Tuesday, February 28, 2006

State of the Sites

In several recent days, PokerStars has seen more than 100,000 players on its system at the same time, which is more poker players than on any other poker room in the world.

PokerStars reached the 100,000-players-at-once milestone before Party Poker did, which some people read to mean that Stars is now the biggest site.

That's not true, as far as I can tell. Party Poker still seems to have many more tables running at once than Stars. A thread on 2+2 seemed to indicate that Stars scheduled three 10,000-seat freeroll tournaments closely together, in addition to many multi-table tournaments.

I logged on to PokerStars when it had about 104,000 players. At that time, there were only two full-ring $10/$20 limit games and three $15/$30 limit games. That's truly pathetic. The Poker Room network can do almost as well with less than a tenth as many players.

Stars has done an excellent job of appealing to no limit and tournament players. Stars has much better customer support than Party. Stars has better software than Party.

But Party Poker is still the overall leader. For limit poker, no other site offers anywhere near the game selection you get there. The no limit games are also plentiful and soft.

Don't get me wrong -- Party Poker does suck. Their customer support is terrible, and their recent software upgrade was a slight improvement but a big screw-up for many customers.

In addition, the new software is still clunky and unappealing to look at. It doesn't compare to cleaner sites like Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt and PokerStars. The software still beats many other sites for ease-of-use and utility, but the wait-lists don't work well and sometimes tables randomly slow down.

Party Poker will continue to drop in popularity compared to the other sites.

If not for the great game selection, why would anyone play there? Especially now that Party won't allow passive data mining? Of course, most of the sites don't allow passive data mining, including Poker Stars, but Stars doesn't need to because its customer base is no limit and tournament players, which tend to use tracking software less often.

The rising star is Full Tilt Poker. Full Tilt does allow data mining of observed hands, and the software is much easier to look at. Their customer support is decent, and they offer rakeback without being pricks about it. Their game selection is growing, and they have a wide variety of tournaments that are growing in popularity. Full Tilt's bonuses, which take a little while to clear, are now much better than Party's player points-based bonuses, and Poker Stars only offers re-deposit bonuses rarely.

I haven't played at Full Tilt in nearly a year, but I just deposited some money there to take advantage of their new 50 percent to $300 redeposit bonus. I plan on checking out their full-ring limit games and see if the table conditions are any good.

I'm sure Full Tilt's limit games can't rival Party's for fishiness, but that will change as more players realize that there's less and less reason to stay at Party.

Party had the business savvy to establish the largest player base in the industry, but I don't think Party intends to make the changes it needs to if it's going to hold on to those players.


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WillWonka said...

I agree with what you say.. If you play limit, Party is the place to go... I can live with their software and actually like it. I don't like that they took away mining; but what can you do.

Full Tilt does seem to be growing.. and you can mine.

Absolute is trying; but the software is still clunky.. but they seem to be growing as well. You can mine there with an additional utility.

Prima let's you mine; but table selection continues to be an issue for them.

I haven't played Ultimate Bet, Poker Room, Stars, Paradise, and Bodog in a while so I can't really comment..

You were right in your "watch out" comment on my blog... it finally caught up to me.