There has been a lot of news about major live poker tournaments scheduled for 2020, Nick and Mike are back to tell you about what to expect from the partypoker Millions events and the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC). Also this week, a court ruling in New York could pose a threat to proposed online poker legislation in the state and PokerStars is trialing a controversial poker game in Spain.
Mike: Hello, and welcome, everybody, to the Pokerfuse podcast. It is February 13th, 2020. This is episode number 42. I’m your host, Mike Gentile, along with my co-host, Nick Jones. This week on the podcast, partypoker and PokerStars both have new promotions with direct links to big live events. We’ll unpack the details and take you beyond the headlines. The legality of daily fantasy sports in New York is in jeopardy. We’ll discuss why those legal woes could spell bad news for the prospects of online poker in this state.
Finally, PokerStars is trialing All-in Sit & Gos in Spain, we’ll break down the news and dive into some of the controversy surrounding the topic.
There’s been some announcements about some live poker tours that have connections back to the online poker world. Nick, what have we heard from partypoker and PokerStars?
Nick: Partypoker’s announcement this week was about the new MILLIONS passport system, which we’ll talk on briefly, but I think it was perhaps the least interesting of all this information that they put out about their MILLIONS tour this year. The passport system’s pretty cool. They just announced a new way that you can win a package that you can then use for any MILLIONS stop, so you can start off with free rolls, you progress through some phase satellites throughout the week. You can buy directly today, starting at $2 going up to $11. Win that, you can then take a step through to a semi-final, which you can also buy-in directly for $109. Every week running all year where they’ll guarantee one $10,000 package. You can’t buy-in directly to the Sunday final. That’s cool, everyone has to be qualified, the most that you can jump into is at the 109 level.
The idea with this passport is once you win it, you have 12-months to use that 10K package to enter any MILLIONS, either live tour, or also their online store, we’ll talk a bit more about that in a minute. It includes the 5K, buy-in, transport, accommodation, expenses, that kind of thing. Partypoker have been trying to do this for a while, which is a more flexible online satellite system, so you’re not locked into having to play one event if you win a satellite online.
Mike: This passport idea is not anything new in poker. We’ve seen other operators, perhaps even partypoker, I’m not sure off the top of my head, offer these types of passport- I think they even use the name passport in their promotions, offering the ability for people to pick and choose what live events they want to attend.
Nick: Yes, one time we saw this was partypoker working with the WPT three, four years ago, they had the WPT passport, pretty much exactly the same thing. They did that in 2016. But we haven’t seen them do that since this exact structure. They spent the last two-three years experimenting with this currency format, so you can play online satellites, you basically grow MY PP LIVE dollars, and went through a few other iterations on that name. Then those satellite dollars could be spent to any live package, and you can use that money as well for travel, hotel stay, any partypoker affiliated events, so it didn’t have to be MILLIONS, it could be WPT or something like that.
I think they still have the system, the satellites are still running, but I get the impression that maybe they’re phasing it out and switching over to this passport system. I prefer this passport idea because it keeps it prestigious. I think the problem with just having a separate currency is now it just feels you’re grinding dollars, which aren’t dollars you can cash out and there’s no endpoint, where this is, “Boom, wow, I’ve won this prestigious VIP package. I don’t have to deal with it all myself and use these fake dollars to buy my— It’s 10K. I’m going to have luxury travel, accommodation, buy-in to an event,” there’s a thing to shoot for, but it’s not like, I win it, I have to go to the Cyprus event or to the Vegas event. I get to pick the one that’s best for me, but you have to use it to enter a prestigious MILLIONS event. That also keeps these tournaments filled with casual players because these people are going to be shooting for these MILLIONS events winning packages, and then heading to one.
Mike: Good. In the announcement of this MILLIONS passport promotion, they also announced some new dates or some stops and dates for the MILLIONS tour.
Mike: That I’m going to guess is what you found the most interesting?
Nick: Yes, there was loads of information buried in this. I think we hit this point— Most weeks of the podcast, partypoker announce so much stuff through Twitter, or just through a blog post and then we do the job of disseminating it, which is great for us, but I think it’s hard for everyone to keep up with what they’re doing. Just a few weeks ago, they announced the first stops on the MILLIONS tour, and it was the first few months and I think the UK event was December to January. Right now running in Uruguay is their MILLIONS South America. Also they’ve got the Sochi Super High Roller Series, which is in March, they announced that. Week after that, they announced MILLIONS Cyprus which is in May, they haven’t been back there for a while.
They announced this passport thing and buried in that was they’re going to Vegas in June. They’re going to London in August even though they’re going to Prague next year in a year’s time. They put out this extra information, which is important because obviously, if you’re going to start winning a package now, you’d be like, “Cool. I’m going to save that for Prague 2021.” Obviously they felt that they needed to put out more dates, but this is all new information, all really interesting as well.
Last year was the first time that partypoker had been in the United States since pre-UIGEA, guess. They did a last-minute thing, MILLIONS Vegas, leading into or during the WSAP. They said it was a one-off. They’ve announced it again this year. Looking at the dates here on their website, it’s from the 1st to the 30th of June. They’re planning a pretty good big thing. I think it’s at the ARIA.
Mike: They’ve been doing the WPT 500 at ARIA for a while, but this is probably their first big major tour stop.
Nick: Yes. It’s the first one under the partypoker brand. Last year was the first one under the MILLIONS partypoker brand and they’re repeating that again. They’re big 5K buy-in events, big top prize again, they all have a $5 million guarantee. That’s in June. MILLIONS London, again, they haven’t taken the partypoker MILLIONS brand to London for a very long time from what I could work out. Perhaps never, normally when they’re in the UK, they’re in Nottingham, which in the Dusk Till Dawn casino, which Rob Yong has connections with. This is going to be in August. Again, a £5 million guarantee, £5000 buy-in. That’s really interesting. Then Prague, I don’t think they’ve ever been to Prague because normally when they go to Czech Republic, it’s in Rozvadov, so that’s a new stop for them as well. This trio of new events were revealed.
Mike: The announcement of MILLIONS online returning?
Nick: Yes. I think we’ve written about this a few months ago, it was definitely going to happen again. They did leak a bit of information here and there. We also guessed that it would return to a 5K buy-in. It went to 10K for the last couple of years. Now it’s going to go back to the 5K. That’s all been confirmed, but the big thing is that they apparently revealed that it’s going to be a September date. The last three times, it’s been kind of on its own in an early December slot. This is now moving to September, which fits in more with when the big annual online series happen.
Mike: I think we even discussed the timing of their December slot in the past. Maybe even thinking that they were alone in running this big event during that time period and that maybe it was beneficial for them. Obviously they think that being paired up with the other big online tournament series during that September timeframe is probably going to be more advantageous and get more people to the tables.
Nick: The website just says— It’s got the dates 1st to the 30th, but I think that’s just a broad month range, it says, “Exact dates to be confirmed.” All it says is there’s going to be a $5,300 buy-in main event. You can use your passport to buy into this now because, with an online event, there’s not going to be travel or expenses or accommodation. If you use your passport for this, you will also gain entry to- I think either a reentry to the tournament or a side event. There’ll be another high-stakes side event event that you can enter. That’s if you choose to use your passport for this. You’ll get all that.
Mike: Wow, that’s quite a change for party. It will be interesting to see how well they play with others and being in that crowded time period. I would anticipate that they will be announcing that date sometime soon. I wouldn’t think they’d wait too long for that. We will definitely be looking out for that.
Nick: Yes, it’s definitely worth just reflecting on. This year, including the UK that’s just completed, we’re talking eight flagship tournaments around the world in three continents, including the Caribbean Poker Party, where they’re going to Russia, Cyprus, Vegas, London, and then probably January, February next year, Prague. That’s a big tour. Compared to the European Poker Tour, which is three stops this year they’ve announced, I think it was four last year. Again, it’s one of those things that I felt maybe they buried the story here because this is a huge deal and a huge commitment. Seven, eight stops, all with $5 million guarantees, three continents around the world, passport system where you can enter anything. I think it’s a big deal that seems to be buried a bit perhaps.
Mike: Okay, well, speaking of EPT, we also had an announcement from PokerStars come out regarding some of their live events specifically the PSPC. What did they tell us this week, Nick?
Nick: Speaking of EPT and also speaking of burying the lede, not— It seemed to release a really key piece of information, a real headlining feature buried away in this time as a small Twitter video, but they basically confirmed late last week, not confirmed, like revealed that they will give away more Platinum Passes to the upcoming PSPC than they did the first time around, which it can’t really state how much of a commitment that is. It was 320 they gave the very first time, and they’re saying it’ll be more than 320 this year, which is like $10 million worth of giveaways to this tournament.
Mike: That’s huge. We had discussed before that perhaps they didn’t want to continue this trend of always trying to do better than the year prior. Maybe that’s some of the reasoning for not putting this up in the headlines, more Platinum Passes will be awarded this year than last year. That could potentially be one of the reasons that we didn’t see that particular aspect of this giveaway being the headlining feature.
Nick: One thing they’re not doing this year is they haven’t got a million dollars added to the first place prize. So maybe if they start talking numbers out of the gate, that’ll be the thing that people will go like, “Oh, well, you’re not doing this.” The other thing is the first six months, we’re six months in since they announced it, it’s five months until the tournament begins. They’ve only given away 100 in the first six months. The way they’ve given it away has been very interesting. It seems to be almost entirely focused on live.
It’ll be both their existing live stops and specific tours. They have the road to the PSPC tour, mostly in Europe, they’re not doing it on the US like they did with the Moneymaker tour in the US, obviously because they’re focusing on European players in Barcelona rather than the Caribbean. They have MoneyMaker over the US doing tours and some of their local investors doing tours as well. There has been a lot given away that way through the live routes, and a lot less online.
We saw the first time around, they would give away Platinum Passes to the winner of the WCOOP leaderboard and the winner of the main event at WCOOP, even the small ones like Turbo Series and stuff. To my knowledge, they’ve done none of that this time around. Other than they had some MegaPath satellites which are still live and still pretty value-rich from what we can see, it (a) there hasn’t been that many and just been a lot less buzz. Anyway, they come out and said, “We’re going to give away another 220” in basically the next 180, 190 days. So 1.3 a day, 10 a week, Platinum Passes will be given out, and $6 million worth of Platinum Passes will be distributed over the next five months or so.
Mike: I’ve got two thoughts on that, both in the timing and also with the way that they’re giving away the Platinum Passes. I’ll start with the timing. I think it’s actually brilliant. I think if they had evenly distributed those over the course of the year, that they would have lost out on the opportunity to create a huge buzz, but here we are five months, six months left before this event, and they still have two-thirds of the passes to give away. I think that really is going to create a lot of excitement and gives them the opportunity to capture a lot of the attention of the poker world over that period of time.
Nick: Yes, I don’t disagree with that. Absolutely makes sense to load most of them at the end, but I still feel like where are the headlines and where is the press release and stuff going, $6 million worth Platinum Passes to be given away over the next six months. They’re just starting to ramp up. The reason why they released some of these numbers is because they’re running Platinum Madness for the next three weeks. They’re in fact giving away 42 Platinum Passes over the next 21 days, half of them interested in the French and Spanish market, which is a lot for a much smaller market because then it’s 21 in the.com market. Again, it’s just a huge number in France and Spain in comparison relative. They’re ramping up that way but again, it’s left to us to unpick and work backward and go, “Holy crap, that’s, A, more than last time.” They’re not saying, “We’re giving away more than last time.” It’s all things they’re saying, like this promotion in Spain and France is worth over €500,000. Well, the Platinum Passes alone are worth 550 and on top of that, there’s all these other prizes. It just still feels understated to me, I guess.
Mike: Okay. With regard to the way that they’re giving them away, the thing that jumps out at me is last time, we saw the winner of this event also gets a Platinum Pass and it seemed like they were handing them out more to people that had done well in some of their events, which probably leads to having more skilled players in the field, where it feels like this time, the methods that they’re using to give these away rely less on Poker skill and as a result, will make the field a lot more recreational player heavy.
Nick: Yes, I think that makes sense. The issue is the reason why you want to make it recreational player heavy is so that the professional players realize that they’re coming directly to buy-in. If you’re doing it all- and maybe it’s just my perspective in the social media that I read in the forums that I read, but when it’s a live event, although you might catch a moment that goes on YouTube, you’re not going to get somebody— If it was given away to someone on Twitter, they’re going to be out on Twitter going, “This is amazing,” and it’s going to get retweets, and it’s going to amplify. Whereas if it’s live, and it’s just given away in a stop where there’s no journalists, there’s a couple of hundred people playing a tournament, it’s not going to create any buzz to the wider world, at least from my perspective.
The issue there is, again, we did a Twitter thread this week, we’ve got great news articles on Pokerfuse all about this and saying like, “Hey, there’s going to be a lot of value in this tournament. If you’re a high stakes player, and you entered the Barcelona,” and people went and bought into the 25K event and say, like, it felt like a $500 event, that’s because a third of the field had these passes away, and they might even be more casual player-friendly. We know for a fact now more than 320 are going to be ultimately casual players. Last time around, that attracted some 700 direct entries or satellite qualifies for real money. They need to get that message out if they want that same number again.
Mike: That’s a good point. I think, and I’m not maybe I’m putting them on the spot by throwing this out there but I think we’re going to see a lot more of the PSPC promotions throughout social media as the date grows near. I expect that we’re going to see more of the nonpoker competition type of giveaways that they did last year. I remember Liv and Igor did that one puzzle challenge or the questions and stuff. We saw Joey do the— That wasn’t planned, but we saw Joey and the giveaway around Christmas time with that Platinum Pass there that ultimately got him out to the PSPC as well.
I expect that we’re going to see a lot more away from the table giveaways. I have to assume they’re going to rely on social media to get the word out and perhaps even as part of the competition as one of the mechanics participating through social media, which will then hopefully spread the word to the professionals and get the field to be even bigger than it was in January, yes, last year now, January 2019.
Nick: We had an adverse court decision from New York state which although doesn’t directly pertain to online poker, Mike, you think may have negative consequences potentially?
Mike: I really do. What happened is the state of New York daily fantasy sports, they had legalized that back in 2016 after, I’m not sure if listeners will recall, that there was a big upheaval where the Attorney General in New York set came out and said that daily fantasy sports contests were illegal. Lawmakers got together, they passed a law declaring it legal, licenses were issued and such and the industry continued on. Two years later, there was a challenge saying that that law was unconstitutional because the constitution in New York has restrictions on the expansion of gambling.
They ended up winning that case, it moved on to an appeal. That is the decision that we recently got and the appellate court upheld the decision of the lower court saying yes, in fact, the lawmakers overstepped their bounds by saying that DFS contests are legal.
Nick: This all relates to defining a betting contest is a contest of skill or not, is that right?
Mike: Right. That was the justification that they used in order to make these games legal. They said these are games of skill, not games of chance, therefore they do not fall under the state definition of gambling and are not prohibited by the constitution.
Nick: Just reading this, the court decision to uphold basically, overturning that, they’re basically saying that although there might be skill, that doesn’t mean that there’s no chance and ultimately the two can coexist, and it’s still going to be a chance game.
Mike: Right. If we think back to 2012, wow, it’s a long time now, there was the famous de Christina case. That was a federal case, which just happened to be in the district in New York. The judge then came out and said that skill was predominant in poker. They don’t distinguish in any of the laws in New York, what is the advantage of being predominant or just having an element of chance, but the appellate court came out and said, just because there is skill involved doesn’t mean it’s not gambling, and therefore DFS is illegal. The problem that raises for online poker is the bill that— There’s two bills actually in both state houses that are circulating, rely on the argument that poker is a skill game in order to try and make it legal.
Nick: Okay. You’re thinking that being that we’ve got this ruling that, okay, even if there’s skill, if there’s chance involved, it’s a chance thing, so you can’t get around our constitutional banning of state games, that’s going to apply to any attempt of poker. Do you think it’s basically going to stop this bill debt, like there’s a chance that just won’t progress given there’s this ruling on that docket?
Mike: Well, there’s definitely a chance that will happen. The other interesting piece of this is there is also an online sports betting bill circulating throughout New York. What they did is very different to what they did with the poker bill. Oddly enough, they both have the same sponsor. Why they took two different tax with these two different bills, I’m not sure, but the mobile sports betting proposed legislation states that they’re not trying to legalize this because it’s a game of skill, but what they’re saying is they’re just adding on to the games that are being offered by the casinos in the state that are already authorized to allow gambling. My thought was, why didn’t they use that logic in the bill for poker? They may still be able to modify it, amend it and change it so that that’s the direction that that bill takes. They could say, “Hey, listen, these casinos are already authorized to allow gambling, we’re just adding internet gambling to that.”
Whereas the sports betting aspect of that is relying on that and that should be fine, but with poker, they’re looking at the skill aspect to try and get that past the state legislature and get the bill on to the governor’s desk.
Nick: You’ve got it written in the article which is available to read both on Pro and Pokerfuse. It was the whole- you’re just adding it on to existing gambling, is the argument used successfully in New Jersey to pass all manner of online gaming, right? It’s the argument that the bet takes place where the servers are, will keep the servers in Atlantic City in casinos that are already licensed. Therefore online is just an extension of what we already have legally live.
Mike: Yes, I find that argument— That is the argument that they’re using. Since the transaction takes place at the server and if we mandate that the servers are located in the casino, then technically there is no additional gambling being authorized. It’s just a new game being put out by the casino, which is not restricted under the constitution. The reason that I find that argument amusing is they have used that in New Jersey to get around a constitutional restriction there that gambling be limited to Atlantic City. They also use— If the transaction happens at the server, then how is offshore online gambling illegal because that would then be happening in the country where the servers are located, but instead, it seems like they’re playing both sides of that argument in order to get around their own restrictions and in order to put up barriers to people wanting to gamble at offshore sites.
Nick: It’s funny because, ultimately they have a court ruling that upheld the 2018 decision, saying, skill and chance are not mutually exclusive. They often coexist and just because you’ve got some skill in the game doesn’t mean that there’s no chance. They’re right, aren’t they? If you were to apply that to poker, this is the whole question of, is poker game of skill or a chance? Yes, it’s both of them to a high degree, there’s a lot of short-term luck, and there’s a lot of long-term skill.
Ultimately, when you get into these arguments, it just comes down to where do you want to put the line? Is it after one day, one week, one year? It just becomes a longevity question. Ultimately, the game has both a high amount of skill and luck in there to separate properties to a game. You can have a game that’s all skill and very little luck, like chess, and you can have a game that’s all luck and very little skill like Ludo and you can have a game that has neither skill or luck, like Noughts and Crosses or something. I think poker is on the other end of those that Dutch dual access perspective that yes, it’s all skill and all luck, it has both of them.
Mike: Yes, it’s I think very difficult to argue that any game is completely void of an element of chance. Perhaps chess is that game, you would probably know that a bit better than I would. I’m less familiar with chess. Yes, there’s always going to be luck and chance in any game. I look at gambling, and I’ve always had a more broader view of the term gambling. Are business investments gambling? you’re putting up something of value in order to get something in return that is unknown. You’re advertising a hot dog special at your restaurant, is that not gambling? You’re investing your money to send out flyers or to promote to advertise the special that you have and you’re not sure how people are going to respond. I guess legally, there’s probably better arguments that would narrow the scope of gambling to these particular games but I find it quite problematic that they are applying the definition so broadly here.
Nick: I think any definition has to be something along the lines of- regardless of how much short term a game can have, can a person’s skill and strategy long-term overcome it? Something along those lines would be inclusive to sports betting, daily fantasy sports, but wouldn’t still include things like blackjack or maybe I suppose you can still have card counting in blackjack and maybe it wouldn’t include, say, roulette which even if you make not the really fishiest bets, your skill is never going to overcome it to the point that you can have a long-term profitable strategy. Anyway, that’s New York.
Mike: Speaking of the balance between skill and luck in poker, we also heard recently that PokerStars is trialing a new game in Spain that looks to be predominantly luck-based. Is that correct, Nick?
Nick: I think you could probably go as far as to say 100% luck in this case. Yes, you’re absolutely right. All-In Sit & Gos are trialing in Spain for real money. They initially launched with a big tab in the lobby. Within a day or two, it was removed to make way for a new tournament series they got there, but the tournament is still listed in the lobby. As the name would suggest, you will go all-in every hand. There is no decision at all to the game. It’s basically a lottery, A coin flip. They have heads up tables up to eight max tables, and they’re all winner-takes-all.
Mike: Wow. It’s all-in every hand every player or it’s you get to choose all in or fold?
Nick: Literally, there’s no decision. It’s just all-in every hand. In fact, as we understand, once you’ve entered the tournament, you don’t even have to be logged in for it to play out and complete. It is literally a lottery system.
Mike: I remember these types of games being used for promotions in their rewards program. Is that correct?
Nick: Yes. We’ve, in fact, seen this format. Firstly, probably it’s just good to just underline what you said before. Very much, lots of operators have all-in or fold games. That’s where you get a decision pre-flop to go all-in or fold, so you get one decision. PokerStars has that. Other operators have that. This is different in the sense of there’s no decisions in them at all. With that said, we have seen these. PokerStars does have them in MTTs, they’re normally as you say used in promotions. Maybe if you win, you complete your mission, you’ll get a ticket to an all-in freeroll, they’re called, and they will have top prizes. Again, they’re just ways to distribute money randomly, but you could if you wanted to sweat your all-ins and see how it goes, but it’s ultimately just a lottery.
Lots of operators have these. They’re a good way, good promotional mechanic to distribute the money. I think the WSAP actually has them and it has all-in satellites that are free to enter— No, I think they might actually cost to enter, but they’re rake-free and they’re all-in satellites to big online MTT events. Other operators have that. We’ve seen this idea around. We haven’t seen these raked on-demand Sit & Gos. I actually posted a thread on Twitter and got some loads of interaction on there, lots of people with their opinions, as you can imagine on this format. People did point out some case where other people who’ve got this- some of the US-facing sites have this, Bovada has exactly this format I think, the Chico Poker Network as well. There are some of the smaller sites or lesser established sites that have this. But for a dot com operator, I think that they’re the only operator today who has a format like this.
Mike: I would imagine that the reaction of the poker community is going to be pretty harsh on this, if it were to be rolled out worldwide. Just looking at the test market in Spain, do we expect that they’re going to roll this out everywhere or is this just going to be a short-lived little run in a small market that they are ultimately going to decide isn’t right for the wider global market?
Nick: It’s interesting. There’s lots of aspects to this. As it stands right now, we couldn’t find any information on the Spanish website about this even in the client other than one message saying, “Hey, try out these new tournaments.” They’re buried away. You’d have to know they were there. It took us ages to observe one of these games kicking off because they did not fire off frequently which is not surprising. They’re pretty hard to find. You have to filter them out in a Sit & Go lobby. You can find them under events and there’s a sub-tab for them. We have observed one. They took a long time. They’re not really firing off. The big thing here is the rake. If these were rake-free, like coin flips, I think people would probably say they’re a good thing. They’re absolutely not rake-free. They are up to 10% rake at the low stakes.
Mike: Just to compare, a normal Sit & Go is around 10% rake. Correct?
Nick: Yes. At the absolute maxed out dimension. I’m not entirely sure about the ones in Spain is going to be high raking dotcom, but traditionally, you’re in the 6%, 7%, 8%, maybe 12% in the micro stakes, being that this is a game that lasts seconds, ultimately. In a heads up, it’s probably going to be one hand. If you’re even there to sweat it, literally seconds, and an eight max one. They’re probably mostly going to be one hand. You’ll get some splits sometimes. You might get two or three hands, but that’s it. It’s 5% of the highest stakes and they have them from 10 cents all the way up to €250 buy-in, heads up up to eight max or a winner takes all.
If these were raked at 1% or 0.5% I think there’ll be more of a discussion within the poker playing community about these. Whether these will roll out or not, I guess, just depends on how successful they are. As someone pointed out to me on Twitter, Robbie Strazynski had a good point where he said, “No one’s up in arms when PokerStars has a new slot game,” That’s absolutely right. That’s how we should look at this.
There are two points to that. One is this very much looks like a poker game. It’s in a tab. It’s sat next to other poker games. It looks like a poker lobby. It’s the same lobby. It’s the same design. It’s the same rake. It’s just there are no decisions in it. I assume this is regulated under poker regulations. I might be wrong about that but I assume it’s in the poker lobby. It’s not in the casino tab, it’s not in the sports tab, it’s in the poker tab. Ultimately it looks like a poker game, but it’s not, I guess would be some people’s problems.
Mike: I wonder if part of the testing that’s actually going on in Spain is not just about how the audience or the players in Spain take to the game, but maybe just to float the idea to the more general poker community and see what the reaction is going to be. I wonder if their testing is limited to just the popularity of the game or if they’re also testing to see what the reaction of the wider global market might be.
Nick: Well, it’s never going to be positive, is it, from a poker customer base. Again, even if it was raked to 1%, it’s going to be negative because people are just going to go, “LOL, it’s a casino game. rake stars, blah, blah, blah.” I think even if we put that hat aside and look at it through the perspective of, “Is this good for poker?” I think most people would say, “No.” Just from the perspective of, “Is this good for business, for the PokerStars business,” even forgetting the long-term of a poker player’s wallet, I question whether a game at 10% rake like this makes sense. I mean, when you think about casino games, it’s hard to come up with one where the house take is higher than 10% of any game in a casino. The only one I know of definitely is Keno and I don’t know anything, but that’s basically a lottery, isn’t it right?
Nick: I don’t know. Other than that, if you think of slots like online slots and I had to look into this, but they’re around the 4% or 5% mark on a spin. Obviously, roulette is 2.7% or 5.4% depending on if it’s one or two zeros. You look at blackjack and we’re going down to 0.5% depending on the makeup of the deck. It can be as low as 0.1%. Video poker is nearly always under 1%. Craps bets are somewhere between break even. I mean, there’s some really bad bets at the craps table, aren’t there? Mostly, you can bet 1% or 1.5%. Baccarat is 1%, so this is 5% to 10%, so it’s on the high end of even slots.
The other factor I was thinking about this was that the ones which do cost more, they normally have a jackpot prize. Slots are one of the more expensive games, but people are willing to do that because the variance is high because you can hit a jackpot. Whereas, the games which are a bit more grindy and you double your buy and you triple your buy-in like craps or blackjack have a much lower house edge.
This game is very similar I think to the variants of blackjack in that you’re going to bet and you’re going to win or lose. If you enter a 4X game, you might- multiple it by four obviously and up to 8X. 8X is a big blackjack hand where you split and double, so it’s like blackjack, but it’s 10 to 20 times the cost of a blackjack hand.
I assume there’s a reason why experts that are in online gambling games don’t have slots for the 20% house edge. They’ve all seemed to solidify around the 5% or 6% mark and blackjack is 1% or more. There’s a reason for that and that is that’s the right amount to keep people in these games and give them a good chance of winning, but still making a nice rake from it. I’m no expert in house banked games, but it just seems way too high. It seems out of whack of other games of this type in a casino.
Mike: Has there been any word at all from PokerStars on this?
Nick: I mean, zero. We spotted this. We wrote it up and haven’t seen anyone spot it even though it’s there and alive in the PokerStars client. We’ve seen a few of these games pop off and that’s been it. Other people have written it up based on our articles in my Twitter thread, but that’s about it. I can understand if they’re launching this to see the uptake and see the response. They don’t want to promote it. It’s never going to get a positive feedback.
Again, they’re not going to promote to us and other poker media, “Hey, we got this new slot in the casino.” They might push that to casino affiliates. This is in that, I suppose, quasi-land where you can’t really promote it to anybody because it’s a poker game and it’s never going to get the support of the poker community. It’s funny because they still have Tempest in the casino.
Now, that’s in the poker room. Tempest is an all-in or fold game with very high variants and that’s still there, but it’s still a poker game. Another thing I was thinking was that, if you’re going to have this, all-in or fold, why not have it in Spin & Gos because at least that has a really big jackpot and it’s something to sweat, right? You don’t have your Spin & Go for a euro and then you’re watching the spinner, “Oh, it’s 100X, that’s exciting.” You sweat whether you win it and you’re all-in or fold. Again, that’s a bit more like a slot then because there’s a high chance of win.
These, it’s just like, “I’m going to sweat whether I double my 10 cents to 18 cents. It’s obvious you’ve just paid 2 cents for that. It doesn’t seem the way to implement a casino game, but I’ll hold my hands up here and say obviously I’m not an expert in this area. It just seems out of whack.
Mike: I saw some people on social media taking exception to the way they were promoting, the language that they were using to promote these games.
Nick: The only mention of this game anywhere is in the lobby in Spanish. It says at the top, sometimes they’ll promote like Bounty Builders Series running now, they’ve got this thing saying, “Try our new All-in Sit & Gos,” and it says something along the lines of, “Build your bankroll to a high level with this new exhilarating new format.” Something like that, which again, it very much implies that this is a poker game.
Mike: Interesting. PokerStars will definitely make a decision whether or not to roll this out widely or to pull it from Spain. I guess they could also decide to just keep it there, but that’s probably not so likely. We will be on the lookout to see if the All-in Sit & Gos get spread on their global clients.
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.