The online poker market has become tougher in the past several years, as several sites have merged, some markets have fenced off from global traffic, and PokerStars continues to grow. The ability to compete with PokerStars is relegated to a few poker sites and networks, two of which are 888poker and PartyPoker.
They each took steps throughout 2016 to grow their player bases, attract more recreational players, and stand out from their competition.
One of the primary forms of outreach by 888poker in 2016 was its expansion of 888Live events, which offers players the chance to compete in live tournaments at various locations around Europe. The year started with a trip to Austria, then Spain, London, and plans for the Czech Republic in January 2017.
888poker also partnered with the Russian Poker Tour, King’s Casino, and the Swedish Poker Federation. And in a move to reach out to Hearthstone players, the site joined forces with Flow Esports, a team of Hearthstone livestreamers.
The site launched several big promotions throughout the year, the first of which was Live the Game. Through a series of television advertisements aimed at recreational players in the UK, the goal was to create an automatic connection between dynamics of poker and similar real-life situations. There was also an online poker component with rewards and bonuses, including a series of freerolls worth $1 million.
New faces joined 888poker to expand the site’s reach and appeal, starting with Kara Scott as a new ambassador back in February. Nearly a month later, football legend and FIFA World Cup Champion Denilson joined the team to enrich the Brazilian experience. Other additions to the team throughout the year included Chris Moorman and Jeff Gross.
Other big news in 2016 included the ongoing deal with the World Series of Poker to be its lead sponsor and a partnership with the WSOP Circuit, as well as a face-lift for its loyalty program. The launch of personalized video storyboards gave players a chance to mold their own experiences, and the introduction of BLAST lottery-style turbo SNGs brought new excitement to the action. It took its Super XL Series of online tournaments to a new level with multiple editions of the series through the year, including a May schedule with $3 million in guarantees and September one with $4 million.
The year started with PartyPoker launching a new app for Windows mobile devices, as well as a multi-table option for all mobile apps later in the year, and the cancellation of withdrawal fees for several payment processing options like Neteller and Skrill was welcomed by many players. Later in the year, the announcement came that cash game hand histories would be anonymized, taking some of the skill game options away from pro players. A new cash game called Fast Five was introduced to round out the year, as well as the addition of progressive knockout tournaments.
Its popular online tournament series Powerfest kicked off in February with $5 million in guarantees. Powerfest grew by its May installment to a $7.8 million guaranteed series with a massive schedule of 172 events featuring a range of buy-ins. And even better, the September edition offered $10 million in guarantees across the series. The site then announced the PartyPoker Millions, a tournament with both live and online components and a £6 million guarantee that will take place in April 2017.
As far as live events, PartyPoker’s partnership with the World Poker Tour took the action to cities like London, Vienna, Montreal, Prague, and even the Caribbean. The PartyPoker team also hit up events like the Grand Prix Poker Tour at Dusk Till Dawn and the GPPT online and live tours, and it sponsored the Devilfish Cup to honor the late David “Devilfish” Ulliott.
Despite global market troubles for all online poker operators, PartyPoker announced plans to return to 21 grey-market regions of Europe and South America, including Finland, Hungary, Poland, Greece, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
The PartyPoker roster of ambassadors and pros added a few names, such as Patrick Leonard, Roberto Romanello, Natalia Breviglieri, Jackie Glazier, and Beata Jambrik. Sam Trickett joined the team later in the year, as did former PokerStars pro and tennis legend Boris Becker. Along with the new faces, the site launched its own Twitch channel, a place for said pros to feature their livestreams and the site to broadcast special events.
If 2016 was any indication, both 888poker and PartyPoker will be expanding their reach and announcing even more initiatives in the coming year.