The Online Poker Watchdog at ispokerrigged.com has made a mission of analyzing millions of online poker hands, looking for any evidence to suggest that the sites were manipulating the outcome of hands to the detriment of winning players. The site has put most of the major operators through its “bad beat tests,” examining instances in games and tournaments in which a hand came down to a ‘heads-up, turn all-in’, looking for evidence that a biased river card was dealt with the intent of favoring fishier players over sharps (so that winning players win more slowly and cash out less often). The site has performed such evaluations on major sites including PokerStars, PartyPoker, Ongame, Merge, Entraction and Bodog, and in each case, no evidence of bias was found.
But the site’s most recent test on Playtech’s iPoker network resulted in a “not all tests passed” grading. (See the site’s full post-mortem here.) An initial test of 1m hands “showed a bias in dominated hands that was greater than three standard deviations but less than five standard deviations.” Another 1m hands were then tested, returning in a similar conclusion. The initial two samples reflected hands dealt between May and July 2011. A more widespread test of 16m hands from the same time period as well as a more recent vintage was then conducted, resulting in a bias no greater than 2.3 standard deviations. The watchdog suggested the original 2011 samples may have reflected the existence of “widespread collusion at $0.05/$0.010 6-Max and full ring tables” during that period. However, the site cautioned that “If such collusion was widespread enough to influence the results of tests which are run over millions of hands it is likely that it is ‘bots’ that are colluding together rather than players.” iPoker specifically addressed bot usage in November 2011 following widespread accusations of inanimate players in online poker forums.
QUBIT GUAGES ‘USABILITY’ OF UK ONLINE BETTING SITES
QuBit’s August 2012 UK Gambling Benchmark white paper (read it here) set out to identify the top UK online betting site in terms of ‘usability’. QuBit began by identifying “the top 10” UK online betting sites based on monthly page view statistics from Doubleclick Adplanner. The top 10 under the microscope here are: 888, William Hill, Betfair, Paddy Power, Ladbrokes, Bet365, Skybet, Betfred, Stan James and Coral. [Spoiler alert] When all the ponies had been put through their paces, Coral was slapped with the big blue ribbon that said ‘use me’, with Betfair coming second and 888 third.
For the purpose of this rodeo, QuBit employed their proprietary ‘Find, Choose, Buy’ framework, which uses over 80 (unidentified) criteria to evaluate Onsite Performance. Find is judged by site layout, site navigation and search capabilities. QuBit praised the layout of Betfred’s landing page for its clear ‘call to action’ (CTA). Betfred, Coral, 888 and Ladbrokes scored highly on the navigation meter for employing features that allow users easy access to sub-categories within each sport. Betfair and Ladbrokes earned top marks for a search that incorporated clear CTAs and predictive search capabilities. QuBit chided all the operators here for the total lack of ‘breadcrumbs,’ which allow users to keep track of where they are on the site and navigate easily between subcategories.
The Choose category is based on search results, service pages and a summary page. Hills took top honors here, in part for providing users with a bet slip to help distinguish each individual bet and to easily switch between different markets in an event. Paddy Power scored the lowest of the 10 sites in this category.
Finally, Buy is a combo of registration process, final checkout and customer retention. Stan James won the registration derby by adhering to the mantra of avoiding unnecessary stages and only displaying relevant info. Paddy Power notched a perfect score on the checkout category, while some of the other sites dipped as low as 50%.
QuBit introduced a new wrinkle for 2012, examining how each of the sites transferred services to mobile devices, using a standard iPhone browser as a benchmark rather than dedicated mobile apps. QuBit was on the lookout for font and layout legibility, ensuring that the key CTA was visible above the fold, ensuring that only vertical scrolling is required and minimizing large graphics to boost load speed. There was a four-way tie for first place between Hills, Paddy, Bet365 and Skybet, with Betfair low man on the mobile totem pole.
QuBit also addressed ‘presence management’ in social and search, which examined each company’s presence on a social network, weighted by average time spent on each site and revenue driven via each source. Betfair earned top social honors for being the only site to engage users across all five key social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest). As for Google search presence, Coral had the best brand paid and organic first page reach, while Hills and Bet365 had the greatest reach through paid and organic high-traffic. QuBit suggests this latter category may be more lucrative as these punters are less likely to have established a specific brand loyalty.