There are many online poker rooms, but not all have the potential to reach great heights…
If you want to play online poker these days, you definitely have a very large selection of providers from which to choose. In this article we will feature some well-known providers or poker networks and analyze which are most likely to grow over the next few years and establish themselves at the top.
As the oldest online poker room, PartyPoker has a lot of potential
Party poker is familiar to every online poker player. After a difficult period the company developed well, and has again been offering a very good product for several years; the help of some very well-known and respected poker players has been noticeable, too.
The desktop software has been revised several times, and a state-of-the-art mobile app has also been set up, proving very popular with players. This is a significant plus after years of software being under par.
There have been numerous positives during the last few years. The rakeback programme has been revised, and now brings players up to 40% a week. For VIP players there is also the VIP Diamond and the Diamond Elite Status, boosting it up to 65% rakeback. Since we’re talking about real rakeback, this is definitely the better deal out there right now. In addition, there are impressive extra promotions and rake races for all players, every month.
The promotions and the website are totally transparent and easy for players to understand, and there is a fantastic range of tournaments and games, providing everything a player could wish for. Meanwhile, despite no site being without problems, partypoker’s communication with customers is always fair.
When it comes to professional players, partypoker offers arguably the perfect product, although the number of players has stagnated over the last couple of years, with no sign of genuine development on that front. Nevertheless, at the lower limits you can find tables running 24/7 and a good balance between casual and regular players. From mid-stakes upwards, however, depending on the time of day traffic can be limited, and most days the player pool tends towards professional players populating the tables. Of course, this is not all about sharks, and you can find casual players, but it could be better. Of course, a key reason for this is that partypoker offers the more ambitious players an excellent product as well as a very favourable rakeback programme.
However, there’s more to it than that. Factors such as marketing and strategic direction have had an impact. Meanwhile, although the cooperation with affiliates is okay, there is room – and a certain need – for improvement here, which in turn could increase the number of players and subsequently keep them at the tables.
The expectations and goals regarding partypoker are very high but, despite the growth of CoralPoker and Ladbrokes, thus far these have not been met. Together with Bwin, all four providers form the PartyGaming network, and we could expect that with these big names to entice new players, the numbers would duly have shot up. The reality, however, is a 7-day average of around 1,500 Cash game players. That is slightly above most of the competition, but too little to compete with major rivals.
To sum up, the potential is there for partypoker, but we strongly doubt that enough will change in the next two to three years for them to challenge for a top spot.
GGPoker has mixed up the world of online poker and can become number one
GGPoker has developed into the world’s largest poker network within a few years and, apart from the Asian IDN Network, is the clear No.2 behind the market leader, PokerStars. What is behind their success? On the one hand, GG is very strongly represented in the Asian market, which gives it a significant advantage compared with other providers. Indeed, the Asian market is still growing and has incredible potential for the future.
Much more interesting, however, is the strategic direction GG has undertaken, and the software. Let’s start with the software. For professional players who ordinarily multi-table, GG’s softwarec cannot be compared to PokerStars or PartyPoker, but the difference is by no means a deal-breaker. It’s much more important that recreational players are happy, and the impressive numbers certainly bear this out. The software for both the desktop and mobile app is very well structured and simply set up; it’s nicely coordinated in terms of colour, and really pleasant to look at.
There are unique functions such as all-in insurance, where players can protect their hand from bad beats, the in-house analysis tool, PokerCraft, a staking function to buy (or sell) action from other players in tournaments, and even the SnapCam, with which you can share your emotions and send a short video to all other players. That was only a small part of the functions in the GGNetwork – there are even more.
GG’s software is definitely one of the big pluses, and it sets them apart from the competition. The many functions mean you have a lot more fun at the table, and a completely different gaming experience.
Another big advantage is the large pool of players. A 7-day average of around 5,400 Cash game players puts GG in 3rd place in the global ranking, just behind the IDN network and around 3,000 players behind PokerStars. If we consider that GGPoker had a 7-day average of around 2,400 Cash game players at the beginning of 2020, this growth is enormous. PokerStars is still out in front, but if anyone has a real chance of becoming the new No.1 it is definitely GG.
It’s important to point out that it’s not all about Cash game players at GGPoker. They also offer a fantastic range of multi-table tournaments; apart from being an official partner of the WSOP (you can win WSOP rings and bracelets online!), they also host tournament series with millions in guaranteed prize money. The competition cannot keep up.
GG also goes to great lengths to create interesting game varieties. For example, the All-In or Fold variant is a novel approach, while the in-house Spin & Go variant is nothing new but is certainly an excellent version of the Fast Fold format.
Rakeback at GG is an interesting animal. It is a fact that other sites have better and more transparent Rakeback/VIP programmes, but that isn’t to say GGPoker’s offering isn’t attractive. The Fish Buffet programme, which applies to GGNetwork skins, offers players at the highest VIP level 60% weekly cashback. Sounds great so far, but we need to factor in the rather mysterious PVI , which makes the whole thing a rather complicated. You can find more information on this topic in our detailed PVI article, suffice to say that, for a good winning player, $1 rake is not ultimately $1 rake.. The set-up is not exactly a favourite for some players but, again, the Fish Buffet is still very attractive and competitive, even with the PVI factor muddying the waters.
Much more important is that this is also very interesting for casual players, and it also injects a bit of a fun and thrill factor, too, being more than a matter of generating $X rake and then getting back $Y – it’s different and more interesting for many recreational players.
Meanwhile, there are numerous and varied promotions and rake races worth several million dollars each month, which is another area in which GGPoker has a definite edge over its rivals.
The way GGPoker deals with the more serious and professional players has opened them up to criticism, but it is arguable whether this is entirely justified when considering how this issue is addressed by other providers. The sharks are never really satisfied. PokerStars offers too little rakeback, PartyPoker has too little action, Unibet’s software isn’t that good… GGPoker has also come under fire for PVI and the special rules on bumhunting and table selection but, again, such factors are also a reason why the player pool across the network not only has a healthy balance, nonetheless, but why the number of players continues to rise.
Although the size of the GGNetwork cannot be compared to iPoker, there are still a few skins, of which the biggest is Natural8 – another online poker room which brings a lot of players from Asia to the tables.
GG likes to work actively with affiliates, albeit with certain requirements and rules that are quite different from those of the other poker rooms. Even if we don’t necessarily fully agree with some of these, we appreciate the logic from a business point of view and thus support and adhere to them accordingly, as it should be.
If GGPoker continues evolving and moving forward with the same kind of strategy we have seen thus far, and maintains close associations with the big affiliates, then it is easy to assume that it is only a matter of time until they take the top spot.
The iPoker network is an old hand but has been going in the wrong direction for years
The iPoker network is definitely a big name in the industry, and no other network has as many skins. While it’s true that since SBR was introduced in 2015 (similar to PVI at GGPoker) things have been going downhill, there are other contributory factors, too. The network hasn’t properly developed. The software is okay, but nothing special and, as far as the mobile platform is concerned, far too little has been done and people have simply lost touch.
The departure of Ladbrokes/CoralPoker was, of course, not helpful for the network, with the former being an especially big skin to lose. Expectations were high when the closing down of the Microgaming Network (MPN) triggered a migration of numerous skin to iPoker but this has yet to materialise. The network is still ahead of 888Poker, WPN or Unibet, but that’s far too little for iPoker’s ambitions.
Nevertheless, the number of players and the makeup of the player pool are okay. There is no high-roller traffic as such, but tables up to NL1,000 – especially in NLH – are healthy. Surprisingly, the pool of players is relatively soft, which is unexpected given that iPoker is one of the few providers still allowing the use of various software tools and HUD and so on at their tables, which usually means the presence of full-time, string(er) players. Importantly, a key reason why there are relatively many fish is that there are several large sports betting providers on the iPoker network, which in turn attracts less experienced punters over to the poker tables.
The iPoker network’s rakeback offer is okay, and we as an affiliate have special VIP Flat Rakeback Deals that are not available in this form at any other online poker room. There are also various network promotions from time to time, but these are rather modest; only the Twister Rake Races are popular and interesting.
Even if the name is a well-known one, and the network has been in business for a long time, the future could well see iPoker continuing at the same level and trailing behind the competition!
Unibet is an insider tip with a great forecast and potential for the future
Unibet used to be part of the Microgaming network until they decided to go their own way as an independent. They soon overtook their rivals and their development has been really impressive since. As the only independent provider besides PokerStars, Unibet has established itself as a major player without belonging to a network.
Unibet has very strict guidelines when it comes to technical aids. The use of a HUD is strictly prohibited, and hand histories cannot be downloaded. Consequently, the player pool at Unibet is by far one of the softest around, with a lot of weak players – especially in Texas No Limit Hold’em. The number of players in Texas Hold’em is healthy, with plenty of action even at the higher limits.
Meanwhile, apart from the micro-stakes levels, Pot Limit Omaha is, unfortunately, as good as dead, and the range of MTTs is also quite limited.
But there is plenty of action at the Sit & Go tables, and the Hexa Pro SNG (spins) are very popular. You won’t find action at the $5o+ limits but you can have loads of fun up to the $20 tables.
A notable minus point for Unibet has long been the VIP system, which can be complex and was devised with recreational players in mind. However, from April 2021 there will be a completely revised VIP/Rakeback programme, which will be much better tailored to the more frequent players. This step will definitely drive up player numbers and rake.
The software takes a bit of getting used to for many, but is gradually being improved and further developed. It is now possible to play several tables at the same time without any problems. The mobile app is fine and the browser version is also very popular with many players, so you don’t have to download a poker client.
When it comes to promotions/rake races, Unibet lags behind the competition and we can only hope that the new VIP programme will make improvements here, too. For example, with targeted promotions, possibly aimed at PLO or MTTs, Unibet could make a concerted effort to push up the player numbers.
The cooperation with affiliates is completely fine as far as we can tell, although there are certain things that should be improved and reconsidered, especially the problems with tracking new players. Nevertheless, compared to other providers, Unibet is at least on the right track.
In our opinion, Unibet can achieve a great deal in the near future and it is not unrealistic that in a year or two it will place itself in front of big names like 888, iPoker or the WPN network.
The WinningPoker Network (WPN) ignores almost all laws in existence and is growing as a result
WPN is indeed very special and as a pure offshore poker room it ignores all the laws that exist. All players who are not allowed to play with the other big poker sites due to various laws and a lack of licenses are welcomed at WPN. USA, Bulgaria, UK, Switzerland, no problem at all, almost every country is accepted here. Exactly this aspect is also the reason why there is such a large pool of players at WPN. If no US traffic, the player numbers would collapse by 50%, if you then take away the other countries for which the network does not have a license, the player pool would be as good as dead.
Even with players from Germany, WPN is moving more and more into focus, because the new regulations such as monthly deposit limit, max 4 tables play etc. are simply ignored. As in all other countries, they will never apply for an official license. Why, if Offshore, Bitcoin and various e-wallets make it possible.
Of course, this may be a nice thing for the player and the Winning Poker Network (WPN) is one of the old rabbits in the industry, but this business model is not enough to play at the top at some point. It cannot be ruled out that the pool of players will continue to grow, but you shouldn’t expect big movements here. Due to the lack of alternatives to deposit methods in almost all countries, as one is operating illegally everywhere, one simply cannot expect much growth. The network is 90% focused on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.