Lee Davy sits down with Unibet’s Head of Poker, Andrew West, to talk about the recent merger with the Finnish online poker site, Pokerihuone, rake changes, and much more.
It’s an important week for everyone involved in Unibet Poker. For the first time since March 2014, the Swedes have a little company after they opened their virtual saloon doors and asked someone to sit down and share a shot.
The Finnish online poker room Pokerihuone is holding that glass. Their player base will merge with Unibet’s. Both companies remain independent but the player experiences will be the same at each site as Unibet shares the software created by Relax Gaming for the very first time.
The changes effectively make Unibet the newest poker network on the block. To celebrate they have lowered rake at PL $50 (3.5% – previously 6%), SNG $50, and SNG $100 3% (3% – previously 5%).
I reached out to Unibet’s Head of Poker, Andrew West, and this is what he had to say about the recent changes.
Your press release states the decision to leave the MPN was down to a ‘difference in philosophy’. Can you be more specific?
“I’m just going to talk about networks in general, not MPN specifically.
“It’s about a difference in philosophy between how a network runs and how a standalone site runs. On a network there are restrictions on the promotions you can run, there are limits on what you can get changed in the software, etc.
“Most importantly, you are competing with other sites that share the same software. In the past, that led to some sites adopting a parasitic stance where they spent their money on Rakeback deals while others spent their money acquiring the new players any site needs. Rakeback grinders are much more valuable than new players, hence the parasitic strategy. This is why iPoker introduced their two-tier system; MPN introduced True Value, etc., but these are all imperfect and sites have big incentives to try to game them.”
Speaking at the time, you left MPN Daniel Eskola, Head of Gaming at Unibet, told PokerNews that, ‘being part of a poker network is not sustainable for Unibet in the long term.’ – What has changed?
“It was unsustainable for us to be part of any of the networks that existed when Daniel said that, but ours works differently. For example, there’s no internal competition because we own both sites. We also run exactly the same promotions, loyalty scheme, tournaments, etc. The only difference is the branding.”
Why should people choose your poker network over the competition?
“Because we offer a level playing field and because we’ve made poker fun again. There’s no table selection, no HUDs or trackers, you can change alias up to three times per day, the promotions and loyalty scheme pay out to the bottom end as well as the top end players, and the site looks like it was made in 2016 instead of 2001.”
Are there plans to do the same with the Stan James skin shortly?
“Nothing is decided there yet.”
What are your short, mid, and long term goals as a poker network?
“Most poker sites are failing at the moment. Almost nobody is up year on year, and many sites are a long way down. We’re one of the exceptions, so our medium and long term goals are to keep that going. We’re going to overtake some of the better-known names in the market over the next twelve months.”
What were the main difficulties you uncovered during the migration?
“Everything’s gone fine so far. When we migrated from MPN to standalone we ran the risk that we wouldn’t have the liquidity for some of our games to run, but today we have more than enough to migrate Pokerihuone.”
Why reduce rake? What goes on behind the scenes before a decision like that is made?
“Since we launched in Mar ’14, we’ve reduced rake eight times and there are different reasons for each time.
“For example, when we launched I wanted rake to be much lower at NL4 than at any other stake. NL4 is where players go to test out the site, it’s where the most casual players play, and so it’s where many of our most valuable players will start out. Low rake keeps those players around for longer as less money is being removed from the ecosystem. That keeps them there long enough for them to realise that poker is a great game. Despite all that, these games are typically the highest raked on the internet.
“I measure our rake in terms of bb/100 from our perspective. NL4 was raked 2% to 100c, but the bb/100 was only about 60% of what we were raking at NL100. We were looking for a bigger difference than that, so we cut it to 1% to 100c, and we’re happy with the results. You may have noticed that MPN has followed suit.”