While real money gaming is still off in the future of the new upstart Equity Poker Network (EPN), the first operating skin of Full Flush Poker has begun the transition to working software and a functioning network by beginning its soft launch this past weekend with a $500 freeroll that was won by “DanceQueen” for $250. The tournament attracted a healthy amount of players despite not having any cash games and just this freeroll to begin with. The network will be open to US players when real money games start, and Americans can also participate in the large freerolls currently scheduled. Full Flush Poker does not appear to have a connection to Luke “_fullflush1_” Schwartz, despite the similar names.
What makes this a notable story, though, isn’t that there was a freeroll, but instead that the Equity Poker Network is set up much differently than most networks. It is a non-profit network that gives its individual skins a lot of leeway to make their own rules, promotions and decisions in order to attract players. There are limits on what skins can offer, but those rules are very vague for the current market and will allow each skin to have a very different feel if they so choose, unlike Winning Poker Network and Merge Network, which have the same feel across all skins. This is starkly different from other networks that are primarily concerned with squeezing as much profit from players as possible and instead end up having a conflict of interest when deciding upon new rules.
The greatest example of the problems surrounding overbearing networks is Merge and its main skin of Carbon Poker. Merge and Carbon have seen a substantial drop in players as the network decides what is best for it and ends up many times overruling what the individual skins want. The raise in rake, removing of rakeback, and the removal of person-to-person transfers just begin the list of things that the network has done to raise profits. Whether this will happen at EPN is unknown, but removing the need for profit variable is an interesting first step in potentially lessening the chance of decisions like that.
As the network expands and starts spreading real money games, it will begin the real test of what will happen. Many people would like to think that this kind of model will be sustainable and that it will lead to better results for players, but the reality of the situation is that the individual rooms on the network are going to be what ultimately decide the failure or success of the network. Many skins are reportedly lining up to join the network, and it’s easy to see why, because you get so much freedom. However, many networks can attest that if you give too much freedom, a rogue skin can really start to cause problems.
Unique ideas also can only go so far. Sealswithclubs tried to be unique by offering Bitcoin as its currency instead of US dollars, but it has had less than stellar results. LiveAce has tried to work off of a sweepstakes model and while having success at the beginning and gaining a lot of attention, has fallen into the background lately and no longer enjoys the player liquidity that was hoped. These are just two examples of a litany of failed or less than spectacular results from unique poker sites. EPN will have its work cut out for it, considering that the most successful sites available right now all kind of follow the same model.
So while Full Flush Poker had a very impressive and successful opening weekend, it’s going to take some time to see how EPN will fair. The good thing is seeing sites and networks trying new things to get players at the tables and provide a different experience. As the market continues to mature, new things will continue to be tested and it can only end with positive results for the players as a whole.