SITE REVIEW - ROYAL VEGAS POKER (Prima Skin)
(Author's Note: A more recent entry on Royal Vegas Poker appears lower on the page -- hh)
Royal Vegas is one of the largest and most well-known of the myriad Prima Poker Network skins. To my mind it's also one of the most dependable and trustworthy. You'll get the usual interface to the core Prima software here, bringing with it all the plusses and minuses that you'd expect from Prima-based play. Royal Vegas's overlay is colored royal blue... like it'd be a surprise if it was anything else.
A standard disclaimer: Examining the differences between competing Prima skins boils down to looking at the bonus and promotional programs, plus customer service. Royal Vegas's stadard signup offers are among the better ones to be found, but, depending on which you choose, can take an excessive amount of time and raked hands to clear. Mine netted me $300, but required 6,000 raked hands within a month. Made it (barely)! Other offers require less intense effort, with correspondingly lower rewards.
Royal Vegas doesn't offer much at the present time for reload offers, though they may have some rakeback programs --- I'm still learning about this part of the game. I'll update this area if and when I learn more.
So how does Royal Vegas achieve customer retention --- assuming they do? They work on the loyalty angle, with occasional larger freerolls (above those offered daily at Prima), plus incentives such as their $40,000 Points program, which pays cash to their 1,500 most loyal users on a monthly basis. Not bad at all --- yet it would take full time, multiple-table play (and then some) for any given solid month to get up to the big bucks in this program; in the month that most closely matched to my signup-offer push, I placed approximately 200th in usage points, and earned (I believe) something like $30. It's an appreciated, nice little extra, and has to be weighed against what reload programs offer elsewhere.
Customer service at Royal Vegas is about as good as could be expected, given that Prima apparantly has no cross-network tools allowing their affiliate skins to calculate and pay earned bonuses in real-time. As with any of the Prima skins, bonuses are manually calculated and paid, and that always slows down the process. Yet I've found Royal Vegas payouts to be consistent at either two or three days, with two the most often occurrence. I may have received a couple of next-day payments, too, which is definitely ahead of the standard Prima curve.
At the present time I'm not playing a lot at Royal Vegas, but I expect that to be a temporary thing; I've been moving around and sampling many sites as I learn more and more about the online poker world. So we'll give Royal Vegas a solid passing grade: it's worth giving the occasional action here.
And more on Royal Vegas Poker? Sure enough! I'd like to toss in some kudos to RVP for putting on their "Expert Series" tournaments, available every Wednesday evening here in the States. Seven pro poker players put their heads on the block in this bounty-style tournament, with cash bonuses and merchandise awarded for knocking out any of the seven. The biggest names are site host/poker author Lou Krieger and three-time WSOP bracelet winner Barbara Enright, but all seven are solid and seasoned pros with major poker credits to their names.
I'd known about the Expert Series tournaments from my first days on RVP, but hadn't tried them until last month (December of 2005). Frankly, I didn't want to embarrass myself against competition of this level, clearly several steps up from my game. This despite the tournament's very affordable buy-ins --- a $20 + $2 initial entry, and $10 re-buys and add-ons.
It turns out I needn't have worried; I've been able to compete and survive here, if not exactly thrive, proof again that you never know about something until you do try it and see for yourself. Yes, fate smiled, too. I made a hilariously improbable run to a 3rd-place finish in my first try, followed it up with a couple of cashes, and though I'm not in the same class as these seven or a few of the other veterans that show up for the weekly fun, it's still an invariably rewarding experience each and every time. The pros are open, easy to chat with, and this is just flat-out an incredible poker value for an everyday type of player. One of the most astonishing things I've discovered is that this tournament usually finishes with an overlay --- the prize pool exceeds the total entry fees paid. Having played this for nearly three months (as of this updated reposting), I find it flabbergasting.
Recommending to any of you that are reading this to join in might make that overlay go away. I don't care; this is too good a tournament for other reasons than to allow RVP to get rid of the thing on a financial technicality. (Not that they're planning to --- this is just a fer-instance.) So join in, and be prepared for a friendlier and more open atmosphere than you'll encounter in almost any other tourney --- only the PokerStars' Blogger Championship and the weekly Wil Wheaton tourney come close... and you don't get the big-name exposure there that the Expert Series offers.
Kudos, I say, kudos all around. RVP uses this as a promotional tool, not a money maker, and they need to know that it is appreciated by those of us who've given it a whirl. And the seven pros deserve their own kudos for participating in a tournament that's almost certainly not worth their while in financial terms (whether they're receiving any participation fees or not). If they are, then RVP's financial investment is even heavier, and is duly noted.
As for me, I try to behave. Lou Krieger deserves personal thanks from me for other reasons, and both Barb Enright and Matt Lessinger have been fun and open table opponents as well. The other pros I've had only brief exposure to, but they are clearly a friendly and open bunch.