Party Poker Planning to Take on PokerStars in Europe

Party PokerParty Poker is planning to shake up Europe´s shared liquidity market by launching in Portugal, re-launching in Italy and revitalising its poker product in France and Spain. For players in France and Spain, a competitor to PokerStars can´t come soon enough.

Last month, PokerStars became the first online poker site to take advantage of the shared liquidity agreement between the previously ring-fenced markets of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. As only the French and Spanish regulators had got their act together in time (the Portuguese regulator caught up last week), the shared player pool initially consisted of just French and Spanish players.

However, word quickly spread that PokerStars.es was accepting registrations from outside of Spain, and the shared liquidity player pool was swamped with players from around the world. Indeed, last weekend´s PokerStars FRESH Main Event was won by an Argentinian player (Gonzalo “gonzar32” Robles), with players from Brazil and Eastern Europe occupying three of the next six places.

French and Spanish Players Unhappy

The amount of money being taken out of the shared liquidity pool by non-tax paying players has upset a lot of French and Spanish tax-paying players. Whereas four weeks ago, players were full of enthusiasm for the unification of PokerStars´ French and Spanish platforms, the novelty value appears to have worn off judging by comments posted on French and Spanish poker forums and popular Videoblogs.

The amount of money being taken out of the shared liquidity pool has also confirmed fears expressed in Italy last year that a pan-European market would see a one-way flow of money from weaker poker-playing nations to stronger poker-playing nations. At the time, the implication was that the money would all be going in the direction of France, but now it seems to just be leaving the pan-European player pool altogether – undermining the objectives of the shared liquidity market.

A Lack of Competition is Also a Concern

The fact that PokerStars is the only operator in the pan-European market is also a concern to French and Spanish players. They claim that, while PokerStars has a monopoly in the market, the site can charge more rake and pay lower rewards. While this may not necessarily be true, if players feel this way, it may result in them abandoning the shared-liquidity market and returning to more beatable offshore sites.

The French poker site – Winamax – was expected to be PokerStars´ biggest competitor but, although acquiring its shared liquidity license from the French regulator last week, it is yet to acquire a license to operate in Spain, Italy or Portugal. 888Poker has licenses to operate in Spain and Italy, but appears to be focusing on the Italian market at present with no apparent movement towards France or Portugal. Sites on the iPoker Network are too disparate to form a pan-European network.

Party Poker to the Rescue? An Unlikely Hero!

When you look at the regulated online poker markets in Europe, Party Poker appears the least-likely candidate for a serious competitor to PokerStars. The sites ranks bottom for cash game traffic in France and Spain, and had to withdraw from the Italian market in 2016 due to a lack of activity. However, according to a post on the 2+2 forum, the site is planning to take on PokerStars in Europe.

The post – written by Party Poker rep Collette Stewart – answers a question about whether the site intends to unify its French and Spanish platforms by stating “it will happen in the coming months” and will include Italy and Portugal. In a later post, Stewart implies that a pan-European Party Poker platform will be limited to only residents of the four countries and not to players from the rest of the world.

If the plans come to fruition, it could signal a division in the shared liquidity market – with some players preferring to play for bigger prizes on PokerStars (and possibly Winamax), while others prefer the protected environment offered by Party Poker. Judging by recent comments made by French and Spanish players (and taking the result of the FRESH Main Event into account), Party Poker might just have a winning strategy on their hands – one that would be very much appreciate by players for whom a competitor to PokerStars can´t come soon enough.

 

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