There is no doubt that compared to 2 or 3 years ago online poker is in decline. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 issued by an Act of Congress by the American government was the start of the decline as many US citizens were unable to continue playing online. Many poker sites and networks have either closed down or been swallowed up by other networks. Some poker networks though have prospered due the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act with the Ipoker network being a prime example. Many smaller European poker sites soon realised that they could not survive without their American players and switched from dying networks to Ipoker. Ipoker has grown in the last couple of years from one of the smaller networks to the 3rd biggest network with an average of just under 10,000 cash players at peak European time.
Other networks such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt continue to allow Americans to play and have grown to be the biggest networks during the last 2 years. Poker Stars has an amazing 37,000 cash players at peak time where as Full Tilt has 16,000. The two biggest poker networks before the act are now in serious decline an anchor – Kraken vs Coinbase . Paradise Poker which use to attract tens of thousands of cash players each day is now part of the Boss network with several other poker sites which only attract 3400 cash players at peak time. Party Poker’s traffic has also fallen dramatically and they only attract 8000 at peak times.
The future does not look bright for the small networks and already Crypto Logic and Boss have announced that they will merge early in 2009 which to many seems like a strange decision as they will still be a relatively small network and the Boss software is not that popular with poker players. The Merge network has struggled to establish itself and still only attract 300 or so cash player at peak times. Reports from players suggest that Bodog have had problems with players cash outs and despite heavy promotion Bodog has not been as successful as many had thought.
Two of the smaller networks though that do seem to be established are Betfair and PKR. Betfair is mainly a betting exchange but has successfully branched out in to poker and is now established. PKR has done even better although many suggested that PKR with its 3d client would not succeed. Even with cutting edge 3D graphics that reduce the amount of tables a player can play to 4, PKR is climbing the rankings and looks to have a great future. Other sites have tried to compete with PKR for a share of the 3d poker market but have failed simply because the PKR 3D interface is so good.
Poker though I’m sure is here to stay and although we are sure to lose more sites during 2009 we will be left with a few networks packed with players for years to come!