Haley's Poker Blog

No bad beats, but still a poker blog... hence the anguish.

Monday, March 13, 2006

SITE REVIEW - TITAN POKER

Titan Poker is, I believe, the second largest of the iPoker skins, following Noble Poker. This review is as much a review of the iPoker gaming engine as of Titan itself, but since I don't plan on visiting Noble again, and Noble is very similar to Titan, this is what you get. Deal with it.

Titan is one of those sites that I'm happy to have tried, but cannot wait to leave. "Why not leave now?" you might ask. Well, heh. That's one of the problems. Caveat emptor, gentle reader, caveat emptor. That's "Let the buyer beware," in case you weren't in a remembering state of mind right now. The iPoker skins are known for their generous sign-up bonuses, but these bonuses can be misleading in ways different than you might think. Speaking of thinking, think this will be a less-than-gushing review? You think right, Grasshoppah --- now go snatch a dime from someone else's palm.

Let's cut to the chase. If you are seduced by those overly large bonuses, tread carefully: You'll find them much harder to obtain than the published table-rate figures might lead you to believe. The reason for this is that iPoker lacks the table traffic to support the number of tables you'd like to play at the stakes you find comfortable. Suppose you're a hacker like me, typically playing anything from .50/1 to 2/4 fixed-limit. At off hours, you might not find a full-ring game, or at most find one or two, among the various levels. There might be a couple of short-handed games going, and perhaps something at no-limit as well. But you're not going to get the volume that you need to make those hefty bonus rates pay off; you're not even going to come close.

Toss in software that's clunky, slow and brutal, plus a couple of other lovely little treats I'll return to in a bit, and this one's a dog. Stay away. Yes, the competition is softer here than at other sites, but it's like Pacific --- the competition is softer because the site is poor, and most of the more competent players have fled for saner pastures.

I've seen a commercial or two for iPoker skins, and they invariably try to sell the high bonuses and slick software... "state of the art graphics" is a phrase you'll hear accompanied by a 3-D rendition showing some of the site's table avatars. Well, get it straight: the avatars ain't numerous and they ain't great --- FullTilt plays that tune a whole heap better.

Could we hope that the software then excels in functionality? Well, we could hope that, yes we could. But our hopes would be false. The software is clunky and slow, and multi-table switching ranges from hesitant and sluggish on newer computers to FuggidAbouDit-UBeenTimedOut on older clunkers. Another huge flaw occurs in the no-limit betting choices, but this one will take a bit more explaining:

When one begins to learn no-limit, one of the first things one learns is the concept of the Standard Raise. It's three times (3x) the big blind or the most recent bet. It's evolved over time as the optimal balance between smaller raises that encourage unwanted action from speculative hands hoping to see a cheap flop, and overbets that freeze out the type of second-best opponents one would rather keep around. Understand that one doesn't always make a standard raise, but it's frequently the best option, right?

Well, iPoker's software designers, demonstrating their deep understanding of the game (and yes, I'm being sarcastic), set up their sliding-scale bet programming so it jumps from 1x to 2x to 4x, 6x and beyond, skipping the classic standard raise. The only way to do a standard raise is to do the math, then manually type in the number into the raise field, then tab that bet into play. Other bet rheostats occasionally have problems, particularly when one acquires a large stack early, relative to the size of the blinds. But none of the others I've tried are as badly designed as iPoker's.

Another oddity --- and to my way of thinking, a large negative --- occurs in R&A ("Rebuy and Add-On) tourneys. All other sites I've played allow a rebuy to take place as soon one's chip level falls below the tourney starting point, which could typically be 1,500 chips. But on iPoker, one can't rebuy until that player's chip stack reaches zero. What a disincentive! If a player takes a big loss that reduces the size of his chip stack to, say, 400 chips, that player has to consider dumping those 400 chips and starting over, particularly if the blinds are due to go up in another couple of minutes. That's flat-out dumb, and it might even promote collusion under a perfect set of circumstances.

The litany goes on, of course, but it all boils down to a basic truth: iPoker's designers and financiers care a lot more about enabling themselves to snare some online gambling commerce then they are in taking care of their customers' needs. That's damning indeed. So it doesn't matter if it's as important as a woefully inadequate note-taking function that provides space barely large enough to hold a phone number, much less info on how one's opponents play, or as frivolous as the oversized chat ballons that obscure and distract from the table action. It's all just symptoms of the same disease.

But I'm used to seeing things like this, particularly in an era when new sites are springing up by the week. What finally galled me, though, was the discovery that the money I'd deposited --- in terms of the original amount --- was non-withdrawable until I'd played the amount of hands neede to clear the related bonus. In other words, given the lack of table action and software so balky that the entire site has shut down for unscheduled maintenance on multiple occasions, I'll get my money back when hell freezeth over. So let my misfortune be your fair warning: Stay away from iPoker and any of its skins. They offer oversixed bonuses that are made from smoke and mirrors, and they have no intention of letting you get out of their system with your bankroll whole and hearty. Caveat emptor, indeed.




"We Didn't Say Those Numbers Actually Mean Anything..."

There I was, playing a handful of Maui Sit-'N'-Go's, hoping to win five straight and capture the $50,000 (or whatever) jackpot prize for doing so. And winning a couple, here and there, and doing the same with a few Dirty Dozen and Rio jackpot games as well.

Funny thing... all the games and hand numbers on iPoker sites always end in "0." There's nothing wrong with this, per se, unless you believe that the hand and game numbers are an accurate measure of a site's history and size. That's right, friends and neighbors: By adding a simple "0" to all such numbers, iPoker gives the impression that they've dealt ten times as many games as they actually have.

Dishonest? Aye, that's a hair that needs splitting. Just because it's a "hand number" doesn't necessarily mean that it's a "hand count." As you can tell, my impressions of this site are largely negative, so for me it's just one more small reason to flee elsewhere at the earliest opportunity. There's something about iPoker that leaves me feeling uneasy. On that I'll say no more.

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