PokerStars Halts Five-Max Table Experiment on European Site

  • PokerStars changed some micro-stakes six-max cash game tables to five-max on July 24
  • Testing only affected site housing French, Spanish, and Portuguese players
  • Europe and Italy websites are often the testing grounds for PokerStars
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PokerStars has ended its test of converting some six-handed cash game tables to five-handed on its European site for French, Spanish, and Portuguese players. [Image: Shutterstock]

Six-max became five-max for a short time

After only two weeks, PokerStars has ended its testing of five-max cash game tables on its partially ring-fenced European site. All six-max tables that had been converted to five-max in the French, Spanish, and Portuguese markets are now back to normal.

The world’s largest online poker operator made the change on July 24. The affected tables were only at the lowest of stakes, including €2 and €5 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha cash games.

Zoom Poker tables were also part of the trial run. Fixed-Limit Hold’em and the novelty game Showtime Hold’em were not. The six-handed cash tables for those game types maintained their structures.

Three countries play together, separate from rest of world

PokerStars’ European site was created to give poker players in France, Spain, and Portugal the opportunity to be part of a larger player pool.

The three countries were previously “ring-fenced”, or individually separated from the rest of the world.

Because of national online gambling laws, the three countries were previously “ring-fenced”, or individually separated from the rest of the world. Players from each county could only sit at tables with people located in their same country. This severely limited the poker population in each jurisdiction, making game selection worse and tournament prizes smaller.

All three countries changed their laws in recent years and agreed to share player liquidity. As such, PokerStars has a European site separate from its global “dot com” site for players from France, Spain, and Portugal. It is the sixth-largest online poker room in the world, according to cash game traffic from PokerScout.

Italy was also part of the shared liquidity agreement, but has lagged behind in implementing the new regulations. It is therefore still ring-fenced and PokerStars has Italians on their own site, Pokerstars.it.

European players often PokerStars’ guinea pigs

PokerStars frequently uses its European site as a testing ground for new games and changes such as five-max cash game tables. The smaller, more homogenous player base makes it easier to evaluate customers’ tastes and monitor results.

Players are also spread across just two time zones, making tracking trends much simpler. And if the site loses traffic because of a negative player reaction, the effect on PokerStars will not be as significant as it would be on the global site.

PokerStars has not indicated if it will switch any six-max tables to five-max ones at its other sites as a result of the testing. It is waiting to study its findings before making any further moves.

The online poker room conducted a similar test on its Italian site about a year ago. It also experimented with limiting players to a maximum of six simultaneous cash game tables in order to study how it might affect the pace of play.