Mobile Poker in 2014: The Big Fat Review of the Year

"2014" digits displayed on four mobile phones

2014 has certainly been a breakthrough year for mobile poker. More and more people have starting flocking to online poker sites using their mobiles, spurning the old ways of laptops and desktops, and many sites have even sprung up offering mobile only poker – a sure sign that this way of playing is taking over the poker world.

If you’ve not had the chance to follow everything that has gone on over the course of the last 12 months, there’s no need to panic though. Much like Jimmy Carr’s Channel 4 end-of-year extravaganza, we’ve produced this Big Fat Review, showing you just how far mobile poker has progressed since the beginning of the year…

January: PokerStars Continues to Run Strong

Supernova Elite logo at PokerStars2014 started as you’d expect – with many people mulling over the success of poker throughout the previous year. PokerStars said that they had seen 371 different players become Supernova Elite, meaning that they earned more than 1,000,000 VPPs over the course of the year. With this number being almost the same as the previous year, it was clear to see that PokerStars would be a force to be reckoned with throughout 2014, just as they had been for every year previously! Other companies were hot on their heels though, with sites such as 888Poker and Party Poker getting ready to introduce some big mobile poker innovations throughout the next year. A new site called Tony Bet was just beginning to find its feet too, allowing fans of Open Face Chinese to play online as well.

In other news, mobile poker in the USA took a massive step forward during January, as figures were released showing that a “soft run” in New Jersey had seen earnings of $3.2 million just from online poker – a sure indication that the people want poker back! Hopes were high that this would lead to the full introduction of legalised online poker throughout the US in 2014, but not much has been forthcoming. Party Poker got in on the act too in the US, releasing an app for players in New Jersey to download and play with. Here’s hoping 2015 brings the USA back to the table for good…

February: Tony Bet Makes a Splash

TonyBet logo with fireworksAfter a month of finding its feet, February 2014 was the month that Tony Bet really got going. Founded by and named after everyone’s favourite poker-playing Lithuanian MEP, Tony Bet dealt exclusively in Open Face Chinese, and as of February was available in mobile form. What was great about this was the fact that the mobile world was starting to wake up and realise there are other forms of poker out there, not just Texas Hold ‘Em – something that some other sites didn’t heed in the coming months.

February also saw speculation around the toughening of internet gambling laws in the UK, as Lord Moynihan moved to make sure online cheaters felt the full brunt of the law. His proposal asked for online poker cheats to face penalties of up to 10 years in prison, in a move that was supported by many in the poker community. As yet nothing has been heard regarding the proposal, and it seems it could have faded away into the background – hopefully 2015 will see the government move to make online poker as safe as possible though.

March: Unlicensed Gambling Operators Hit Hard

UK Gambling Commission logoMarch was the month that the gambling industry saw a boost in reputability. For a long time, people had associated online gambling with being shady and unlicensed, when the reality was so much different. Still, there were still some unlicensed sites out there, and they gave the whole industry a bad name. But in March some of the biggest payment processors decided not to process payments from unlicensed sites, therefore effectively shutting them down, or at least hitting their pockets hard. Places like PayPal, Visa and MasterCard were all a part of this scheme, which was jointly orchestrated by the UK Gambling Commission.

The really big news in March was this though: the government passed the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, which required all operators to be registered with the UK Gambling Commission and pay 15% point of consumption tax rate – even operators based overseas. This would lead to all poker operators having to completely rethink the ways in which they conducted business in the UK – with some sites eventually passing the costs of this move onto their players.

April: Victoria Coren Mitchell Makes History

Victoria Coren Mitchell posing with trophy and cardsIt might not be about mobile poker, but April was a real watershed moment for women in the game, as Victoria Coren Mitchell became the first player ever to win two EPT titles – a feat many in the poker world had been waiting to happen for a long time. She took down the Main Event at EPT San Remo to win €476,100, to add to her 2006 EPT London triumph. The news even made the national press, and provided a real boost to poker players – especially female poker players – throughout the country.

Heading back to the virtual poker world, it was also a month to remember for German player Niklas Heinecker, who managed to plunder over $750,000 in just two days while playing at Full Tilt Poker. It just went to show how much money players can make in the online form of the game. This fact was further cemented in players’ minds by the fact that PokerStars announced that their Spring Championship of Online Poker would have a guaranteed prize pool of $40 million.

May: 888Poker Snap Up Suarez

Luis Suarez at 888PokerIn what they thought would be a huge coup, 888Poker took the plunge and signed Uruguayan football superstar Luis Suarez to their team, joining Shane Warne as a big sporting star on their site. While Warne has had his controversies, he’s promoted the brand well, 888Poker would soon find that their signing of Suarez would backfire hugely, thanks to his bite at the World Cup in Brazil. He’d be dropped by the site shortly after the World Cup ended.

Someone smiling more than 888Poker though was Gus Hansen, one of the best-known poker players in the world. He took home $1.2 million while playing at Full Tilt Poker – in just two days. Unfortunately for Gus, he then proceeded to lose over $750,000 of this prize in the coming days. It just goes to show what a rollercoaster playing poker can be, even for the professionals!

June: Droid Poker is Launched

Droid Poker logoRegardless of any other news throughout the month of June, there was one story that stands out amongst them. Sure, we might be slightly biased, but the biggest story of this month – and possibly the year – was the arrival on the scene of Droid Poker, the internet’s premier resort for everything to do with mobile poker! Since the launch, we’ve reported on all the news from the mobile poker world and beyond, as well as created loads of different articles on every aspect of the game you’re likely to want to know about, from strategy through to depositing options. What’s more, we’ll be doing the same throughout 2015 as well!

All joking aside, the biggest poker story of the year is probably this: Amaya Gaming agreeing to purchase Rational Group – which was worth $4.9 billion. This saw both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker get new owners, which would have repercussions for the rest of the year. Perhaps the biggest implication was thanks to Amaya’s track record of working in the USA, which promised to speed up the return of its two flagship brands to the American stage. At the time of writing, this move still hadn’t materialised though. They also spoke at length about introducing more than poker to the different sites – something that came true when FTP saw the introduction of slots.

More specific to the mobile world was the news that Party Poker added both Sit & Go games and casino games to both their Apple and Android apps. They also added a feature allowing players to start their games on a computer, then switch over to a mobile device while the game is in progress. Another poker site also had a big development in June too, as 888Poker introduced Snap Poker, making it the latest site to join the instant-fold club, following in the footsteps of sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

July: Poker Goes Quiet

Woman sleeping next to laptopAfter the hectic happenings of June, July saw a real lull in poker activity. In fact, barely anything happened that was newsworthy. Sure, FTP saw its first ever one billion chip pot, but this was in play money, so wasn’t really hugely interesting. Full Tilt Poker also started to realign its brand, as it changed its domain names to fultilt.com and fulltilt.eu – an apparent attempt to distance themselves from being just a poker site, and moving into more gambling strands. Looking on the Full Tilt website today still shows a really strong bias towards poker though.

We’d now reached over half way through the year, so what were we hoping for in the second half of 2014? New promotions? Extra features on apps? Huge prizes for players of all levels? The answer would be: all of the above! So did they materialise? Keep reading to find out! If you’re a massive fan of PokerStars, be warned though: the next few months turn out to be a little bit rough for the site, and the players at their tables…

August: Happy Birthday PKR

PKR 8th birthday logoPKR is often overlooked by mobile players, who instead flock to the larger sites like PokerStars and Party Poker. This is a mistake though, as PKR offers some great poker in a truly unique environment. In August, PKR celebrated its 8th birthday by releasing a new 3D poker app for all Apple users – an Android version would become available later in the year. This app allowed all iPad and iPhone players to experience PKR’s awesome 3D poker rooms while on the move. The site also announced that they’d be overhauling their online software later in the year, for the first time since it launched in 2007.

August was also the month that poker yet again showed its caring side, as PokerStars added a new charitable section to its site. It made it possible for players to use their FPP points to make donations to either CARE International or Cancer Research UK, instead of swapping them for the various prizes on offer at the site. This isn’t the first time the poker community has made a difference though, with the Big One for One Drop tournament being the biggest example of the poker community’s generosity towards charitable causes.

September: UK Gambling Act Delayed

Gibraltar crestSeptember was supposed to be the month when the UK gambling community got ready for the introduction of the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 on 1st October. That was, until the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association decided to challenge the ruling in the High Court. After all, the act would see Gibraltar lose a huge amount of business, so it was only to be expected that they’d fight to stop it going ahead. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, it did force the act to be pushed back by one month. It also meant that poker players in the UK had another month to enjoy some of the best offers, before sites had to consider removing them in the UK in order to recoup some of their losses.

WSOP also used September as a month to really push what they could offer, and they needed to: other sites like PokerStars and 888Poker were starting to streak ahead of the field, and some of the lesser names needed to fight back. They recruited the 2012 WSOP Main Event champion, Greg Merson, to be their first ever Brand Ambassador, and continued to push their mobile apps, available for both Android and Apple users.

October: PokerStars Has Ups and Downs

PokerStars Spin & Go logoOctober was a rather mixed month for PokerStars – a month that saw them further revolutionise the way in which poker is played on a mobile device, but also take a massive blow to their profits. The former point comes thanks to their introduction of Spin & Go, which allows players to compete in hyper-tournaments with randomly decided prizes. After just ten days of this game going live, PokerStars announced that over 10 million Spin & Go tournaments had already taken place, clearly proving that this was an innovation the poker community really liked…

There was clearly something that people didn’t like about PokerStars too though, as October saw them announce a sharp downturn in the traffic to their site – a downturn that led to a massive 7% drop. We speculated on some of the possible reasons behind this fall in visitors, however no one really knows what caused PokerStars to lose so much popularity with players from throughout the world. To cap off the month, PokerStars also announced it was withdrawing from a number of countries, such as Iran and Malaysia, which couldn’t have helped the finances too much either. Thanks to their shared ownership, Full Tilt Poker also followed suit.

November: PokerStars Upsets its Players Even More…

It seems like much of the year has been dominated by PokerStars, but that’s to be expected when they are far and away the biggest poker site out there. The end of the year wasn’t a happy one for their players though, as they announced that they were increasing the rake percentage across a variety of different games. Surely with their player numbers dropping, they should have been trying to encourage more players to join, not scare them away? What smarted even more was the fact that PokerStars had just changed their exchange rates to make it more expensive for some players – perhaps they should have spent the extra cash on a PR consultant?

Martin Jacobson with WSOP braceletThe other massive poker story from November is easy to pinpoint – the culmination of the World Series of Poker. The most prestigious title in the world of poker was up for grabs and the final table was set. Players making the table already had some huge guaranteed wins, as well as lucrative sponsorship deals, but it was Martin Jacobson from Sweden who came out on top, walking away with a cool $10,000,000 for his efforts. Could you be the next winner? Look out for the satellite tournaments at various poker sites in 2015 to get cheap entry…

December: EGR Operator Awards Spring No Surprises

EGR Operator Awards 2014 promoIt’s the culmination of the online poker year – the day when different industry bigwigs get to pat each other on the back and hand out various awards. The main award of the night is the Poker Operator of the Year Award, and this went to PokerStars. As the award was handed over, a gasp could be heard throughout the poker community – how could a site seemingly intent on alienating many of its players win this award, when places like 888Poker has made such strides, gaining a large increase in followers? The only hope is that Amaya, the owners of PokerStars, won’t see this award as vindication for their policies towards the site and its players.

December also saw moves from an old poker friend to integrate itself into the mobile community, as social poker site Zynga announced that it would be launching on Windows phones (yes, some people do use these). It is often forgotten that the main purpose of poker is not winning money, but having fun, so an increase in the presence of social poker sites is okay with us. The recent success of Crazy Panda only solidifies the fact that social poker could well be a big deal in 2015.

 

And so we come to the end of 2014, and all that it offered to fans of mobile poker. We know that 2015 is going to be a big one, as mobile poker explodes onto the market in an even more effective way. We’ll be producing an article on what we want to see in 2015 very soon, so make sure you stick around to hear our opinions. The last thing to say is this: we hope that you have a great poker-playing 2015, and that you keep coming back to Droid Poker to find out about the latest news, reviews and opinions we have to offer!

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