Unibet Poker is celebrating its 6th birthday. Nick and Mike take a look what makes Unibet special and what players on the platform can expect in the future.

PokerStars has begun offering direct satellites into the 2020 PSPC, the guys tell you how you can qualify for those satellites and breakdown the number of Platinum Passes given away so far.

And finally, PokerStars has gone live with its new side bet feature. The guys breakdown how this new feature works and opine on the likelihood of its success.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome everybody to the Pokerfuse podcast. It is February 26, 2020. This is episode number 44 I’m your host Mike Gentile, along with my co-host, Nick Jones.

This week on the podcast, Unibet Poker is celebrating its sixth birthday. We take a look back at their successes over that time as well as what players can expect in their seventh year.

Online poker players can now satellite directly to PSPC 2020. We have all the details on these new satellites, and how even small bankroll players can qualify. Plus we’ll update you on the progress of the Platinum pass giveaways from PokerStars and take a look at where and how Platinum passes have been distributed so far.

Finally, the new side bet feature by PokerStars is going live in the global .com market. We’ll break down how this feature works and offer opinions on its potential success.

Unibet Poker Turns 6 Years Old

Last week, we talked about one of the online poker rooms having a birthday, Run It Once turned one. This week, we are going to touch on another milestone for another online poker operator, and that is Unibet.

Nick: Yes, so Unibet are celebrating their six years of operating their independent online poker room. Time flies, I can remember just yesterday when they launched their new software, and how much of a change it was back then. Some of the things that they did. Honestly, six years later, it’s still pretty unique. Definitely seen some operators take some of the ideas of their client, and integrated them.

Run It Once being perhaps the most obvious example, so six years and still going strong. It’s an operator that is still probably third tier, we’d consider it, but growing every year. Growing their cash games and tournaments every year. It’s really good to see them celebrating their sixth year.

Mike: Just for the listeners that may not be aware, this is six year of their independent online poker room. They had in a previous iteration been on, I believe it was the MPN Network, is that right?

Nick: Yes, that’s it. They were skiing on MPN up until 2014. They’re a long-established European online gambling company. I can’t think when they would have first launched online poker but a pretty long time ago. They were definitely languishing on the MPN six years ago, so they took that leap. Probably the project must have started eight years ago, honestly, working with an independent company called Relax Gaming to build from scratch a new poker product, basically. That’s what they did. They launched, on to that new platform, migrated their players over six years ago this month, and have been just developing and iterating on that product since.

Mike: Nick, what would you say are some of the main differences between the online poker platform that Unibet has developed, and say, some of the big guys like PokerStars, partypoker?

Nick: The one thing that still stands out that the major operators still don’t do is having an entirely blind lobby. There’s no list of tables, there’s no table or seat selection. You choose the game you want to play, you choose the stakes you want to play, and you hit a button, and then you’re taken to a table. It’s a format that all operators have in some guys for some of their games, so with all PokerStars’ new games, they have that kind of blind Lobby system.

I’m sure there would have been some operators that had it before Unibet. I don’t think they were first ever to do it, but their platform is 100% designed in that way. Run It Once has done similar things as they’ve come along, but none of the major operators— It looks like PokerStars were moving towards that, but it seems like they’ve shied away from that. That still stands out. They still have anonymous tables.

They still don’t even have hand histories. Though I think that’s something they’re looking to address this year. Entirely anonymous tables, or at least you can change your screen name whenever you like. They also have a very limited selection of games as well, so they chose, and still have today, a very narrow band of stakes. Definitely focused in the micro stakes to small stakes. They might have one mid stake, just no limit on PLO.

Even with their tournament offerings, they have their Banzai tournaments, a few Sit & Go’s and recently, their HexaPro lottery Sit & Go. Although they were pretty late to the party launching there. Very narrow band of products that they want to offer their poker players.

Mike: No hand histories then means no tracking, I would assume. Correct?

Nick: Yes, and that was also something that made them stand out six years ago, was a complete ban on any third party tools whatsoever. That still stands, and as I say, I believe they are talking about— They want to add in hand histories, but after the fact so people can import their hands and review their play, but it would still be no HUDs, obviously no seat selection tools, were nullified by the lobby that they have. Nothing that interfaces with their product whatsoever.

Again, that’s the trend that we’ve seen over the last few years. Most operators have restricted the tools that are allowed. Partypoker particularly are no HUD now, no seating scripts. PokerStars are moving in that direction, but Unibet were definitely ahead of the curve with that, and we’ve seen some of the larger operators move in that way. If not go to the full extreme that Unibet are at.

Mike: With me being in the US, I haven’t had a chance to actually get on the platform and play it. I’m wondering, first of all, Nick, if you have, and if you have, how’s the playing experience? We’ve seen Aurora, or PokerStars roll out their game engine Aurora. We’ve seen Run It Once put an emphasis on animation and just cool things for players at the tables. Now we’re seeing partypoker moving in a similar direction with their mobile client. How’s the playing experience over in Unibet?

Nick: I think the desktop perspective, and I can only really talk with much experience comparing desktop clients, I think it’s very good. Although I do think that I like PokerStars’ Aurora game engine. I think that has a good feel to as well. I think Run It Once is perhaps best in class. I don’t really get a chance to play on the Winamax one that much, but t hat’s pretty well regarded.

The thing with the Unibet one when it first launched, because I think they were so quick to bring it to market, it was pretty rough around the edges. In the last few years, I think they’ve made quite a lot of improvements to it. It’s a good experience. It’s pretty unique. Like, they have quite a cartoony look and feel, which is a bit different perhaps, unlike slightly more serious feel that you get from the PokerStars and partypoker clones, so yes, I think it’s good.

It certainly resonates with players. That’s the real story here. Kindred Group, Unibet’s parent company, launched their financial results last week for 2019. Poker, although is still a very small part of their portfolio, it should be pointed out, has grown like— It’s time we look at the graph here. The last five years, it has grown every year, the amount of revenue they’ve generated from poker in the region of like 10% to 20%— Oh no, I should say 20% to 30% every single year since 2015, which is well outside what anyone else in the industry is reporting.

It’s even now outside what Kindred Group is doing in their wider portfolio, so it used to be the case, sports and casino grew 15%, 20%. Poker came along for the ride, and you could just say that’s just a bigger customer base, and more of them are coming into the poker product. Kindred Group overall had a pretty bad 2019, but the poker just continued growing. Talking about numbers, they did over £20 million in revenue, which is close to— Was that, $28 million in revenue in 2019?

It’s like three times what they did five or six years ago when they moved off MPN. Just from a pure revenue standpoint, it’s been hugely successful. It’s still only like 2%, 2.5% of their company portfolio. Kindred Group is massive when it comes to sports and casino, but it’s growing on its own, it’s bringing in players to the brand absolutely. Just on that raw number, honestly, that’s probably half the size of what 888 does in terms of poker.

I would perhaps think 888 is five to 10 times larger. They have a huge brand. Their poker has always been massive, but Unibet is catching up to them. As I say, still third tier. It’s not like what The Stars Group does in terms of online poker, but it’s significant and it’s growing, and it’s growing consistently every quarter, every year.

Mike: Those revenue figures are comparable to New Jersey, which I think their annual revenue last year was somewhere in the ballpark of 20 million.

Nick: Right, yes, they do.

Mike: Interesting to see them operating on the global market. It gives a bit of perspective I guess to some of the US markets that we’re seeing here. What do you think is next on the road map for you Unibet? What should players be looking forward to as they enter their seventh year? Is there any major developments that we expect to see anytime soon?

Nick: Yes, they’ve talked about hand histories that they want to add. They have talked about a new rewards program, so revamping the rewards program. Haven’t revealed at all what that will look like and that might have been pushed back to late this year or 2021 now. Continued iterative developments on the platform, but they haven’t said anything major that’s coming. I guess continuing to do what is working for them. They’ve got a live series, I think it’s in Dublin now, which I don’t actually— If you saw, Mike, the news yesterday that, Viktor Blom is in Dublin to play the Unibet open. I saw that news in the media yesterday.

Mike: I did not. I wonder if he’ll be playing on a live stream in real-time with no delay.

Nick: [laughs] I’m not sure if there’s something going on there behind the scenes between Isildur1 and the Unibet team in terms of an ambassadorship or something. It wouldn’t seem like he would line up really with what Unibet do in terms of their streams and whatnot. It seems like an interesting place for him to surface, to play not a nosebleed tournament. I’ve had a kind of middle of the road tournament.

Mike: Has he had any connections to Unibet in the past?

Nick: Man, when I when I read this I-

Mike: I want to say, yes, but I’m not sure.

Nick: Yes, I think so as well. I can’t remember why. [laughs] Maybe our listeners can tell us. I did a real quick look at his Twitter profile because it’s one of those names where it’s a hard— I can’t think what stories he’s been involved with in the last five years. It was like seven, eight years ago, he was a PokerStars’ ambassador then Full Tilt ambassador. Since then, he’s definitely been off my radar.

Mike: That joke I made about the live stream, that actually happened and I almost want to say that he was playing on Unibet? I’m not quite sure. It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Isildur1. It will be interesting to see him. When is that tournament in Dublin?

Nick: Now.

Mike: Oh, it’s happening.

Nick: It started today, Wednesday, runs through to, I guess, Saturday or Sunday. If I answer your bigger question, I think they’ll continue doing what they’re doing. They’re still promoting HexaPro a lot. They’ve got that standalone client, which is been rolled out some of the Kindred’s casino brands. That could bring in more, more poker players to the tables, more live stops and I guess just continued growing.

It’ll be really interesting to see in 2020 if just the same again is enough to keep their revenue growing because there’s hope. It keeps going like this in two or three years, they will be up there at least in like the second tier up there with 888 and partypoker in terms of just raw revenue generation. I think it’s a brand that players really like, that’s it. They’re not that splashy.

They’re not going around signing up a dozen Twitch ambassadors to get the name out or having these huge— I couldn’t tell you how much that Sunday— I think it’s called the SuperNova tournament series, that tournament on Sunday, how much it guarantees, but it’s not a GG Masters or a crazy partypoker MILLION or anything. They’re just doing their own thing, running a profitable business and seem to do quite well out of it.

Mike: One thing that I’ve seen that sets them apart is their sponsored pros, the way that they use their ambassadors, I think it has withstood the past few years, the test of time, I guess. I think that they have this cohesive team-like feel that, I don’t know, I don’t see in some of the bigger operators and they also sponsor their podcast, Chip Race, which is hosted by their ambassadors as well. I think they’re doing a lot of interesting stuff in the way of marketing with professionals that maybe some of the bigger rooms can learn from.

Nick: Also, we should just finish with, for their six-year birthday, they’re running promotions. If you’ve got an account or interested, you can check them out. Honestly, they run these promotions every month. They’re always pretty cool, always give away like €100,000. It’s not once in a lifetime thing, but their promotion is super simple. If you’re playing on their cash game tables, they are dropping random prizes at the tables, giving away $90,000 over the next six weeks.

You don’t have to do anything at all other than sit and play. Most of the prizes are going out to like the nano stakes and micro stakes players. You sit at a table and you might get like €100,000 price. They’re running that, I want to say from now, for the next five-six weeks, so check that out if you want to help Unibet celebrate their sixth birthday.

Direct Satellites to PSPC 2020

The ramp-up to the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship 2020 in Barcelona continues. We now have direct satellites, Mike, that you can buy into to start your journey to the PSPC, is that right?

Mike: Yes, PokerStars has made these direct satellites available. €1,050 buy-in is the price tag. Players can also win their way into these satellites for— The qualifiers start at— I’m never sure how to say this, €0.55. Is that the correct way of-?

Nick: €0.55, I guess.

Mike: Okay, whatever it is, that’s the number. They also have Freebuys. Freebuys are guaranteeing at least one seat into the €0.55 buy-in qualifiers. There’s rebuys and add-ins. I think those are like €0.11 for those Freebuy tournaments. They’re making it easier for players to qualify with poker-related paths to Platinum passes. It is really the big takeaway for me.

Nick: I think we talked on this podcast a week or two weeks ago about how it’s been a lot more live-focused in terms of the Platinum passes that they’ve given away or just about the direct buy-ins. It’s €1,000 to buy in directly. Obviously, the pass is valued at €25,000 or €22,500, something like that?

Mike: €26,000?

Nick: That’s a €26,000- [crosstalk]

Mike: The pass itself, the package because there are packages given away, right?

Nick: Yes. Are they guaranteeing a seat in each of these direct buy-in satellites or is it just-?

Mike: Yes. I believe they’re guaranteeing one pass for each of these satellites. I think they had announced six when they first came out. One has already taken place. That one took place on the 16th of February. They had a total of 57 entries and two Platinum passes were awarded.

Nick: Okay, so that answers my next question. I was going to say— Still worth keeping an eye on these, we’ve got an article up on Pokerfuse if you want a lot more details on this. When we’ve seen them do the Mega Path satellites before, they were definitely spots of value they where they were guaranteeing passes and seemingly not getting anywhere near the number of people to cover. Obviously, that doubled the guarantee, but maybe in a couple of weeks, the interest goes down, and there might be some value opportunities for these satellite buy-ins.

Mike: Yes. The next one is scheduled for March 1st, so we still have little ways to go before that one kicks off. The total number of Platinum passes that they have awarded so far is over 140, and with— What do we have? March, April, May, June, July, five months left before the PSPC players need to start making their way over there. It’s still more than one a day that they need to give away between now and then to exceed the 320 which is news that they broke recently, saying that they will give away more Platinum passes than the 320 they gave away last year.

Nick: This is just going to be one of dozens and dozens of opportunities to find your way to Barcelona in August. Let’s just say up until recently, beyond the Mega Path satellites which they ran, I think it’s hard to know. We know they ran them over Christmas and then they said they were going to end in January, but then saw them still running in the client and now they say on the site they’ll be going until March, but the last time I looked, there weren’t any of my clients in the UK, so I’m not quite sure. Anyway, beyond those so many more were just given away during the live tour.

They’re running specific tours, the PSPC tours with Moneymaker as the frontman. They have in France a new ambassador Kalidou Sow. In Spain, they have Ramón Colillas, of course, all fronting specific tools given by Platinum policies and then they distribute more during like their talent tours and all these, dozens and dozens of them. They’re just going to have to give away so many more online if they’re going to hit the number 320 because there’s only so many that they can be giving out-

Mike: In these live stops.

Nick: -at the remaining live stops that they’ve got.

Mike: I think according to some crunching of numbers that I think you did, Nick, where

Nick: I did— The computer did it. The computer- [crosstalk]

Mike: Nick, you did it nicely.

Nick: I wrote the code to describe the PokerStars’ website, to collate all the Platinum pass winners and how they won.

Mike: Okay, since that was your doing, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what those numbers reveal?

Nick: [chuckles] I knew you’re going to say that because I run that report for you and copied and pasted the details for you, and I didn’t do it by myself. The one thing that absolutely jumps out is just how many have been awarded to French and Spanish players? You kind of get that feeling anyway, and so much of their live stuff has been focused there. Of course, it makes sense. It’s a stop in Barcelona. It’s going to be fairly obvious a lot of Spanish people are going to want to win tickets to it.

With that said, if you were to ask me, where PokerStars is going to be targeting a lot of these, the UK is always going to be right at the top, just because it’s such a valuable market for online poker operators. When we do this count, so 140 winners according to PokerStars’ current count, 24 are in France and 20 here in Spain. That is about 40% of all Platinum passes. Is that right? 30% of all Platinum passes have gone to just those two countries and then 18 in the UK, 12 in Germany, 10 in Canada, 10 in Russia. Lots in France and Spain.

When I really just highlight, again, I think so much of the live tour stuff they’ve done, it also jumps out to me, only two in Italy. You would think Italy will be up there as much in terms of just important European markets, obviously pretty near Spain. They run a lot of live stuff there with their sponsorship of the IPO. That really surprised me. Maybe that’s just the roll of the dice that they’re giving away on the Italian too, but a bunch of French and Spanish people won them.

Mike: Yes, it can be timing as well. Right now, they’re in the midst of the Platinum Madness promotion, which is awarding just as many Platinum passes in the southern European segregated market, which is France and Spain-Portugal. They are in the .com market. Perhaps those numbers are a bit skewed just because this promotion is almost wrapping up and there was a big push to give away those passes in those markets. Perhaps we’ll see those numbers may be level-off or even out as time goes on.

Nick: Yes, but then PokerStars decided to give away an equal number in the French-Spanish market as it was across the rest of the world, which blew me away. If anything that underscores how much focus they are putting into those markets. The only other thing that I can gain from this report just glancing at it now is— Something that was pointed out to me on twitter when we were talking about PokerStars giving away more Platinum passes this time around was, “Are they giving away for free or is it through things that cost money?” Obviously, that makes a huge difference. That’s a fair point.

With the Mega Path, there were guaranteed seats. There did seem to be a lot of value there, but still, you buy to enter these satellites to start your progress. Obviously, PokerStars, if they’re covering their guarantees, could even be making money on them rather than it costing them money. Absolutely, of the 140, they’ve given away 36 of them, according to PokerStars in Canada through Mega Path. What’s that? 36 of 140, a fifth of them, something like that— A quarter of them, are through the Mega Path. Again, it did seem like that was costing them some money, giving away those tickets through that path.

In that way, PokerStars might have found a way to make it a little bit cheap for them, but still, if three quarters are basically just being distributed and just looking down the list, it’s all Platinum Pass Experience winners, Mystery Chest winners, Dare to Dream winners, Spin & Go 10 winners, I’m not quite sure what promotion that was. Then it’s just a long list of two of the BSOP to another BSOP, one of the IPO, 12 days of SPRAGGMAS, gave away too; these were all just like freebies and people entering on social media, or going to live events and that stuff. Still three-quarters of them are costing PokerStars that top-line figure.

Mike: Two things stood out to me out of the report that you read, was only four for the US. I guess that’s understandable to some point because they’re only limited to their two states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey currently. I feel like the US market offers a lot of opportunity for promotion wider around the globe, but maybe that number will change. The other thing that stood out to me is the breakdown between the ones given away live versus online.

Currently, that ratio is about 60:40. I wonder if that’s going to have to creep up. Yes, as we talked about earlier, it’s going to have to creep up. The online is going to have to increase. I wonder what that number is going to end up being when all is set and done.

Nick: Yes, and I just wonder what they’ve got planned for the remaining however many what? 200, almost 180 passes to still give out because they seem to have decided they’re not going to give them out to winners of big tournament series. Maybe we’ll have some in SCOOP for the leaderboard or maybe again it’ll be more random like it will be random drops at people invents at SCOOP tournaments and maybe some kind of tie in there.

It’s just a lot. As you say, it’s still probably 10 a week they have to give away up until the beginning of August, you’d think they want to get rid of most of them by like two weeks out of the tournament. Yes, I guess if direct buy-in satellites for $1,000 is not up your street then keep a lookout for probably any other possible avenue whether you play casino games or sports bets or Spin & Go’s or whatever. There’ll probably be something that ties into a good chance of you getting a Platinum pass. I’ll just say keep your eyes on Pokerfuse because we must have done a grand job keeping that all updated with the details, and yes, I’m sure that if something crop up we’ll speak you.

Side Bets Go Live on PokerStars

Mike: Something we’ve touched on an earlier episode of this podcast was the introduction of side bets by PokerStars at their online poker tables. That gives players the ability to make casino style bets alongside their online poker experience. Nick, what can you tell us about the side bets feature?

Nick: Yes, so we probably talked about this on the podcast four weeks ago, and yes, it’s gone live, kind of as we suspected. We knew that a few weeks ago, they started testing this for real money for some customers in some markets. We didn’t get access to it through all our trials and all our accounts and all our different markets, we were not in any cohort that gave us access, but we knew it was there.

We’d seen reports of people, seem to be live in the UK for some people, in Russia some people, but now it’s live everywhere. If you’re in the UK in the .com or .eu market, and I think Russia, you can use it now if you want. As you just described Mike, if you’re playing a no-limit cash game hand— Not zoom, zoom is not supported, then you can place a side bet. You have two bets that you can make.

You can bet on your hole cards or you can bet on your flop cards. This is one thing that I’m not sure if we knew exactly how it was going to work when we spoke before, but basically, it’s a casino game or video poker where you place a bet and you don’t specify what kind of bet and then depending on what happens you get a certain payout. If you bet on hole cards, that’s it. That’s what you do. You say hole cards, and then you bet a preset amount. They have like three to five preset amounts, seems to be based around what the big blind is at your table. If you’re playing a one-cent, two-cent table, you’ll get a one-cent bet up to a 10-cent bet or something like that.

You place that bet and then when you get dealt hole cards at your next hand, most of the time you’ll just lose that bet, but if you get dealt a good hand, then you can get a payout. If you get a suited ace, you get paid out. I don’t have the paytable in front of me, but let’s say three to one if you get dealt pocket aces you get paid out 25:1, something like that. It’s very simple. The flop cards is the same idea, so the next flop that comes again, if it’s a paired, board, or three straight board you get paid so much. I know this, a straight flush board pays out like 35:1, something like that.

Mike: It’s really similar to a slot machine gun? You put in a fixed amount and your payout is determined on the outcome?

Nick: Yes. I suppose that’s probably the clearest outcome. It’s super simple. It had to be because you operate it in a tiny panel built into the poker client. It’s the next chat box and your notes box, so they have to fit in all this functionality into it. Yes, it’s two bets, you set your amount. There’s an auto bet feature as well, so you can be like, “Well, I’ll bet this for the next 10 hands”, which you actually need if you’re into doing this because if you do one hand, one bet, and you win it, you’re not going to be able to bet on the next hand because that hand is going to get dealt immediately and you have to place a bet before any hand gets dealt. All the stakes is based on your flop cards.

If you do it manually one at a time and you want to do it every hand you can. The only way to do it is using these sort of bet features. You go like, “Yes, I’m going to bet. I’m going to do a hole card bet and a flop bet for the next 10 hands for this amount, but stop if I win or lose X amount”, so they’ve got all this little functionality built and these little widgets. Yes, that’s it. I think as we spoke before the house edge on this is 2.7%, or the other way to look at it is the Return To Player is a hundred minus that. What’s that? 97.3.

Mike: 97.3

Nick: 97.3. Which I presume is not a coincidence is almost exactly what single-zero roulette is. Someone corrected me on Twitter because I said, last time, it was exactly 2.7. It’s not. 1/37 is the fraction, which is like 2.708 or something like that, but it’s about- [crosstalk]

Mike: Someone corrected you on that on Twitter?

Nick: They did, and I very much appreciate that. If you think about it, they’re setting these odds and they only want to the paytable of three or four things, and they want nice round numbers. I imagine they got as close to 2.7 as they could, using the system. Yes, there you have it.

Mike: I would assume the payout is based on— Hole cards are tied to the frequency, the actual percentage of the time that you will get, let’s say, a pocket pair dealt to you?

Nick: Yes. That’s the only way that they could have worked out what the effective Return To Player is, is working at how often you’re actually dealt those cards. The frequency of them coming up and then- [crosstalk]

Mike: Would you win the same amount then for pocket deuces as you would pocket aces?

Nick: It just depends on the literal paytable. Let’s see if I’ve got any- [crosstalk]

Mike: Because statistically, they have the same probability.

Nick: Yes, but then the paytable is very simplified. I think every pocket pair is like 5:1.

Mike: 40.

Nick: Pocket aces is like 25:1. I see your question now. No, it’s not exactly set. The probability of it happening minus 2.7% because that’d be a really janky long paytable and probably not very exciting to play. They increase the paytable, which is 40:1 if the flop is a straight flush. Thus probably has no bearing on the reality of how much it happens, but obviously, to work out your Return To Player, you work out exactly how frequent that was going to happen and do the math.

Mike: I think it’s also important to note that the amount that you win or lose is not related to your stack at the table, correct?

Nick: Yes, so when you place a bet, when you make money, that just connects directly with your Stars wallet, so you’re not taking money off the table, you’re not adding money to the table. Maybe this is a missed opportunity. I was thinking about this. From everything that I could tell, other people don’t see you placing side bets and see whether you won or not. It’s entirely private. Maybe that’s just simpler to implement, maybe that’s a regulatory thing.

I guess it seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity just trying to think this through in the sense of, Live Multiplayer Blackjack, as a thing. Whether it’s live in a casino, or just six people sitting around a virtual table, you play with other people. What you would get here is, let’s say, I turn off my auto-betting on the flop bet, but then I see someone else has made the flop bet and it did come down a straight flush and they when their 40:1, I’m going to be like, “Oh, I missed out on my opportunity to make that bet”, right?

Mike: Yes.

Nick: We would have talked about this before. Casino games on the side of poker tables online, is far from you. Everyone’s got very few exceptions. The difference here is that you’re obviously betting on the poker table itself, so I suppose in a way it makes you more engaged in the poker action, but it’s directly connected to your hole cards and the table. Being that it’s a multiplayer experience already, it seemed like this could have also been a multiplayer experience.

I guess I could be wrong. I’ve watched some tables where I didn’t see anyone else place a side bet. I did, I won a few, I didn’t see anyone comment, so it just gave me the impression that it was private.

Mike: It’s private.

Nick: With that said, we should probably do this test to make sure, “Hey, I’ve just talked for two minutes”, and make the assumption it isn’t, so we’ll go with that. Maybe that’s something that they had, but it seems to be private and if your money is just directly connected with your Stars wallet, it doesn’t affect the cash at the table.

Mike: It seems like a lot of things that PokerStars does that are not directly poker-related, get a lot of pushback from the community. Do you have a sense, Nick, for how this is being received by the poker playing community? Is this something that’s going to last?

Nick: I think we probably talked about this recently when we talked about the online Sit & Go’s which came and disappeared. The only feedback they’re going to get on it is negative. It’s going to be neutral to negative. If they launch a new slot, it’s going to appeal for some people, I’m sure, but there’s not going to be people on Twitter going, “Yes, finally this slot has come out.”

Particularly being that we’re in the poker community and people in the poker community follow us on Twitter and read our stuff, then people aren’t going to go like, “Oh, finally I can place that bet.” I would say, it’s mostly shrug your shoulders and any comment has been negative. The one thing that I would say is that— As I say, you can already fire up a blackjack hand on an 888. It really quite shocked me when I played some real money on that recently that they have a mini blackjack fully embedded as a widget at the table off to the side.

This is no different from that, other than it engages you a bit more in the actual poker action. I would also say 2.7%. We criticized or I criticize the all-in Sit & Go’s because their rate was 5% to 10%, which just seemed incorrect I guess in the sense of out of whack of any slot of video poker. This is right there. These bets lost a bit of time. If you place that flop bet, you’re sweating to see whether there is a flop at all and if there is, I guess it’s not just something that’s two seconds or maybe a slot spin.

It seems like an acceptable Return To Player that you’d get nicely implemented. If you’re not interested in it it’s out of the way. You can turn it off in the settings. 100%, I would understand when people lament that any poker operator adds non-poker functionality. It is removing money from poker players’ wallets. If you’re a poker player, then you might see that as a negative when it takes money out of that ecosystem, understood, but that’s just the reality of it, that it is today and this seems like a fairly innocuous— Is that word?

Innocuous little feature that does not get in your way if you’re not using it. In fact, me going back on saying this should be a public thing, that probably would get a lot more criticism if you’re constantly playing and seeing people go, “This person just won this side bet, why don’t you join in?” That’s probably a good reason why they shouldn’t make it a public thing.

Mike: I don’t know. I think it’s okay. I don’t look at this as a big money grab or anything. I think what it does is it provides an additional level of entertainment for players at the table. Players have famously for a long time placed side bets and I think we talked about this when we first learned that this feature was coming out.

Like high stakes poker, everyone’s got their prop bets. In addition to poker, it’s unrelated in most cases to their stack. It just gives another thing to pay attention to, to engage the actual player. The thing that I wonder though is if that will reduce the amount of multi-tabling because of the cost, I guess. Does that mean that a player will be less likely to play multiple tables because now they have this other thing to pay attention to? I am not quite sure.

Nick: Yes, possibly but then you can also then just turn it on ignore and see what the result is at the end. I know. Just thinking about it in terms of house edge, 2.7% isn’t 5%, but it could have also been 0.5%. It could have been in line with blackjack or something. Again, I’m sure there’s good reasons why they said it— Roulette is and haven’t set it at what blackjack is. I don’t know. When it’s 0.5%, I could see myself if I was playing a couple of tables, getting a bit bored and placing a bet that has a 99.6% Return To Player. Probably wouldn’t when there’s a 97% Return To Player, but I guess I’m not the target market.

Mike: [laughs] I think a lot of the positive feedback that that will surround this particular feature is not going to be public. Really it’s going to depend on the internal data that PokerStars collects and how players are utilizing this function, how it’s impacting the overall ecology. Are these players playing less games? Are they playing more games? Are they more engaged? Are they more likely to come back and play more frequently? That kind of information is really going to be the positive feedback or potentially be the positive feedback that we, unfortunately, will probably not be privy to.


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.