Skillbet, a form of real-money “duplicate poker” that attempted to cater to U.S. players by marketing itself as being legal in 28 states, has announced a change in strategy that will now pander to the social gaming crowd.
Players who have account balances on the site, which is likely not very many, needn’t worry as a recent announcement on 2 + 2 by a Skillbet representative stated that “we have plenty of money (in addition to having all our players’ money segregated) so if you’d like to withdraw, no problem. We will turn around withdrawal request in a few days like we always have.”
Skillbet was structured so that two players compete against each other playing No-Limit Texas Hold’em at separate tables. The players each receive identical hole cards and play each hand versus tablemates that are actually robots who also have identical hole cards as their counterparts. A winner is determined by the player who plays his cards more successfully against the “bots” at his or her table after a predetermined amount of hands.
The concept apparently skirts existing online gambling laws in some states by claiming that skill is involved in making better decisions than an opponent under the same circumstances. The real-money game was available starting last year in 28 states. Expansion permitting players throughout the world to log on followed this year. However, three states have recently been dropped from the service list, as the legality of the game remains questionable.
Skillbet has come under fire of late by 2 + 2 posters for allegedly using prop players in order to increase player traffic numbers and possibly entice others to join in. Skillbet spokeswoman Renee Revel admitted as much in the recent announcement, stating that props were used “to play and create more traffic like other poker sites and card rooms.” However, this followed the apparent use of shills who attempted to convince other players to partake in Skillbet action at the same online poker forum.
Revel also stated that the website has ceased marketing efforts and will “spend the next 4-5 months developing (what we hope will be) an awesome social play-money game based on SkillBet (sort of a cross between SkillBet and Draw Something or Words with Friends). Our plan is to advertise this broadly and convert people to SkillBet (solving our current challenge) and re-launch SkillBet, assuming this plan works.”
Whether or not this new approach will be successful remains to be seen. Perhaps a new following of players can be had in the social arena for Skillbet. Duplicate poker was somewhat popular as a Zynga social game on Facebook. In late 2011, Zynga fielded a team of social players that competed in the International Federation of Poker in London against pro poker players. The amateurs finished a respectable fourth out of 12 competing countries.