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The Ongame Network 2.0

When Bwin and PartyPoker announced their merger last year, the world’s largest publicly-traded online gaming company was formed. When platforms combine, the move will increase Party’s player traffic by 20%, a jump that could see the network finally secure second place on PokerScout’s rankings.

The merger also presented another question: what would happen to Ongame, Bwin’s poker network?

Bwin bought the network in 2005. At the time, the most successful site was PokerRoom, which started in 1999 as the network’s first skin. However, PokerRoom was shut down in 2009 and Bwin transferred the player accounts over to its own site. Along the way other skins joined Ongame, mainly sportsbook operators such as Betsson and Betfair.

Now, larger skins have started to ring-fence games. Some tables are exclusive to those sites and cannot be played on smaller skins. Skins such as PokerLoco and PokerIdol have been left on the outside, looking in.

Why has this happened? Very little information can be found and nothing has been announced by Ongame or any of the skins thus far. It could be that we are seeing the birth of “Ongame2”.

What is Ongame2?

“Ongame2” (or “ON2” for short) is a sub-network of exclusive tables, shared among select members of the network. They are likely to be the larger skins. Examples: Betsson, Betfair and Bwin, although the exact list is not known. Those on ON2 can play tables on ON1, but not the other way round.

Those skins mentioned above are more than likely to be producing over 50% of Ongame’s current traffic. Another similarity is that these are the sites known for “responsible” gaming. All skins on Ongame should follow the “Essence” model:

●    Increase number of recreational players
●    Reduce churn/turnover of players
●    Mass market for better profits
●    No rakeback

The sites on ON2 are doing this effectively. They are the net-depositing skins, sites that offer players who frequently deposit money. It also makes poker fun again. With regulated markets increasing costs, the current system of professional players withdrawing as much as possible cannot make money for the sites. They are looking to allow the Average Joe to deposit a buy-in in the hopes of doubling up, and give him a chance of doing so.

The signals suggest that Ongame is looking at the long-term profitability of poker. Get the fish, keep them in the pond, and do what you can to make it as difficult as possible for sharks to make this their feeding ground. It makes sense as a business model. The recreational players are the lifeblood of poker. They are going to lose money and redeposit over time. Not only will that mean Ongame continues to pocket rake, the network will also have fresh money pumped into the poker economy.

Recently, Tower Gaming was kicked off the Ongame network, and moved to Cake. Tower Gaming was known for giving juicy player rewards, including under-the-table rakeback deals. This went against the current business model of Ongame.

Rakeback pros may generate more rake as they play many hands, but they very rarely give back to the economy. They withdraw much of their profit. Over time they will take what the recreational players have and the fish quit. With no money being pumped into the economy, the site soon falls.

Check back later this week for the second part of the Ongame feature, focusing on its future and sale.

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Perry Garland