A number of innovative concepts have been developed in online poker over the years. Some of these come from the sites themselves, while others have been created to assist players in maximizing profits.
Bad beat jackpots, turbo tournaments, anonymous poker tables, accessing poker sites via mobile devices, and poker-tracking software are just a few concepts or elements related to online poker that had not been established when I made my first deposit at pokerroom.com back in 2002.
While some of these are good and likely here to stay such as turbo tourneys and the burgeoning market of playing on the go, others may actually be bad for the game or lost their appeal and may be on their way out. Bad beat jackpots seem to fall under this category.
With regard to anonymous poker and poker-tracking software, the jury is still out and likely depends on who you talk to on whether or not those concepts or products are good for online poker overall. Indications are that recreational players may stay away from Internet poker due to the use of HUDS and the like, while the grinders will argue that anyone can better their game and gain an edge over opponents by using the software available if they are so inclined.
However, those who dislike poker-tracking software are free to play at anonymous tables where such player advantages are excluded. But there is also the crowd who feels that anonymous poker takes away from the game itself, especially the social element that tends to draw in some of the casual players.
In any event, the latest innovation comes to us by way of the French-based Winnamax. About two months old, Expresso Poker has added a lottery-type element to hyper-turbo SitNGos that sometimes finds players competing for a prize pool up to 1,000 times that of their buy-in. The possibility of such huge jackpots has attracted a number of players to the game.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Expresso Poker consists of three-player SitNGos that start with 500 in chips. The structure includes three-minute escalating blind levels at buy-ins of either €1, €2 , €5, and €10 under a winner-take-all format. Prior to beginning, a random prize pool anywhere from 2 to 1,000 times the buy-in is announced. Games typically take just a few minutes.
While many players take a seat hoping for a prize pool of 1,000 times the buy-in, the reality is that almost 76% of the time, the prize pool will be only double the buy-in of a single player. In essence, three players who buy-in at €1 will be competing for a prize pool of only €2, less the rake. It does not take a beautiful mind to realize the negative aspects of that proposition.
The prize pool is four times the buy-in of a single player roughly 15% of the time and is 20x or greater less than one percent of the time. Playing for a jackpot 1,000 times the amount of the buy-in will happen five times out of 100,000. The rake taken by Winamax is set at 7% and is based upon the payout, not the buy-in. Those jackpots of 20 or 1,000 times greater are made up for by the large percentage of games where the prize pool is just double the buy-in of one player.
Upon rolling out Expresso Poker in July, cash game traffic dropped considerably at Winamax. PokerScout reports that Winamax and PokerStars.fr were running very close in ring game traffic throughout much of the summer. Nearing October, Winamax currently enjoys a seven-day average of 1,320 players, good for eighth place in the global market. PokerStars.fr has fallen to 12th place at 1,040 players during the same weekly time frame.
The numbers suggest that players were intrigued by Expresso Poker and gave it a try. The numbers further suggest that Expresso Poker may also be responsible for drawing players to the site who may have tried the innovative concept and decided to stay and play at the cash game tables. Whether or not that’s the actual reason can certainly be speculated.
In any event, Expresso Poker is undoubtedly a unique concept that will appeal to certain players who enjoy fast action, a winner-take-all format, and the possibility of a prize pool jackpot of immense proportions. But when looking at the numbers, one can plainly see that more than 75% of the Expresso games afford a negative value. Will the possibility of hitting a longshot jackpot prize pool be enough to keep players frequenting the Expresso Poker tables despite the poor value almost 76% of the time?
Only time will tell. The jackpot-type element has been a draw for recreational players in the past. But many players have been becoming more adept at realizing that promotions such as Bad Beat Jackpots and the like do not make for consistent profitability at the poker table. That’s precisely why Bad Beat Jackpots have been slowly dying and may soon be dead altogether.
Expresso Poker has proven to be somewhat popular in its short existence. A number of players who have been on the receiving end of large jackpots will no doubt be singing its praises. However, once the novelty wears off, Expresso Poker may turn out to be only a passing fad that resigns itself to the same fate of other concepts that mix lottery-type jackpots with poker.