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    Ultimate Poker – One Month Later

    Posted by John Mehaffey May 31, 2013

    With competition from the WSOP looming around the corner, we take a look at Ultimate Poker’s uncontested run in its first 30 days.

    Ultimate Poker launched on April 30, 2013, one month ago yesterday, making it the first U.S.-regulated online poker room. Since then, Ultimate Poker has dealt over two million hands. It has been a bumpy road at times, but the company is gaining momentum as future competitors wait for their turn to go live.

    Player Verification Improvements

    The biggest challenge Ultimate Poker faced was their cell phone verification process. Verizon, Nevada’s largest cell phone carrier, had not yet agreed to provide this service at the time of launch. A number of smaller carriers were also missing from the list of providers. Some were automatically blocking SMS messages by Ultimate Poker that were required to initiate the location verification system. This left about 50% of the potential customer base unable to play at launch without buying a burner phone. Thankfully, most Nevada cell phone companies have since signed on to allow player verification.

    Software Updates

    The first month of Ultimate Poker’s run has been considered a “field trial,” and few improvements have been allowed during this time. On May 12, users were stunned when a flop dealt during a small buy-in tournament showed two nines of spades simultaneously. This was later acknowledged as a graphical glitch and a patch was released to fix it. (The malfunction was later attributed to the intense amount of resources that the previous animation had required, causing the following animation to lag on some machines.) While this was an embarrassing moment for Ultimate Poker, it was not very different from other display errors that many online gaming platforms have experienced throughout their own histories.

    Expansion of Games Offered

    A few game modifications have been added to the Ultimate Poker offerings since launch. Texas Hold’em is still the only game available, but some of the limits have been raised. At launch, 3/6 No Limit was the highest game offered. 5/10 and 10/20 No Limit have been added, as well as 20/40 6-max Limit. For a while, there was also a special 25/50 No Limit table, which has since been removed. The 10/20 No Limit table has a cap of 100 big blinds. All other No Limit games still offer a cap of 50 big blinds.

    There are several new sit-and-go formats. The No Limit selection has expanded to include smaller gaps between buy-in levels. Limit sit-and-gos have also been added. Players may now choose between $3 and $15 9-handed sit-and-gos. The $15 Limit also includes Heads Up and 6-max options. Players may filter limit and no limit sit-and-gos.

    The multi-table tournament selection has expanded. There are now over 50 to choose from each day. Many of these tournaments are freerolls or satellites to special events. Most others offer buy-ins of $10 or less. Prime time tournaments with cash buy-ins are peaking at around ten tables, while some off-peak tournaments struggle to register one full table of players.

    The first multi-table tournament held by Ultimate Poker was on May 5th. It was the weekly $10,000 guaranteed event. The initial cap for this tournament was 200 players for safety reasons, but this was eventually raised and some events are now being capped at 2,000 players.

    Advertising

    Most Station Casino floor employees were wearing Ultimate Poker t-shirts when the online poker room first went live. All slot machines ran advertisements for it, as well as on the player’s club information screen. Station Casino properties also posted large announcements on their marquees in the streets.

    The advertising has expanded well beyond just the casino properties now. Ultimate Poker has taken to TV and radio advertising. Station Casinos have also modified many of their billboards from advertising the nearest brick-and-mortar casino to advertising Ultimate Poker.

    Ultimate Poker CEO Tom Breitling has done many interviews for TV networks, having appeared on CNBC and CBS News this week to spread the word that online poker is back in the U.S.

    Traffic

    According to PokerScout, Ultimate Poker peaked at 136 players on its first day, an impressive number considering most of the advertising at that time was word of mouth and about half of the potential players were locked out due to cell phone issues. Peak traffic today can sometimes reach nearly three times that amount. On May 13th, two weeks after launch, Ultimate Poker traffic was as high as 640.

    Ultimate Poker is now the 33rd largest online poker room in the world in terms average cash game player counts based on the previous seven days. It is the 6th largest U.S.-facing online poker network, a notable accomplishment considering the top five accept players from most U.S. states and Ultimate Poker only accepts players in Nevada for the time being.

    Promotions

    There have been some VIP tournaments for players that reach an unspecified rake threshold. There is also a $500 bounty on site pro Antonio Esfandiari in the weekly $10,000 guaranteed tournament. Ultimate Poker just announced a $25 bonus for players that deposit $25 by midnight Friday and play 100 raked hands by midnight Sunday. There was also a milestone promotion for the celebration of the one millionth hand dealt. More promotions will be announced down the road, including an anticipated inclusion in Station Casinos’ Boarding Pass players’ club. Ultimate Poker has stated that previous play will be considered retroactively when a VIP program is announced.

    Next Challenge

    We have seen what Ultimate Poker at work largely unchallenged, being the only U.S.-regulated online poker room offering real money games so far. The next challenge will be imminent competition from WSOP.com, which is expected to launch for real money in Nevada this summer. Many players have settled for Ultimate Poker’s stripped down platform, but that may change when new options become available. Ultimate Poker is now in a race to make the necessary improvements to retain players before competitors launch and potentially offer better software and better promotions.

    QuadJacks – May 31, 2013

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