Saturday July 2, 2011 : Independent study shows remarkable gains for the world's largest online poker provider
 
According to an independent assessment by the UK online gambling consultancy H2 Gambling Capital, internet poker operator Pokerstars has benefitted significantly from the troubles at Full Tilt Poker.
 
Despite also being the subject of the unwelcome attention from US enforcement authorities on Black Friday, Pokerstars has continued to function fully, paying its US players where Full Tilt has failed to do so.
 
The latest blow to Full Tilt, the suspension of its licence by the Alderney Gaming Control Commission this week, has seen a further departure of players, apparently towards Pokerstars according to the H2 numbers.
 
Since the suspension Pokerstars has experienced an 11.6 percent surge in average player numbers to 2,607. The downside (for Pokerstars and other competitors) of the FTP suspension is that 45 percent of players do not seem to have moved to another platform, something that H2 surmises may be due to players being unable to withdraw balances from FTP, together with a lack of confidence in playing online poker in the current troubled and risky climate.
 
Of the traffic that did migrate, Pokerstars appears to have cornered most of it, with Party Poker also doing rather well off FTP's misfortune. Between them, PokerStars and PartyPoker reportedly picked up around 86 percent of FTP's departing cash and tournament player traffic.
 
Even assuming the attempt to acquire a major share of FTP by European investors is successful, considerable damage has already been done to the credibility and reputation of Full Tilt by its failure to pay US players and thus hopefully get on the right side of the Department of Justice.  That could have serious consequences for its return to player liquidity and the trust of internet poker players.
 
H2 notes that traffic changes have occurred mainly in the low and micro play brackets. On Thursday 30 June, PokerStars’ average player numbers in the low category were 11.7 percent up to 612 and 10.1 percent in the micro category, whilst Party Poker saw an average increase of 13.4 percent to 361 players in low stakes games and 15.6 percent to 123 in micro.
 
The consultancy says that this shift in play at low and micro levels from FTP to rival operators and networks accounted for between 30 to 40 percent of its low and micro players prior to the Alderney shutdown.
 
Pokerstars experienced a 24.8 percent increase average players to 398 among medium stake participants, the same percentage increase as iPoker, where average players in this bracket were up by 39, and Party 7.38 percent to 24. The biggest impact on a smaller poker platform was GTechG2's  International Poker Network with an average increase of 42 (16 percent) players. The rise in medium stake players across major poker sites accounted for around 65 percent to 75 percent of FTP players.
 
In the high stakes category – those players who generate the most revenue for online poker providers – the biggest rise was experienced by Pokerstars with an average of 18 players representing an increase of 9 percent. The International Poker Network came next with 8 players or a 42.5 percent boost on the previous week,  and Playtech's iPoker was third with 6.1 players (an increase of 11.6 percent).
 
H2's numbers show that at best this accounts for 30 to 40 percent of Full Tilt Poker’s high rollers.
 
The Wall Street Journal has the latest report on the progress of the bid to acquire Full Tilt, saying that the deal is still tentative and isn’t expected to close for at least three weeks, quoting sources close to the negotiations.
 
The investors in Europe apparently want to make sure a deal with the U.S. government is feasible first, and that – as is the case with Pokerstars – is pivotal on refunding all US players and agreeing to stay out of the US market.
 
Various media sources are currently speculating that the US government may be prepared to forego its massive fines if the poker companies concerned in Black Friday comply with these and other conditions.
 
Pokerstars appears to be the most strongly positioned in this area, having already paid out over $120 million to US players, whilst the lack of any evidence of public movement from the Cereus network suggests that it may be too deeply troubled and perhaps even moribund to dig itself out.
 
Assuming that the conditions are right, the European investors reportedly interested in Full Tilt may be able to pay out US players as required. Estimates in some reports suggest this could cost as much as $150 million, and the recovery of the company could therefore be slow and painful.