Haley's Poker Blog

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

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Site Review: Poker.com

Poker.com? A small, interesting, relatively new site. They've been around for just about a year, or just about the same amount of time I've been doing my li'l ol' poker blog. Salud. Poker.com's made a push for higher visibility in recent months, and while that's an unimportant concern, I have played enough on the site to have a decent feel for the place. Therefore, the Poker.com review.

Decent software, for the most part. There are a number of bells and whistles not found elsewhere, and a few of them are legitimate entries in the "nice touch" group. Many others are frivolous, and a couple even hamper speedy play. At times the software seems too complex for its main purpose; it often gives up the ghost on the fun stuff --- animations, sounds and the like --- and on occasion more important things go haywire as well. In a recent MTT, the leaderboard froze and crashed at an untimely moment: three spots from the bubble. No doubt the culprit was frequent requests by participants tracking the bubble's progress.

Still, it was a tourney with less than a thousand entries, and it suggests a growth limit that's a counterpoint to some of Poker.com's other efforts.

Think about it, keep it in the back of your noggin, and we'll circle back to the top-level impressions later on. After all, a good poker player switches gears, so let's move over to game toughness and site traffic. One would expect that these two components (along with a third, advertising/market presence), would generally define a site's position in the online universe. But no... it's another unexplained mystery in the Poker.com conundrum. Because the games are fishy soft, the value-added promotional stuff should be enough to draw traffic, and yet...

... it's about 1:30 CT on a Tuesday afternoon as I write this. Here's a rundown of the hold-'em ring-game action: There are 200-300 players (including all duplications of multi-tablers) on the NL tables, the fixed-limit area numbers 29, and the pot-limit zone is a veritable wasteland --- nary a player in sight. Omaha's a blank slate across the board. Another 200 or so players show up in the various SNG's, although there's lots of duplication here as well: you could nearly call in a cable-repair problem and have it serviced in the time it takes an otherwise normal $10 SNG to fill up and begin play.

But if Poker.com tosses a hundred-dollar bill on the table in the form of a freeroll for non-paying customers, enticing them to visit the site, that thousand-player entry cap is reached in just a couple of minutes.

The folks that wait in line 45 minutes for a bagful of 39-cent McDonaldBurgers are alive and well at Poker.com. Funnier still is that they're catered to here to the extent that Poker.com does --- if Poker.com knew as much about marketing as they do about software programming, they'd understand that this is a largely non-convertable segment of the poker-playin' population. Tossing them the occasional bone is good business... if you can pick up goodwill in the form of promotional listings elsewhere. However, the en masse tossing of the same bones into the same maw is just an exercise in the flushing away of capital.

But what can we say? After all, this is a site with access to one of the most goodwill-laden of all names in the world of cards --- "Hoyle" --- and they don't know what the hell to do with it.

Still, Poker.com hooked me in with a freebie as well, so I'll admit to my own level of hypocrisy here. Granted, my EV expectations are somewhat higher; I'm just not going to bother with a tourney that has an equity of ten cents per player. Even at my level of destitution, I just don't get that one.

Another factor is the effect that these things can have on the "earned freeroll" population. For instance, the Prima network used to have three pleasant little $1,000 freerolls daily that required 100 raked hands in the previous day for entry. Among other things, it was just a tiny incentive to fire up one or two Prima tables when nothing else good was in the air. Yet a couple of months ago, with infinite wisdom, Prima opened up these freerolls to all players.

These tournies have lots more players, now, but at what cost? I was a regular rake generator at the games, but the Prima action is tight enough at the stakes I prefer that I can find better games elsewhere. So my Prima sites, for all intent, have lost my rake... along with that of any other player who can justify their play choices in the same manner as I do.

Prima may have lots more players in those tournies, but seriously --- how much rake do play-chip players generate? Right, let's add 10x more play-chip players to the mix... that'll boost revenue.

Oh, wait, this is the Poker.com review. What does Prima have to do with it? Whatever --- I purchased my "Wanderin' License" last week, so you'll have to bear with the occasional meandering digression. And now, back to our previously scheduled topic.

Poker.com's promotional goodness? Decent enough. The highest rollers will suffer, since the site traffic just doesn't warrent the time investment needed to clear said bonus. In general, that's the problem with trying to clear these "generous" bonuses at small sites: in most cases the traffic will be insufficient to allow an optimal clearing of the bonus.

Poker.com hooked me in through their Poker Blogger Tour promotion. I'll be honest --- for me the prize in this is large enough to warrant the effort, with plenty of intermediate cash as well. Right now, I'm 0-4 for in qualifying for the final, including a couple of horrendous beats that sent me to the rail. Not the point. The reason Poker.com does things like their BPT promotion is precisely because of pieces like this, and in truth it doesn't really matter if I praise or curse the phrase "Poker.com" at all. The fact that the magic words appear here is just a part of the game.

Particle or wave? Even the most unimportant of us contribute to the shape of the universe.

And I am aware of the fact that for each handful of people like-minded to me, there are a thousand not-serious players who say, "Shut up and let me have my dimes." But they're not part of my target audience, nor intended message. Different wavelength, different tune.

On to Poker.com's software, a fun, complex mishmash that works mostly as intended. I was a bit flabbergasted upon my first visit, thinking the stuff awkward, but with practice and familiarity the stuff plays pretty well. I'm not crazy about the "rabbit" and "show one card only" options for mucking --- the purist part of me screams "show one, show all," and that goes for the number of cards as well as the players. On the same line, doing the "rabbit" routine is pointless and time-consuming. The chat animations are a cute touch, especially those you don't know about, such as "donkey," until you see them flash on the screen. (And yes, you can disable them, too.) And the "accolades" thing is another distinctive (if unneeded) touch. Check the "Accolauded" sidebar or follow-up text for more.

When it comes to qualifying for special events and monitoring tourney performances, Poker.com uses a "coupon" system that tracks results. Each time you pass a performance level, qualify for a special event or crash out of a tournament, a coupon is generated to note the happening. You can view these coupons through the "Player Admin" section of the site, a well-conceived area that other sites would do well to steal from... err, imitate.

Banking options are the usual mix, with all the standard players. It's too soon to tell how well they process withdrawals, as I'm still working on a dad-blamed bonus. Customer service above par, to date.

Decent, overall. High software marks, easy games, yet the traffic is still a disappointment. We'll see if they reach critical mass in the months ahead. Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 max).


Poker.com is the first site I'm aware of that contains an "accolade" function that can track and display a player's prior achievements. While the accolades can be turned off, I suspect that most players here probably leave them visible to their opponents. After all, even over minuscule trinkets of play, what player doesn't like to brag?

Here's the blue-ribbon thingie my account picked up in its first week; I snagged a whoppin' big win in the "New Depositor $500 Freeroll" for the lordly sum of $150. I was eligible for seven of these, played in six, and had two cashes including the win. Remember, though that all new depositors are eligible, and even though the typical field was 80 or 90 players, many of these players simply have no clue. The accolade is also on the lower end of available icons, though $100 freeroll-winner ribbons abound. (I have played against the player with the "snowman" icon that indicates victory in the $100,000 holiday tourney, and of his first-place winnings I am jealous.)

The star thingies to the right of the ribbon are a measure of how much rake a player has generated, nothing more. The rake generated translates to a player's comp points, which in turn means these little stars. I'm at the bronze-star-and-a-half level here, just a dim whisper of the three-gold-star max that seems to be the current standard of persistency.

Goofy stuff. Enjoyable. Not a measure of a player's success or skill level, unless perhaps it's a three-gold-star player with nothing more than a $100-freeroll ribbon to show for all that work.


Blogger imjusthere4thebeer said...

Excellent review on poker.com! I got my "official" start at that site (yes, I was attracted to them by the freerolls... and evolved as a player, playing cash/ring games as my skill-set developed).

My suspician is that the freerolls were "thrown out there" originally to help crash test the software and attract customers. The freerolls were all the advertising they really needed as word spreads like wild fire when someone offers anything free on the internet.

That being said, the "problem" becomes how to convert it to the next level. My guess is that starting with projects such as the blogger poker tour, we're going to see an evolution into the next stage of the marketing plan. This will address the "we have name recognition, now what?" problem.

As I said, I love your review, and think its great that you take the time to hammer out well written, insightful posts on the poker rooms in which you play. Thanks for the read!


6:35 AM  
Blogger jusdealem said...

Great post, thanks for the info!

2:09 PM  

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