Skillbet—an online poker variant that claims the difference between its product and other online poker offerings is enough for it to be considered legal under the law—has announced a pullback in its marketing efforts and a planned shift toward a free-play social game as a way of reinvigorating its product.
Skillbet’s version of poker pits two players against each other while not actually playing each other; the competing players are given the same starting cards at parallel tables of computerized players, who also receive mirroring starting hands. Each player then competes against the array of computerized opponents, with the live player performing best being declared the winner.
The format, which echoes an earlier failed effort called Duplicate Poker, has been advertised on at least one prominent poker forum as being legal in 28 states. However, Skillbet has pulled out of at least three of those states—Florida, New Jersey and New York—in the past several weeks.
Recent forum postings by a Skillbet rep confirm that the company has ceased marketing efforts while working to develop a social-network game that merges the Skillbet concept with other social-gaming hooks that have proven effective elsewhere. In the words of Skillbet’s Renee Revel, posting at 2+2 , “We are going to spend the next 4-5 months developing (what we hope will be) an awesome social play-money game based on SkillBet (sort of a cross between SkillBet and Draw Something or Words with Friends).”
Revel also claimed that Skillbet has been unable to advertise effectively because of mainstream confusion and indecision over Skillbet’s legality, which in part is due to the purported illegality of more traditional forms of online poker within the US, itself a debatable position.
Skillbet has taken some flak on forums for its use of prop players, not for traditional prop-player purposes, but for the running prop-versus-prop matches with auto-folding throughout, thereby artificially inflating the site’s apparent traffic. The site’s actual traffic remains unknown, though the marketing pullback and shift in focus indicates site revenues below a sustainable level for the site’s original business plan.