Big changes have been rumored for the second largest online poker site, Full Tilt, for the better part of two months. As 2009 winds down, many in the industry are expecting major announcements from not just Full Tilt Poker, but also other sites like PokerStars and PartyPoker regarding their VIP rewards systems. Most of the VIP systems are rated as a yearly measure, such as the Supernova Elite program at PokerStars. If any change is to occur, it makes sense for the announcements to be made before the end of the year. For Full Tilt Poker, a new VIP rewards system and buy-in structure for cash games might be in the works.
An interesting phenomenon took place within the online poker industry in 2009 as “deep tables” (which require a minimum 50 big blind buy-in) became more popular at PokerStars. Because these tables became the norm, many “short-stackers” (players who buy in for the minimum 20 big blinds) shifted over to Full Tilt Poker. On that site, low- and mid-stakes tables became swamped with these shove-or-fold short-stackers.
“The problem isn’t so much that the short-stackers are all over the place at the full ring games. The bigger issue that people have is the ratholing that these players are notorious for,” commented a regular from Full Tilt Poker’s 200nl and 400nl ($1-$2 and $2-4 respectively) games. The term “ratholing” refers to a player winning a large pot and immediately leaving the table. Short-stackers are notorious for using their edge of fold equity plus a solid shoving range to double up and instantly leave the table.
Announced on December 17th on the TwoPlusTwo forums, Full Tilt Poker spokesperson “FTPDoug” posted the news that many have been waiting for. Although he first explained that a “big update” was supposed to occur before the New Year, it will likely instead be released during the second or third week of January.
The first major announcement was that Full Tilt Poker will be raising the minimum buy-in on standard tables. There was a bit of mystery left to the post, as FTPDoug stated, “That’s not all we’re going to do, but that’s the biggest change. And that’s all I can say about that until the update.”
The rumored buy-in structure change would make all regular tables 40 big blind minimums and allow cap-game table players to buy-in for just 20. This would effectively eliminate short-stackers from the tables except for cap-games, leaving the virtual felts free for what many consider to be a “pure” game of poker.
FTPDoug’s lengthy post at TwoPlusTwo also has many other upcoming features outlined. Among them are a new “2-click exit” feature and a “Do you want to take this seat?” dialog box for tables. Tournament tickets will be coming to the FTP Store, but only a vague “first half of 2010” answer was given as to when they will show up.
In addition to the changes mentioned, a new VIP system is in the works at Full Tilt Poker. This would not eliminate the Iron Man promotion, but instead be something offered in addition to what is already in place. According to the post, the new VIP program is early in the planning stages and a number of months away from fruition. Many inside the industry are speculating that Full Tilt Poker might be holding off on implementing it to wait for PokerStars to act first and then trump what they are doing.
One final announcement that players were happy to read was that they will now be given 45 days to clear the Iron Man end-of-year bonus. Previously, the promotion only allowed 31 days. In the coming weeks, we expect Full Tilt Poker to make an official announcement regarding the buy-in structure of its cash games in addition to more rumors being leaked about the new VIP system.