Normally we don’t report old news, or at least news that is a month old, but something happened in the internet poker industry at the beginning of January that appears to have almost completely stayed off everyone’s radars. Party Poker jumped into the ranks of the top three largest online poker rooms in the world.
When Party Poker decided to withdraw from the United States market after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in late 2006, its reign atop the online poker world ended. Both its player base and the stock price of its parent company, PartyGaming, plunged. In the months and years to come, what was once the 800-pound gorilla of the industry re-focused its marketing efforts on Europe and gradually began to refill its tables.
In the meantime, Playtech’s iPoker Network, which was headlined by Titan Poker, was busy absorbing networks that decided they couldn’t compete after closing their doors to the U.S., as well as poker room refugees from other floundering networks. What was once a fairly minor player eventually climbed to the number three position in average daily cash game traffic (thanks to PokerScout.com for the information), behind the new industry behemoths, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
But a funny thing happened in the first week of 2010, something that not many people noticed. Party Poker raced past iPoker for the first time in almost two years, since March 2008. According to PokerScout.com, that was the first time the top four cash game sites had changed in 93 weeks (the rankings had been Stars, Full Tilt, iPoker, Party). PokerScout also noted that Party Poker’s traffic leapt 20 percent that week, largely due to the return of the Cash Machine promotion.
If one had to take a gander as to why, iPoker’s traffic was decreasing at the same time that Party’s was increasing, it may be because iPoker changed its method of rake calculation from the dealt method to the contributed method. Typically, bonus hunters prefer the dealt method, as it allows them to earn credit for raked hands while folding the majority of their hands. With the switch to the contributed method, the network may have lost players who were only playing for bonuses. Additionally, at the end of 2009, iPoker announced that it was going to crackdown on its rooms that offered rakeback, as well as punish those that had too high of a “shark” to “fish” ratio. Some winning players were actually told they were no longer welcome, and those who had been receiving rakeback (which is not allowed by iPoker) may have moved to other rooms.
And now, five weeks into 2010, Party Poker still sits in third place in the cash game rankings. According to PokerScout, its seven day average for cash players is 5,400, a solid 550 players ahead of iPoker. It still has a long way to go to catch either PokerStars or Full Tilt, however, which have seven day averages of 32,800 and 16,600, respectively.
PokerScout.com reported that there were other movers in the first week of February, as well. Everest Poker inched ahead of the Cereus Network (home to Absolute Poker and UB.com) into sixth position, while Pacific Poker has moved ahead of Sweden’s Svenska Spel into twelfth place. The Cake Poker Network, the Microgaming Poker Network, and the International Poker Network (IPN) keep jockeying for the eighth, ninth, and tenth spots, with Cake and Microgaming currently tied, just 100 players ahead of IPN.

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