Party’s over at PartyPoker as players flock to other sites
It’s a site where many online poker players started their careers, but former industry leader PartyPoker has lost the luster from its crown and now is in danger of becoming a bottom tier poker site. While the year was filled with high expectations for the gaming site, the results in 2020 have been disappointing in a year that has seen growth in poker not witnessed in over a decade.
Looking back to the start of this year, any poker commentator would have been hard pressed to predict where we are now. PokerStars and PartyPoker sat a comfortable one and two atop the online poker traffic ranking. What a difference a year makes as GGPoker burst up the rankings on the heels of their WSOP events and new star signings, such as Dan Bilzerian.
Now it’s a battle between GGPoker and PokerStars for top site and PartyPoker continues to plunge. The seven day average cash game players online at PartyPoker currently sits at about 1,450 players. Two smaller networks, the iPoker network and the Winning Poker (WPN) Network currently have an average of 1,100 players on their tables.
Many are wondering how we arrived at this situation. Expectations were that the traffic would increase when Ladbrokes/CoralPoker joined the PartyGaming Network.
Great software at PartyPoker – but there’s more needed for a successful poker site
Both PartyPoker’s interface and support are absolutely top-notch and definitely better than most of the competition, so it can’t be that. Unfortunately, most players don’t necessarily see the reasons why traffic is declining as it is what’s happening behind the scenes that impacts traffic. Bel0w we go over two of the key factors behind this drop.
We’ll start with taking a look at how affiliates, like YourPokerDream, are working with PartyPoker. GVC is the parent company behind both PartyPoker and it’s various skins (Bwin, Ladbrokes and Coral Poker) and they have been re-writing the rules for affiliates. Normally, affiliates continue to support and promote poker sites as long as players continue to play there. Unfortunately, PartyPoker has limited their affiliate deals to just three years. That means that once that time period is past, the affiliate gets no more credit for the player from GVC even if they continue playing. For players, this means that they lose out on rake races, bonus tournaments and many of the other perks that keep them coming back. One by one, these regular players make the move to another site in search of better rewards.
Another surprise move by PartyPoker was to prohibit new players from Germany registering through affiliates as of October 15, 2020. While GVC puts the blame on the German government’s new gambling law that will come into effect July 2021, PartyPoker still allows players to register directly with the site. Most other poker sites as well have not responded with the same restrictions on German players. The decision by GVC seems more a revenue based decision instead of a regulatory one. The German poker market is the strongest and most important market after the American market and who the top German affiliates send new players to has a big impact on traffic.
It’s not that GVC doesn’t care about affiliates, we definitely don’t want to say that, but right now the ability of big affiliates to draw new players is being discounted by PartyPoker. The drop in player numbers is clear evidence the strategy is not working and it’s time for GVC to take a closer look at their affiliate model.
More countries constantly being added to restricted list
PartyPoker made the decision to withdraw from a number of countries where the status of online poker is not officially regulated. The player base can only shrink when GVC moves out of countries such as Serbia, Poland, Norway, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Thailand and many more. While it makes sense for GVC as a public listed company on the London Stock Exchange to avoid operating in countries where online poker is illegal, it is a bizarre move to exit some of these so-called “grey” countries where poker is not officially regulated. What makes the strategy even more difficult to understand is that PartyPoker continues to accept customers from Russia – a country with similar “grey” restriction. The uncertainty of where PartyPoker operates — and the inconsistency in their policy — definitely has had an impact on player traffic.
The pool of players has shrunk significantly over the last few years, as countries such as Italy, Spain and France have segregated their player pools from the international market. The more countries that are eliminated, the smaller the player pool becomes and without the constant flow of new players, traffic levels continue to decline.
Many of PartyPoker’s competitors are more active in the “grey” markets and this gives them a distinct advantage at attracting players who are no longer welcome in the PartyGaming network.
There’s still time for PartyPoker and GVC to halt their downward spiral and establish themselves as a solid number 3 behind Pokerstars and GGPoker. A strategy change must be made though as soon as possible, otherwise the falling player numbers will continue and the one-time online poker darling could end up falling to fifth or sixth place in terms of cash game player numbers by the end of 2021. None of us at YourPokerDream want to see that outcome since PartyPoker, as the oldest online poker room in the world, could be better and its long-time players deserve better.