Grabbing the attention of players, affiliates and competitors alike as the week ended was an announcement from Paul Leggett, CEO of both UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, that the two sites are to merge into one large online poker network branded Cereus Poker.
Claiming that the merge will result in the world's third largest poker network (a claim already questioned by industry obervers) statements from the two companies said that Cereus will deliver an enhanced gaming experience for all players, offering new features, more action, and ultimate rewards.
One well informed observer made an early assessment on network size, pointing out that based on a trailing 7 day average the combined number of AB and UB players is about half the size of Playtech's iPoker network, widely regarded as holding the number 3 slot behind Poker Stars and Full Tilt.
The new network is apparently the result of a year's innovation and development through the owner of both sites, Tokwiro Enterprises, headed by the former Kahnawake chief Joe Norton. Absolute and UltimateBet will each retain what is described as ‘unique assets' that create the poker experience, but will share more players, more action, more tournaments, and unspecified new features.
Cereus will be competing with online poker titans like Poker Stars, Full Tilt, iPoker, Party Poker and the burgeoning Everest Poker for players – a tough field to beat.
Paul Leggett said: “Our company’s goal is to provide poker players with the ultimate online experience. The launch of Cereus is a major step for us in achieving our goal and we look forward to making many more exciting announcements very soon.”
Given the monumental cheating scandals that continue to swirl around UltimateBet and Absolute Poker, it is perhaps understandable that the Cereus merge, together with persistent rumours of a future rebranding initiative, is being viewed by some as a precursor to a change in corporate identities. That could be one way to help escape the bad reputation that has accrued to these venues as a result of the scandals, which remain the subject of investigation by the experienced players who uncovered the cheating in the first place.
Although Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet are owned by the same (Tokwiro) company, the sites have hitherto offered seperate and distinct poker promotions, and this is likely to end with the advent of a common network. Large weekend tournaments from both sites have been generating solid entry fields despite the bad publicity on the cheating incidents, and are likely to continue – perhaps with wider input from UB's poker ace Annie Duke, who recently revamped the tournament schedule and structure at Ultimate Bet with positive results.