What Does Yahoo Poker’s Closure say about the State of the Industry?

Yahoo Poker Logo

In a move that has surprised few and probably affected even fewer, it has been announced that from the 31st of December 2014 Yahoo will be suspending all games on Yahoo Poker, effectively meaning the end of the site. But the real question seems to be whether the move speaks only of Yahoo’s inability to run a poker site, or if it’s indicative of larger trends in online and mobile poker.

It’s not only the poker arm of Yahoo’s operation that will come to an end this month; Yahoo Pool, Yahoo Bingo and other Yahoo ‘Classic Games’ that at the moment – believe it or not – run both online and mobile services are also for the chop in what looks like one big gaming bloodbath.

Yahoo Inability

While in comments about the move Yahoo insisted the closure of the sites was planned to avoid the need for a lengthy and expensive software overhaul to modernise the sites and improve security, many commentators are pointing towards Yahoo’s inability to offer a legitimate, enjoyable or competitive poker environment, and the decline in traffic this has meant for the site over the last few years.

The main complaint has been that Yahoo Poker lacks sophistication, and the simple gameplay and shortcomings in terms of player stats, tournament prizes and shabby software has meant that players have found it difficult to engage productively with the site.

Move Away from the Monoliths

There was once a time on the internet when people would instinctively play at sites like Yahoo Poker because of the familiarity and assumption of quality that came hand in hand with internet giant’s name. It seems, however, that the monolith of Yahoo has traded off its name for a little too long, and has been outstripped again and again by better quality niche sites, set up by pro poker players, and dynamic enough to move with the times and address players’ needs.

If you look at our Top 10 Poker Sites, chances are you won’t really have known any of the names 10 year ago (apart from perhaps Ladbrokes), but that is a result of the fact that doing something first, doesn’t necessarily make you the best at it. Adding new game type, introducing different styles of tournament, endorsing pro players, and generally injecting excitement and energy into the game is something all the most successful sites managed to do and Yahoo simply did not. Take the new Spin & Gos at PokerStars – they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but introducing them was a bold move in response to what players were asking for.

Will anyone miss Yahoo Poker? Probably not. Is it worth thinking about what its loss means for the industry? Definitely.

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