This past weekend, I was playing in a $500 sit n go on Party Poker, when suddenly, the table disappeared. I attempted to log back on, but to no avail. It was clear the site was down.
No big deal, I thought (I was in the middle of the pack in the sit n go), they will refund my money. These kind of outages were commonplace back in the early days of online poker, so I was kind of used to it, shrugged it off, and went about my day. Sure enough, I got an e-mail from Party a short while later, and the money was back in my account, and they had actually refunded the fees to all the players still in the sit n go at the time. They said the site would be back up at 5pm EST.
So, I logged on later that night to a big surprise. Not only could I now play blackjack through my Party Poker interface, I could also bet on what color the flop would be, and I later found out that they now have a dealmaking function for the end of their multi table tournaments. I haven't spoken to anyone yet who has been able to use that function yet, but if it works the way it is supposed to, it will be a brilliant, forward thinking addition to the Party Poker platform.
Little did I know it at the time, however, these new changes in the Party functionality were not the real story. During this downtime, Party had also divested itself of all of its 'Skin' players. For those of you unfamiliar with what a 'skin' is, let me explain. A skin is a separately named site whose players can play on the platform of the main site. For example, Empire Poker's players have always (to my knowledge) been allowed to play on Party Poker's platform. So, indeed if you were playing on Empire, chances are most of your opponents were actually logged into Party Poker. The same goes for other sites like Coral/Eurobet, who were a Party skin also.
Poker forums, and message boards lit up almost immediately with this news. This move actually had a significant impact on "pro", and top ring game players. For years, top ring game players could play with the Party Poker opponents while securing 'rakeback' from Empire, or Eurobet. Rackback was a really important perk for top cash game players, because it meant they could receive a 'refund' for a certain percentage of the 'rake' (the money taken out of the pot by the poker room) for playing on this site. This was very appealing to those folks that played two or three (or six!) tables at a time, and generated rake at all of them. Now, the Party's over for those top players.
What this really means for the great bulk of internet players, in my opinion is that the player base at Party Poker (long known for having the most casual, and therefore least skilled player base) just got even weaker, as you no longer have the top players sitting on skins, and beating the game while getting 25% of their rake back. Even though, in the short term, this may cause problems for Party, as they abruptly ended multi-year relationships, I think in the end it will be a big advantage for those who play on Party Poker a lot. The player base at Party Poker just got a lot weaker. If you don't play there now (or have stopped playing there), you might want to consider it.
Ed note: Go ahead, bet $5 to see if the flop will be all one color at Party Poker What do you have to lose?