Online Poker 2.0: Is The Gaming Industry Prepping For A Second Poker Boom?

Steve Ruddock October 5, 2016 1347 Reads
online poker 2.0

Online poker has been conspicuously absent at the numerous gaming conferences I’ve attended during the past three years. There has been little mention of it on panel discussions, and online poker products on the showroom floor have been few and far between.

It’s gotten to the point that major online poker operators like 888 and PokerStars don’t even set up at Global Gaming Expo (G2E) anymore, and they had a near-zero presence this year.

In past years, even when they didn’t have a dedicated booth, high-profile representatives of the two companies were in attendance and available for meetings.

The vertical that was once the face of online gambling has been relegated to almost an afterthought by the large gaming corporations whose sports betting and online casino revenues dwarf the money they take in from poker.

Or has it?

Based on conversations I had, and the meetings I scheduled in the lead-up to G2E, I was hopeful this trend would change when I attended last week. What I discovered is an industry that is still optimistic that legalization efforts for US online poker could lead to a second poker boom, or, at the very least, a substantial aftershock.

One company that did put its online poker product — a product it has spent the past three years overhauling — on display at G2E was IGT.

Not known for online poker, IGT is confident that given the opportunity, its new product — which includes a number of exclusive features — can disrupt the online poker market.

IGT’s coming out party

With efforts for online gambling legalization underway in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Michigan, and Massachusetts, IGT was touting its revamped online poker platform (the legacy BOSS Media platform) in the interactive area of its expansive booth at G2E.

And make no mistake about it, the software has been completely overhauled, to go along with the new, first-of-its-kind features and games available.

I found the software extremely user-friendly and customizable, and it was obvious IGT placed a heavy focus on its mobile platform, with impressive results. Mobile is where the majority of online gaming is already taking place, and mobile market share is expected to keep growing in the coming years.

IGT Mobile

Seeing IGT’s new mobile online poker platform was exciting.

IGT managed to resolve several of the problems that have hampered previous mobile online poker efforts; namely, the lack of screen space and toggling through different screens to reach other tables and/or the lobby.

On this front:

  1. The mobile platform has a collapsible sidebar menu, allowing players to peruse the lobby or change settings while keeping a watchful eye on their table.
  2. The mobile platform allows play at up to four tables, and if you don’t want to cycle through each table to fold your hand (perhaps you’re involved in a big hand on a specific table) you can see your hand at all of your other tables at the top of the screen and elect to fold without leaving your current table.
  3. Perhaps the best feature is the ability to switch from the classic table view to industry-first thumb controls (pictured) at the bottom right (fold, call, and raise) and left corners (a slider for bet sizing) which help eliminate mis-clicks from bumpy train rides or fat fingers.

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Bottom line: Of all the mobile online poker products I’ve used, IGT’s is the most functional for the platform.

IGT desktop

It wasn’t just the mobile platform that was reimagined by IGT. The desktop client also received a number of upgrades.

Like the mobile platform, the desktop lobby now has a collapsible menu, and features a preview panel of tables on the right-hand side. Other additions include:

  • Recommended games (including tournaments with overlays)
  • Your most recent/favorite games.
  • The most popular games on the site.

Unlike other platforms, IGT’s platform doesn’t just give you the option to change settings; the software remembers if you prefer things like pre-selected raise amounts (1/2 pot, 2/3 pot, etc.) or if you tend to use the slider. It also remembers if you prefer classic lobby view or the tiled lobby view IGT offers (pictured).

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IGT’s new game innovations

IGT had a new, patent-pending game on display at G2E: what the company has dubbed Poker Challenges.

Unlike a typical poker game, in a Poker Challenge each player starts with the same amount of chips and the game is played over a set number of hands or for a specific amount of time.

The big difference is a player is never eliminated, as each player’s chip stack resets at the beginning of every hand, with previous losses and wins counted separately and used as the player’s score. The player with the best score at the end of the match wins.

According to IGT, Poker Challenges will see even more features and gameplay options added throughout 2017.

Upshot

The reinvented IGT platform has already been rolled out in Italy, and should be unveiled in other markets (Sweden and Canada to name two) in the near future. IGT is also hoping its newly revamped poker platform will entice some major land-based operators in the US to consider IGT as their platform provider.

Partnering with the company has a lot of benefits, as IGT has the ability to offer a massive selection of land-based and online casino games, and a B2B online poker product that won’t launch a competing brand in the market.

Based on my experience with its new online poker platform, IGT is going to be a major player in the online poker market going forward.