As soon as the international online poker liquidity agreement between Spain and France went into effect, PokerStars Europe (Spain and France), the only network currently authorized to pool players between the two countries, started reaping the benefits.
According to PokerScout.com’s cash game tracker (data collected on 1/24), PokerStars Europe is now the third most heavily trafficked poker site, trailing only its parent site, PokerStars.com, and the Asian-centric IDN Poker network:
- PokerStars (Global): Average cash game traffic of 11,000 players; peak traffic of 17,000
- IDNPoker (Asia): Average cash game traffic of 4, 600 players; peak traffic of 7,300
- PokerStars (Europe): Average cash game traffic of 1,800 players; peak traffic of 3,200
- 888 Poker (Global): Average cash game traffic of 1,800 players; peak traffic of 2,200
- PartyPoker (Global): Average cash game traffic of 1,450 players; peak traffic of 2,800
PokerStars Europe’s current ranking really puts the current online poker landscape into perspective.
Even though partypoker has been lauded for its recent growth, the gap between partypoker and PokerStars is still quite substantial, evidenced by a two-country PokerStars network besting partypoker’s global brand.
When it comes right down to it, it’s still PokerStars and then everyone else.
Furthermore, if the online poker market wasn’t balkanized, PokerStars’ lead over partypoker, 888, and all of the other sites would be even greater.
Comparing the two main global sites, PokerStars has 7.5-times the cash game traffic as partypoker.
But that doesn’t represent the totality of either companies’ reach.
PokerStars cash game traffic advantage jumps to 9.5-times when all markets are combined:
- PokerStars (global, Europe, Italy, Portugal, and New Jersey) boasts a total average cash game traffic is 14,300 players.
- partypoker (global, New Jersey, France, and Spain) possesses a total average cash game traffic is 1,550 players.
A Spanish loophole is boosting liquidity
PokerStars Europe’s liquidity does come with a caveat, since you don’t have to be in Spain to play on PokerStars.es.
With the exception of players in other ring-fenced countries, the final decision on who can access PokerStars’ Spanish-facing site is left up to the operator. PokerStars used to limit access to players in Spain, but as the sole provider in the France-Spain market, it’s taking advantage of that provision to further boost its liquidity.
Per the PokerStars Blog:
“I would also like to take advantage of this note to mention that players from outside Spain will be able to join the French and Spanish liquidity through PokerStars.es. We think it is important to boost the liquidity at the start. As we did for France, this situation will be reviewed periodically and might be reversed if the benefits of liquidity are overweighed by the burden that it creates on recreational players.”
What this means is PokerStars is allowing players from some of the countries that make up their dot-com player pool to access the new Spain-France network.
The decision will reduce the number of players on the dot-com site, but as noted above, PokerStars’ global lead is such that it can shuffle some of these players to a lesser trafficked network where their presence is more impactful.
The strategy is somewhat ingenious.
PokerStars is the only network currently authorized that pools its Spanish and French players, which gives it a built-in advantage over its competitors whose players are still segregated. By allowing some other countries to access the network, Stars will further increase PokerStars’ lead on Winamax.fr, a site that was beating Stars in a head-to-head matchup in the France market.