The end of October marked the cessation of business for Fleet Street Games, a subscription-based online poker room. Each month, members of these sites, which are generally legal in the United States, pay a fee which allows them access to thousands of dollars in tournaments. Another such site is PurePlay, which bills itself as the “largest legal U.S. cash poker room” and charges $19.99 per month for membership, giving its customers over $150,000 in prize money. However, in a struggling economy, where do subscription-based sites stand?
When it comes to risking money at the virtual felts, sometimes it is comforting to know that there is an upper limit to the amount of cash that cane be lost. PurePlay CEO Jason Kellerman told Poker News Daily, “Online poker in its gambling incarnation is highly risky in the best of times. Nowadays, when a growing number of people are heading towards financial trouble, it’s an even greater risk. At PurePlay, we’re committed to providing an enjoyable playing environment that carries zero risk of losing money.”
Fleet Street Games was a victim of a variety of unfavorable factors, according to its website: “When we launched Fleet Street Games, we fully expected that we could weather a reasonable amount of time until we had the volume of players we needed to make the company viable. But as a result of the chaotic economy, things changed, and we had to make a very tough decision.”
From a player’s perspective, the diluting of risk seems to be one factor behind the popularity of sites like PurePlay and ClubWPT, which is also a subscription-based site. Peter Ollinger, a PurePlay customer, commented, “I’ve enjoyed PurePlay’s mix of highly competitive games and large cash prizes for quite a while. But in this economy, with everyone watching their money more closely than ever, what I really appreciate is that I can still play my favorite game without the risk of losing any of my own money.”
ClubWPT offers its members access to $100,000 in cash and tournament seats every month. The subscription-based room, which is owned by World Poker Tour Enterprises, also runs tournaments that air on on cable station Fox Sports Net every Sunday. FSN will play host to the seventh season of the WPT sometime before the end of the year. An end of month $20,000 tournament is what players on the site look forward to. In addition, ClubWPT also offers its players a shot at participating in the WPT Championship, which occurs each April from the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Just a few weeks after registering its 250,000th member, Duplicate Poker shut its doors last month. A statement posted on its website read, “Caught in the middle of the global financial situation, the company is not able to continue to provide service. We are a small victim of the global financial crisis.” Duplicate Poker pitted players holding the same cards in the same position at different tables against each other.
So what will be the future of online poker? The traditional rake-based arrangement found on sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, or PartyPoker? Or subscription-based rooms, able to operate in countries like the United States, where internet gambling is problematic?