Since entering the industry in early 2012, Muchos Poker has established one goal: to make playing poker as easy as possible for players by providing access to a range of networks. A single deposit on Muchos can be used or transferred on any of the ten networks on its multi-platform model. The ability of players to move freely from one site to another through a centralized cashier is an innovative idea in an industry that relies heavily on affiliate marketing and the traditional single-site paradigm.
Muchos Poker has reported consistent growth in new player signups and boasts strong retention rates. Licensed in Malta where funds are required to be segregated, the company provides players with a skin on almost every poker network. The idea is to make life as easy as possible for players by allowing them to find the best cash games and tournaments available. Gone are the hassles of establishing accounts—and dealing with depositing, withdrawing and verifying player identities—on different networks. Muchos expedites the process by using one centralized cashier and the same screen name for a player on all ten networks.
This multi-platform approach blurs the line between payment processor, operator and affiliate in a way that challenges the established model of business that has been in effect since the inception of online poker over a decade ago. Whether such a business model is sustainable over the long haul is a question many networks, affiliates and players are asking.
“Most networks and skins believe they need to ‘lock in’ players with bonuses and races, and so they do everything they can to ensure their players play on only one site,” Tim Heath, chief executive at Muchos Poker, told PokerUpdate.
“Why not put players in the position to make their own choice? If today they want to play on iPoker, they can, and if tomorrow they wish to play on 888, they can. Some networks still think in a very old fashioned way, but we feel that—with poker in somewhat of a decline—we need to give players every option and convenience available.”
Poker ecology requires an influx of recreational players, who, while not long-term winners, continue to play and deposit. With that in mind, sites and networks are focusing more and more on the casual player. Case in point: 888, one of the few operators to see an increase in liquidity in the last year. Commenting on the company’s eighth successive quarter of overall revenue growth, chief executive Brian Mattingley told analysts:
“Our poker product is attractive to the casual player, and that’s our market…we actually encourage the fish to come into our pool and we dissuade sharks, or professional poker players.”
In many ways a multi-platform model like Muchos Poker is aimed at knowledgeable online pros who will transfer their account balances to the sites or rooms in which they can make the most profit, or obtain the best deals and bonuses. Not the fish. As a result, a multi-platform model could be a deterrent to a healthy ecology.
While the added flexibility for players on a multi-network platform is apparent, there’s also the possibility that some sites or networks that don’t participate will be cannibalized. Players will leave their current skins for Muchos because of the convenience of a one cashier solution, and certain brands currently pushing liquidity to the networks may not be able to survive.
Heath, who has been in the industry for the past 10 years and has shaped his company’s business model over the past 18 months, doesn’t flat out refute the claim that Muchos appeals more to professionals than net-depositing fish—the lifeblood of poker rooms. Instead, the operator is seeking a mix.
“Our business model is not based on rakeback or deals—while so many others are,” Heath explains. “Our model is based on innovation and giving players a framework to be able to play on any network they wish. We came up with the concept and structural platform behind Muchos as a way to completely remove the reliance on rakeback as a selling point and, rather, focus on the player experience.
“For the past three or four years affiliates and skins had a very simple business model. Their only selling point was to offer higher and higher rakeback, which squeezed margins and ensured there was no budget left to reinvest in innovation to improve the user experience. Muchos Poker does not give the best deals, nor the best bonuses. And never will. We do not compete on price; we compete by providing our players with an innovative solution.
“Better margins for an operator allow the company to reinvest more of its revenues and profits into innovation and development. We work very closely with each network to mutually help with promotions that attract new net-depositing players. However, it is correct: many professional players will be attracted to the convenience of our business model. But so will the fish. And that’s why the majority of Muchos’ players are net depositing recreational players from India.”
Heath told PokerUpdate that Muchos Poker is also planning to roll out changes to poker room lobbies. “Why has there been no innovation in the layout of the poker lobby for years? To a new player, even a basic lobby is incredibly intimidating. We are releasing a change in how lobbies are displayed. For example, if you are a new player we will show beginner lobbies only. We’re focused on providing the best possible user interface to help ease new players into the game.”
How will Muchos Poker expect to become a player in highly-regulated or segregated markets such as France or Italy? So far Muchos has only entered the dot.com sphere, but believes that offering its product in regulated markets will be easy to achieve. “We can release Muchos in the Italian market, for example, and offer only regulated .it rooms there. So we can prepare our software for any regulated market and cater specifically to that market’s needs.”
The reception of players to the multi-platform approach has been “brilliant” and “much better than we could have ever expected,” according to Heath. Muchos Poker is currently available on iPoker1, iPoker2, Merge, Enet, Ongame, 888 Poker, Boss Media, Revolution, and Casino di Venezia networks. Talks are in the works to add the Microgaming network to its offerings.
Being able to move from one network to another under a centralized cashier is obviously beneficial to players. But will the concept continue to catch on and be welcomed by networks and affiliates over the course of time? That depends, according to Heath. “Are they backward looking and believe we must lock in poker players to a single network, or are they progressive and understand what players want?”