PokerStars drops to second in traffic for first time in 15 years

Jon Pill
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Posted on June 22, 2021 8:50 pm EDT

A new report from GameIntel marked today as an online poker milestone. For the first time in 15 years, PokerStars was surpassed by another site in the field of cash game traffic. Unsurprisingly, the new Goliath that edged out the old was GGPoker.

As of today, GGPoker’s 7-day moving average for concurrent cash game seats in play hit a little over 5,000. PokerStars’ same metric is 4,981. It’s a small difference, but a significant one.

“GGPoker hitting the top spot for cash game traffic is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, and of course a testament to the amazing community of players that call GGPoker home,” Daniel Negreanu said, doing a perfect impression of a GGPoker PR copywriter. Negreanu is one of GGPoker’s sponsored pros.

“We don’t rest on our laurels. We’ve reached number one by constantly innovating and improving our games, promotions, and rewards. You haven’t seen anything yet!” added “Negreanu.”

However, a closer look at the data suggests the self-congratulation may be a little premature.

Good growth, GG

GGPoker might not be able to hold its position at the top for long. The numbers are very close. But its team does have one thing on their side: inertia. GGPoker is holding pretty steady in terms of traffic, while the rest of the online poker market is seeing the online poker lockdown boom come to an end.

Four months ago, Anuj Anora’s team of analysts called it. They believed GGPoker was on its way to carving out the lion’s share of the online poker market, citing a modest growth curve that started climbing in early-2020. Since then, GGPoker’s growth has been pretty steady.

He tweeted about his successful prediction today.

“Back in February, we (@pokerindpro) made a bold prediction @GGPoker would overtake PokerStars to become the world’s number one online poker room in terms of cash game traffic,” he wrote. “Four months later it actually happened.”

GGPoker’s MILLIONS series has performed well over the last year. The company also has another WSOP Online series coming up. This summer, GGPoker may find itself outcompeting PokerStars for tournament table volume as well.

Nothing’s ever simple

Interpreting this single metric is not quite as simple as it first appears. Although it sounds like GGPoker overtook PokerStars, it would actually be more accurate to say that PokerStars took a dive.

When Arora’s team was calling GGPoker’s future supremacy, everyone was doing well in online poker. The pandemic did wonders for the industry in the short run. Even if you ignore the enormous spike (both up and down) that Stars got in Spring-2020, both GG and Star’s graphs show an upward slope over the course of the year.

In January 2021, PokerStars had about 7.5k concurrent cash game seats. GGPoker had around 5.5k concurrent cash game seats around the same time. As of today, GGPoker’s numbers are a little closer to 5k. But PokerStars has crashed below the 5k mark.

So, what we are seeing is not so much that GGPoker is outgrowing Stars, as it is retaining customers (or replacing them) better than the opposition.

Looking at the graph now, you can see that as the world opens up, Stars begins hemorrhaging traffic. While GGPoker merely stagnates. The cream rises to the top, but then again, so does pond-scum.

GGPoker’s reach has exceeded its grasp in a lot of ways this last year and a half. The company’s ambition has led to a range of failures of competence, ethics, and integrity. But it is hard to fault the GGPoker marketing department. So far, GGPoker doesn’t seem to have suffered much from the errors it has made. More importantly, its ambition has allowed it to capitalize ruthlessly on its successes.

Featured image source: Flickr by Joshua Steiner