iPoker Network: rooms history and Playtech plans
The 20-year history of the iPoker network is eventful. To fully understand the context of the current situation and prospects for 2020, it's worth noting the following:
- In 2007 — 2008, iPoker was composed of the Tribeca network, William Hill, and several other small poker rooms;
- In 2013 — 2014, Ladbrokes switched from Microgaming Poker to iPoker, Bet-at-home migrated from the closed Bossmedia network, and Everest Poker, an independent French room joined iPoker.
Thanks to these additions, in 2014 iPoker reached its peak of traffic — several dozen rooms shared 2,000 cash games, players, on average per week (by comparison, GG Poker Network boost 1,500 players). The general crisis of online poker and the strategy of "resting on our laurels" led the network to 11th place in the world ranking of the industry with a constant loss of traffic for five years, and today is similar to a former member of the network: PokerMatch.
Many events affected the iPoker network traffic in 2016: the introduction of an indirect rake structure (Source Based Rake, SBR) with bonuses for amateur players, a redesigned client, and the banning of Ukrainian and Russians players at several skins.
After 2016, iPoker almost disappeared from the poker news sites, and it was considered the home of rake machines and bots. Therefore, in addition to the players, the network began to lose revenue. Only the biggest rooms (Betfair, Bet365, Winner Poker) tried to attract new players on their own.
Last year began a new era for iPoker. Several rumors were spread about the possible closure of the network or its transfer from Playtech to another gaming company. We highlight two events:
- GVC Holdings (bwin/partypoker) acquired Ladbrokes Coral Group (two iPoker skins);
- Playtech faced major problems when it tried to enter the Asian market through the Philippines and China, which led to sanctions on both countries; Malaysia also banned online gambling that year.
In 2019 the rumors remained and, at the same time, the third option (iPoker revamping as a member of Playtech) was not ruled out. The last four months of the outgoing year have been crucial for the iPoker future:
- Microgaming Poker Network announced that it will shut down in 2020. For being similar networks, many suggested that Playtech could also close iPoker;
- The absorption of The Stars Group by Flutter Entertainment (formerly Paddy Power Betfair Ltd), and the withdrawal of Paddy Power from the holding due to the UK regulation — this event insinuated that Betfair might be switching to PokerStars;
- Almost four years after the deal between GVC and Ladbrokes Coral, the two British rooms will finally be transferred to the party network; most likely all the merge process will be ready in the first quarter of 2020;
But, on the other hand, in November 2019, one of the oldest Microgaming sites — RedStar Poker, announced that they would join iPoker in May 2020. A RedStar representative commented that the negotiations with iPoker were smooth and that they had ambitious plans to boost the network to the TOP of online poker rooms in the next 2-3 years. Moreover, RedStar confirmed that Ukrainian players (not allowed on the network today) could play at iPoker through RedStar.
2020 and iPoker long term plans
In addition to the above facts, next year may bring many changes to iPoker; among them we include:
- How many Microgaming poker rooms will follow the example of RedStar? All eyes are staring at the Betsson Group, which owns the leading Microgaming sites (Betsafe, Betsson, and Nordicbet). iPoker offers a similar environment to these Nordic poker sites;
- How will general traffic be affected by the merge of partypoker and Ladbrokes Coral?
- Possible actions of PokerStars; many industry experts think that probably the gaming giant will pursue Betfair.
And of course, the iPoker plans itself, and the changes in its policies will be crucial. The network must implement a new aggressive marketing strategy that encourages the influx of new players, as other sites like GG Poker Network or partypoker have done. If iPoker wants to compete with them, it must become a much bigger and ambitious company.
Luckily, iPoker won't need to reinvent the wheel, as many poker rooms have already followed a successful path:
- Client update including new games;
- Running several promotions;
- Fast and efficient customer service;
- Cashier improvement (adding more payment processors);
- Increase the efforts in the fight against bots and cheating in general.
iPoker has all the means to enhance its presence on the market, but if no action is taken, most likely, it will share the fate of MPN. We will monitor the development of the network in 2020 and will offer the best rakeback deals at any skin, regardless of what they decide to do in the future.
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