Bovada Poker leads the U.S. online poker market in player traffic with much of its success attributable to its anonymous table format.
First introduced roughly 1 1/2 years ago, Bovada, which is the U.S. facing poker room on the Bodog Network, was largely ridiculed for implementing anonymous tables across its cash and tournament action in late 2011. Many long-time online pros were incensed that player names would be hidden. As such, players who depended on poker tracking devices in order to gain an advantage over opponents were left with software that could no longer be used at Bovada.
Also, grinders who compiled lists of inexperienced players whom they sought to play against were left with worthless lists that meant nothing since screen names were replaced by seat numbers. Complete anonymity removed the practice of
bum-hunting, which refers to trolling tables in search of bad players (fish) in order to maximize profits.
The intended purpose of anonymous tables was to drive away online poker pros who used Bovada Poker as their own personal ATM machines, always withdrawing but never depositing. Such players, while they contribute to profits enjoyed by poker rooms by increasing rake, are actually bad for the overall ecology of a poker site. A poker room requires players to deposit in order to survive.
The thinking goes that if recreational players have unlikely chances of winning due to too many sharks infesting the room, the poker site will eventually die. The recreational players will get tired of losing and stop logging on, which would result in too many pros and a lack of balance of players of all skill levels.
To further ensure that online pros would take their game (and poker-tracking devices) elsewhere, Bovada is notably missing a player loyalty program. The online grinders love the VIP cashback rewards that most sites offer. Achieving VIP statuses and earning bonus money dependent on how much time is spent playing can often turn break-even players or slight losers into big winners.
While casual players enjoy bonus money too, that is not their main reason for playing. The fun of the game and the opportunity to win against players of an equivalent skill level is more on the mind of recreational players who sit down at a virtual poker table. Bovada realized that and modeled their online poker framework with that idea first and foremost.
Bovada does offer a massive first-time deposit bonus of 100% up to $1,000. Periodic reload bonuses also allow players to earn extra cash just by playing and accumulating Player Points. Those points can also be redeemed for free entries to tournaments. But you won’t find Bovada players striving to earn Gold or Supernova statuses as other sites tend to offer. And that’s perfectly fine with the mostly recreational players who play there.
As of this writing, Bovada (under the Bodog name) enjoys 1,180 cash game players in a seven-day average, which makes it a point to tally such statistics. At its 24-hour peak, an estimated 2,455 players can be found playing ring games at Bovada. That blows away the other U.S.-friendly rooms and networks such as Revolution and the Merge Gaming Network, who report seven-day averages of 700 and 530, respectively.
By implementing its anonymous table format, Bovada has attracted the recreational players who are certain to keep the poker room healthy and sustainable. By scaring away the online pros who can’t deal with the idea of not gaining some sort of advantage over opponents, the playing field at Bovada has been leveled. Recreational players are welcomed there without any fears of being targeted or bum-hunted. Only the current playing session can be used to determine a particular player’s skill, or lack thereof.
Other poker rooms have taken notice and have also made changes in an attempt to protect casual players. Some have instituted various formats of skill segregation in order to keep the sharks from preying on the fish. While these may work to a certain degree, none can make an inexperienced player feel as safe as being totally anonymous as at Bovada. If other players catch on to a particular novice’s lack of knowledge in the game, the rookie merely needs to change tables and begin anew elsewhere.
The anonymous table or
Recreational Poker Model, as Bovada executives like to call it, is now being copied by other poker rooms. The iPoker Network has begun implementing the plan at several of its skins, while both Party Poker and MPN are using the concept at select tables. In my opinion, due to its success, we will likely see more poker sites join in to the anonymous table concept as time marches on. If something is working, people will use it. And the Bovada style is working, as evidenced by the player traffic numbers.
Online poker pros and grinders will continue flocking to PokerStars, Full Tilt and other poker rooms where they can multi-table to their hearts’ content. They can shoot for elite statuses and hope to profit by earning cashback rewards. But for recreational and casual players who would rather play softer games in a more relaxed atmosphere against players of comparable skill levels, Bovada is the place to play.
Unlike some other U.S.-friendly sites, Bovada has an exceptional history when it comes to cashout speed and efficiency. One free withdrawal up to $3,000 is permitted each month and typically arrives within 1-2 weeks. Try Bovada today if you fancy softer games against opponents who are mainly recreational players and not bum-hunting pros.