is going on over at Party? There was a whole bunch of updates. I saw they’ve implemented Run It Twice?

Nick: Yes, they have. I remember that was a few weeks ago. Now they added Run It Twice. One of those things that you surprised they didn’t have before I suppose just because I think it’s ubiquitous, but it’s probably not. I know that PokerStars and GG have— GG has Run It Thrice I think.

Yes, they got Run It Twice, so everyone likes that. They’ve got a new fastforward lobby that was fairly recently announced a blind lobby. They’ve upgraded their mobile clients. We talked about the mobile client a bit a few months ago, quite a big upgrade, but it was just for their spins games. They’ve now added fastforward games to the portrayed view. That’s a big step forward in their progress towards that.

They’ve banned queuing software which is probably not worth getting into. It’s just a piece of software that stops you entering a global— You can have a friend, let’s say, you want to sit them at spins tables. It maintains this off-book queue which—

Mike: Yes. I think we touched on that a couple of weeks back.

Nick: Did we?

Mike: We did a topic of this queuing software.

Nick: Okay, cool. PokerStars banned this a while ago. Partypoker now have— No, that’s probably partypoker who banned hearts and table selection tool. It was more like an oversight that they hadn’t included this before I think, it may be understood that this was a tool that was out there. I think there’s no public tools to do anymore but I imagine there are private tools amongst regulars at these games to try and maintain the edge, so they don’t sit each other, so that it doesn’t stop you getting on Skype and going, “Okay, I’m going to register this one, yours is the next one.” I think the idea is, you can’t join a group of 100 people and then collectively avoid each other. They’ve done—

Mike: Yes. Circumvent the system.

Nick: Yes, exactly that. They banned that. The other thing is this conversation has come out again, Rob wants to see partypoker introduce face verification at the tables. Which again is something that they talked about on the podcast seven months ago, but the conversation has reemerged following couple of tweets that Rob put out earlier this week.

Mike: I also noticed from looking through the list of updates that they now have on “in the money” indicator for their tournament players?

Nick: Yes.

Mike: Which I wanted to ask you about. Looking up and down, it goes through and it tells you at the table now so you don’t have to go to the tournament lobby, your position, the number of players remaining, the number of players that will cash, the amount of money that is currently your pay level at that time, the value of the next pay jump. I’m curious. Is this standard amongst online poker software these days? It seems like it would be very valuable for a tournament player to have right there at the table while they’re playing?

Nick: Yes. Let’s say that’s pretty standard now. It’s obviously standard that is in the tournament lobbies. It’s just made my information to a more present position. Definitely, that information is available. I’m not quite sure which sites make it the most obvious at the table, but we see more news. Like MPN, one of their last big updates, they introduced not just “in the money” indicator, but they introduced ICM calculations or— I can’t remember what it was.

Mike: Yes. I remember something about that.

Nick: Yes. It was some value that was in Barry Carter’s satellite book, wasn’t it? They introduced some metric about how well you’re doing your stack equity or something like that.

Mike: Right, yes, yes, yes.

Nick: We’ve definitely seen moves towards that and PokerStars has got— In their lobby, they’ve got a cool, “Your chip progress throughout the tournament.” You can click on any one and see how they’ve chipped up throughout the tournament. That’s pretty cool. They’ve added that.

Another big one I almost forgot. They’ve made all of their fastforward games with anti’s now. That happened this week. There’s probably half a dozen other things that they’ve done in the last month that I haven’t mentioned. As I said, very hard to keep up with constantly evolving product. Also interesting investment. I would love if they just us a daily, “This is what we’ve done now.” Email that-


Can’t complain, just making us do our jobs. That’s fine.


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.