MPN has dropped to 12th place in PokerScout’s global poker rankings, leaving third place iPoker as the only poker network within the top ten.
Despite having the ability to increase liquidity by pooling players from any number of skins, the popularity of networks within the online poker industry is seemingly at an all-time low. The network model appears to be losing favor among poker site operators and may be facing its demise as the calendar turns the page to 2014 this week.
MPN’s recent loss of players was brought about by the defection of Ladbrokes to iPoker on Dec. 21. However, perhaps more indicative of things to come within the industry may be a transition by poker site operators to go it alone and avoid network policies and other disadvantages associated with being part of a network.
While the main advantage of being one skin among others is the increased pool of players, a huge disadvantage to the whole network system is the smaller skins whose aim is to poach players from other poker rooms within the network. This is often accomplished by rakeback deals that many in the industry would perceive as overly generous.
Networks such as iPoker have made moves in an effort to strengthen the overall ecology of the network by requiring skins to sign up a minimum number of new players monthly. But many wonder if such policies, combined with segregating weaker players from the pros, will be enough to nurture a viable business model.
Some poker sites, such as Unibet, are betting against poker networks in the future. Unibet has made the decision to leave MPN in the early part of 2014 and offer its players a standalone poker site.
“The environment in the online poker industry has changed over the years and we have come to the insight that being part of a poker network is not sustainable for Unibet in the long term,” said Daniel Eskola, Unibet’s head of gaming.
If there are possible trends within the industry to watch in the new year and beyond, this is certainly one of them. Who will be next to follow the lead of Unibet and break free from the poker network philosophy?