The Merge Gaming Network is experiencing a number of troubling issues of late that have shaken player loyalty and caused the network to tumble into third place among online poker networks that still cater to U.S. players.
The problems seemed to begin when Lock Poker—one of the largest skins on the network—left Merge in May after acquiring the Cake Poker Network and rebranding it as the Revolution Gaming Network. Latest PokerScout tallies show Revolution to be the top U.S.-friendly network in player traffic and in 10th place overall. Bodog trails as the second-ranked U.S.-facing network and 12th worldwide, while Merge has plummeted to third in U.S.-friendly rankings and 15th overall.
Merge CEO Anthony Taylor announced his resignation in September, which may have played a part in the network’s current instability. That instability includes a recent report by Pokeraddict that “U.S. players have been unable to deposit by credit card for over a month.” Cashouts have also been moving at a snail’s pace, with a six-to-eight week timeframe in order to receive a check. Three skins on the network, Carbon Poker, PDC Poker, and Aced, are reportedly transitioning to another payment processor separate from the other Merge skins. That change is anticipated effective Nov. 1.
Most recently, BlackChipPoker posted on TwoPlusTwo that Merge has restricted player-to-player transfers and that “as of November 1, [Merge] will be removing all players’ ability to send [player-to-player] transfers from the poker client.” This new business model is seemingly aimed at prohibiting a small fraction of high-grinding U.S. players from transferring bankrolls to players located outside of the U.S. in order to facilitate deal-making that includes speedier withdrawals.
The removal of player-to-player transfers comes on the heels of a rake reduction at Merge in fixed-limit cash games that makes the network among the best to play at when compared with rake structures of other online poker rooms. There is a belief that Merge may be hoping to entice more casual players into the fold, as opposed to the professional grinders from the U.S. who haven’t packed up and left the country to play. The same players who have been abusing the player-to-player transfer system.
Another recent matter at Merge has been the shutdown of skins Bluff Room and FeltStars earlier this month. While Merge is attempting to fix some issues by lowering rake and stopping bankroll movement by online pros, the room closings and payment processing issues for U.S. players—both deposits and withdrawals—does not exude confidence in players that the network is a safe place to play.
Just a few months ago, Merge was the top U.S.-facing network in player traffic. It has fallen into third place and questions remain over whether it can attract new players and remain stable in the market. The network is merely filling the void until U.S. players have access to a regulated market.