The recent floods that ravaged Australia left dozens of people dead and more still unaccounted for. Great swathes of the state of Queensland were affected, including Brisbane, which is both the state capital as well as the corporate home of the Merge poker network. As the water rose last Wednesday, the Merge office was forced to power down. The local servers were also shut off and backup servers switched on, with no interruption on the customer end. Fortunately, the water receded, the threat passed and the office was back in business by Friday.
Merge Gaming CEO Anthony Taylor, who lives 300m from Brisbane’s riverbank, reported that as he was driving in to work on Tuesday, he noted the river was “as high as I had seen it” and that “within the hour, the authorities ordered 35 suburbs to evacuate.” Despite the gravity of the situation, Taylor noted with pride that “there was no sense of panic” as the citizenry made their way to higher, drier ground. Similarly, once the river had returned to its banks “the clean up and community spirit was nothing short of amazing.” Given that the floods are being called Australia’s worst natural disaster, Taylor considers himself “one of the lucky ones” in that he, his partner and daughter suffered only some lost possessions, when others lost so much more. Amen to that.
It would be putting it mildly to say that 2011 has not smiled broadly on Merge. Two of their poker rooms have already called it quits, and now the streets outside their headquarters are covered in putrid sludge. Nice. We suspect things will get a lot worse unless Merge alters their business model to become more appreciative of recreational poker players.
Sportsbook.com, whose owners also own Merge, accounts for the biggest wedge of Merge’s liquidity pie. Trouble is, the fishy bettors Sportsbook.com delivers into Merge’s hands are getting feasted on by the sharper players on the network’s smaller skins. These underfinanced skins think they can get ahead by offering over-generous rakeback schemes to sharps, but all they do is contribute to a net liquidity drain out of Merge – and by extension, out of Sportsbook.com. Can’t see Sportsbook.com tolerating that too much longer. Would you?