Haley's Poker Blog

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

Friday, December 08, 2006

Site Review -- MansionPoker

MansionPoker is one of the more recent entries to the online-poker scene, a heavily financed site including some Chinese backing that's tried hard to make a big splash in what turned out to be some very turbulent times. Mansion has caught some terrible breaks along the way, though they've plugged along like good soldiers.

As for the site itself, Mansion is a smallish, stand-alone enterprise that runs on a software engine produced by Malta's Skill Games, Ltd. That software can be found at a couple of other sites, including TonyG Poker, but despite the software similarities, the two sites do not share their player bases.

Most start-ups struggle to climb out that first part of the curve, and Mansion was no exception, and at first there was little to be found on the site excepting a handful of micro-limits NL cash games and some small value-added tournaments and freerolls, including online qualifiers for the MansionPoker Poker Dome tv show, the first big promotional gimmick tried by the site. I'd read about the Poker Dome concept and thought it wonky, but the guys I write for over at Kick Ass Poker asked me if I'd take a look at the site, play a few tourneys, and maybe write a review. Little did I know where that would lead....

That said, in June and July of 2006 the site was absolutely wretched; continuing and repeated system crashes discouraged many of the earliest visitors from really investing a lot of time or money into the site. On one occasion, a customer-service rep assured me that the problems were due to the large system stresses caused by a series of freerolls they were running for a London Times promotion. Okay --- except for those freerolls maxed out at 600 players... or in other words, not much traffic at all. If the story was true, than someone massively screwed up the site's original network configuration and capabilities.

But they worked out the bugs, and these days Mansion runs smoothly, still runs lots of neat promotions, and shows all the signs of evolving into a quality nice site. Sign-up bonuses exist, and value-added tourneys are plentiful.

The competition's not so hot, either.

While the cash-game traffic still centers primarily on NL Hold'em ring games, the other stuff does show signs of coming around. There are also two distinctive things about playing at Mansion Poker. First, the software will feel just a bit sluggish as action cycles from one player to the next, as compared to other sites. It's been that way from the outset, and you'll have to adjust to it or fly elsewhere. It's not a big deal, but it might make a difference of, say, a couple or three hands per hour of play.

Second, and this more than makes up for the first, is that the tournament structure here is the flattest I've ever encountered in an online site. If you want to play tournaments with blind structures that allow for the making of moves and othe real poker plays, you will do no better than the tournaments at Mansion Poker or other Skill Games-software sites. After playing here, a typical Bodog tournament feels like a turbo, and turbo tournaments feel like the crapshoots they really are.

There have been some banking issues with Mansion in the earliest part of their existence. One of the largest concerns had to do with the fact that Mansion will allow you to deposit at will, but requires a photo i.d. to be placed on file with them in order to withdraw. It's had a small dampening effect on Mansion's growth curve, as that extra step requires a bit of blind faith that some online players have been loath to offer. Still, I haven't seen any evidence that Mansion has made any untoward use of such information; it is just part of the security process that Mansion has chosen to put into place.

Customer service? Middling to good --- once they fixed the early network problems, I haven't had the need to contact them about anything. (Which is sorta how I like it.) The variety of poker games here is below average, but Mansion doesn't have the traffic yet to really justify the full gamut of games.

No glaring weaknesses; just a site in need of more traffic. To their credit, though, they're in there swinging with new ideas and promotions all the time. Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 max).

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