If you asked a poker player in 2002 the following question, “Which online poker website will host multiple live poker tournaments a year with over a million-dollar first place prize?” there’s a good chance their answer would’ve been ‘Party Poker’.
The poker landscape however, has changed so much that partypoker, the biggest online poker website in 2002, now battles it out with PokerStars’ Italian and Spanish poker clients for the fifth place on the online traffic rankings. There are many reasons for Party Poker’s decline, but last year’s developments might turn that decline into the departure of many more loyal players.
To some the following might seem old news, but to many it will be an eye opener to what has been going on with partypoker in 2013.
Ryan Daut Speaks Up
Established poker professional and former PCA Main Event winner Ryan Daut, who took home over $1.5 million for his victory in 2007 after beating Isaac Haxton heads up, wrote a blog on his website LiquidPoker recently uncovering Party Poker’s troubles.
Daut expressed that while partypoker in New Jersey, and likely more states in the future, has a chance to shine it looks like the global decline will not be halted any time soon.
“I haven’t played on Party Poker New Jersey myself, so I don’t know what they are offering but I assume it’s really similar to what partypoker is offering globally right now, minus the 3% flat cash out fee. Partypoker right now is an established site with reasonably good software that is in competition with 888poker, and a few casino sites that just opened, for the New Jersey online poker space. Of course they are going to shine with that kind of competition,” Daut started out with.
“In the worldwide competition it has gone from Number 1 pre UIGEA to becoming the clear number four or five, giving up that space to PokerStars and Full Tilt. In the months before it opened in New Jersey, from around January of last year until August of last year it made a lot of changes that made it less friendly to play on for professional players. Back in December 2012 you really wanted to put your volume in on partypoker as a professional grinder, but in a three-month period that changed to me not wanting to play there anymore at all,” Daut said.
Daut started his blog by stating that Party Poker had screwed over its customers throughout 2013. Daut, a US citizen who relocated to play online in December 2012 said that he personally wasn’t even affected by their wrongdoing as much as some other pros.
Party Poker’s VIP Program Changes
“I started grinding Party in December 2012. I was having a pretty rough month on PokerStars and decided to try them out looking for better games,” Daut said about how he initially started playing on Party Poker after losing his account in 2002. Daut went on to explain Party Poker’s loyalty program and here’s a brief recap of how this system worked back in 2012.
- Every paid dollar in rake is the equivalent of two Party Points
- Accumulating points will result in a higher VIP Level
- Palladium Level: 9,000 points over 3 months ($4,500 rake paid)
- Palladium Elite level: 20,000 points within a 3 month period ($10,000 rake paid)
The biggest purchasable bonus cost 300,000-points and was worth $75,000, and therefor 50% rakeback since it takes $150,000 in paid rake to accumulate. This bonus is 83.33% of PokerStars’ Supernova Elite. In early 2013 partypoker got rid of the aforementioned Palladium Elite level and therefor the maximum bonus dropped to just 30% rake back.
“Imagine if Stars took their $1,600 bonus for 100,000 FPP, which is deposited into your account immediately after purchasing, and turned it into an $8,000 bonus for 500,000 FPP with a fairly long play through, while also removing their VIP tier bonuses” Daut said to point out how big the changes are.
We are all aware that businesses change their strategies and conditions from time to time, but the way Party Poker pushed this move through is at least questionable. We asked Daut if he thinks there might be a liquidity problem for partypoker and he told us the following.
“It seems likely, because all these things are happening in such a short period of time. It feels like a cash grab to me. I don’t know exactly when they merged with bwin, but there seems to be an overlap between that and partypoker screwing over its customers and trying to find ways to make more money by applying shitty methods.”
Daut has been following the huge TwoPlusTwo thread about Partypoker and its problems and one case stood out to him about the effects of cutting out the Palladium Elite level.
“I was linked to the Partypoker thread on 2+2 and I found one guy who had 191,000 points and I assumed it took him about a year to get there. He was probably another eight months of grinding away from being able to buy the bonus and when they broke the news about cutting out the biggest bonus he only had about three months left to get to 300,000. He then had the choice to buy two 100,000 bonuses, which would result in 40% rakeback, a bonus that is gone now as well, but he was clearly working towards that big bonus. The big bonus would’ve been roughly $47,000 in rakeback and because of this rule change he lost 25% of that, and that’s rough.”
Daut reaffirms that there are very serious things going on within Partypoker, but it’s not nearly as severe as what was uncovered about Full Tilt Poker after Black Friday.
“Since they (partypoker) pulled out of the US market in 2006 after the UIGEA passed they didn’t have any issues with the government and I assume that they are just trying to make more money the wrong way right now. I have not seen any graphs of their volume decreasing, but I’m assuming it is and it will only drop more if they keep doing this kind of stuff. High volume players will move to sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt, iPoker and Euro sites.”
No More Promotions
The promotions Partypoker was running to entice their players to play a lot of hands and hours was also something they just decided to cut down.
“The first three months that I was playing there they ran some great promotions. The first one was an advent calendar where, as a Palladium Elite, you could basically pick up another $1,000-$1,500 based on your volume and every tier below that would get a little less. It basically came down to picking up little cash bonuses throughout the month, and that was a great motivation to play.
“After that they ran a World Domination promo, which is pretty similar to the McDonald monopoly promotion. For every certain amount of Party Points you would get a card for a city and you could get 100 cities a day. For every country you would clear you would get an additional bonus and an entire continent would be even more. Some of these were very hard to clear, so I don’t think anyone cleared the entire map, but there must’ve been some people who cleared an additional $10,000 that month because of that promotion,” Daut positively noted.
“Of course it’s up to a site to decide whether or not you want to run those kinds of promotions, as it’s a great way to get regulars to put in more volume and rake more money. Those promotions showed that partypoker was in tune with the fact that it’s better to get 50% of a very large number is better than getting 70% of a small number. I much rather give 70% away to a guy who rakes $10,000 per month than have someone rake $2,000 per months because they have much less incentive to put in that extra volume.”
Since the 2013 WSOP partypoker global has not ran any promotions incentivizing players to put in a lot of volume.
Appeal To Fish, Be Kind to Grinders
“I think the poker site’s goal should be to make the place a good place to play for professionals and give them good incentives, while their marketing should be towards fish by constantly giving them deposit bonuses and freerolls. I think Party was doing a bad job at that and they saw it as a long-term problem where the fish would not return, the regs would end up playing each other, which would result in the games drying up and everyone going elsewhere,” Daut said.
Player pool segregation was implemented in February 2013 to accommodate their fish lasting longer, as explained by Jeffrey Haas in a TwoPlusTwo post on October 31. In the post you can clearly read that Haas is doing his best to apologize for their actions, but of course that doesn’t make it right.
“He (Jeffrey Haas) came to Party after all these things happened and he’s clearly just posting their views. Party hasn’t seemed to erode much further in the past few months but a lot of the damage was done from January to August of last year,” Daut said.
“There were other subtle changes made,” Daut continued, “Like getting rid of their $10/$20 and up No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha levels. They also removed all heads up tables above $0.50/$1, all of which were reasons to make fish lose at a slower rate. These things didn’t affect me because I don’t play this high, but they also started to segregate their players making it even less likely that fish lose their money.”
“I continued to play on partypoker off and on because the games were good, and played lower stakes Pot Limit Omaha so I wasn’t affected by any of these game changes. They couldn’t afford to segregate Omaha games because of the smaller player pool, but even for the No Limit Hold’em games they ultimately reversed that decision because players found out and complained a lot.”
“The 3% cash out fee really changed my volume though, but the real nail in the coffin came when Skrill stopped offering cash outs to Canadians. So it wasn’t Partypoker’s decisions that made me quit, but every one of their decisions made me want to play less on there,” Daut said.
The flat 3% cash out fee came as a shock last August, but for some reason people tend to forget about it already. In an article by PokerFuse it even states that players found out themselves, indicating that this change was not even communicated before implementing it.
As of right now the 3% cash out fee is still in place, Palladium Elite seems to be gone forever and no new promotions are being offered. While the player pool is no longer being segregated there are still plenty of reasons to think twice about keeping all your poker action on Partypoker. Additionally Partypoker also cut affiliate’s percentages in half, according to a member commenting on Daut’s blog post on LiquidPoker without notice.
While Haas’ good intentions are clear, it is yet to be seen if Partypoker will implement positive changes in 2014 instead of maintaining their current strategy, which has clearly frustrated many players that have raked thousands of dollars on their websites. It’s good to want to keep the fish happy, but it almost seems to easy to pick on those who put in the most volume and bring in a ton of rake money.