• Home
  • >
  • Blog
  • >
  • How Does WPT Global Ensure Its Games Are Beatable?

How Does WPT Global Ensure Its Games Are Beatable?

Welcome to Straight Talk #3: 

In the glory days, winning at online poker was so easy, even I could do it.

Some of you might remember those early years, around 2002-2006. There was an enormous influx of new players, driven by TV shows like the World Poker Tour and the launch of new online poker sites with generous welcome bonuses. Only a tiny fraction of the new players sought out the educational material available - which was basically the TwoPlusTwo forum or poker strategy books, some of which were really bad - and most players simply relied on the knowledge they had built up playing home games. In other words, not much knowledge at all.

At my peak, I could beat $2,000NL. Back then, that was enough to make me the most successful online player on my street. These days it would be enough to make me one of the best players in the world*.

As online poker has grown and developed, the industry helping players to learn and get better has grown and developed as well. This is a great thing - after all, what differentiates poker from other gambling games is you can learn, improve, work hard and be successful. This has made the games, however, noticeably tougher for new players, especially when you factor in third-party software designed to help players to play better.

This created a number of important impacts on the game. First, it led to an unsustainable experience for novice players. In the industry, we’ve known for many years it is extremely important for new players to have a ‘realistic’ experience. Players who lose heavily in their first session ‘churn’ quickly, aka they don’t come back!. Players who get extraordinarily lucky in their first session also churn quickly, as they have unrealistic expectations about what future sessions will be like. 

The players who stick around (‘retain’) the longest are those with an experience somewhere in between - they don’t get extremely lucky or unlucky, but feel they have a chance, a fair shot. Unfortunately, on many poker sites today, the skill gap between novice players and the rest of the player pool is so large, novice players simply don’t have a fair chance.

Another impact is even skilled and experienced players can’t beat the rake on some of the big sites. Recent research published by Mobius Poker (with whom, to be clear, we have no affiliation) shows the average regular player playing $200NL on PokerStars wins just 2.4 big blinds per 100 hands played (i.e. for every 100 hands at this stake, they win about $4.80). On GGPoker, they lose (!) 3.4bb/100, according to the research.

There are three main factors affecting your win rate in a cash game - your skill, the skill of the opposing players, and the rake. Change any of these factors, and win rate is affected as well:

  • If your skill increases and the other factors remain the same, your win rate goes up
  • If your opponents’ skill increases and the other factors remain the same, your win rate goes down
  • If the rake increases and the other factors remain the same, your win rate goes down

The problem at other large poker sites is they have either high rake, a tough player pool, or both. This leads to win-rates that are so low that the fundamental differences that make poker a special game - the ability to learn, improve, and succeed - are eliminated, and all that’s left is a grind. What is the point in playing if even a good player can’t beat the rake?

FairGame - The WPT Global Edge

We get our software from A5 Labs, where pioneering poker-related AI software technologies is developed as part of their ‘AceGuardian’ project. 

One of these technologies we call FairGame, providing AI-driven smart ecology management, and it has HUGE benefits. 

Let's start with benefits for regular players - a skilled winning regular on WPT Global, playing in our most popular type of game, wins on average…

20.65 bb/100

Our most popular game has a straddle (third blind) as well as an ante, making the game play even bigger - $200 NL on WPT Global is structured with three blinds, $0.50/$1/$2, with a $0.50 ante. To make the comparison as fair as possible, we’ve normalised by using the straddle, not the big blind, to calculate this (otherwise the win rate would be double again, i.e. over 41 bb/100).
Let's remind ourselves how that compares to Stars and GG:

SiteTypical Reg Win / loss rateCompared to WPT GlobalIn $ terms, at $200NL
PokerStars+2.4 bb/100-18.25 bb/100-$36.50
GG Poker-3.4 bb/100-24.05 bb/100-$48.10
WPT Global+20.65 bb/100  

In other words, if you’re the skilled regular player who gets these win rates on GG and Stars, then for every 100 hands you play of $200 NL on WPT Global, you can expect to earn $48.10 more than you would by playing the same buy-in game on GG Poker - and this is before rakeback, promotions, rewards etc - where WPT Global aims to be the most generous poker site around (more on that in a future blog).
What’s more - we also know new players lose significantly less per hand than on other sites.

So, how do we make FairGame fair?

Poker sites have tried to solve ecology problems like this before. The most common way this problem is addressed is to penalise winning players, for example by cutting their rewards and/or eligibility for promotions, or even banning them from the site altogether. 

Famously, Party Poker once tried to segregate winners entirely from the rest of the player pool by hiding tables in the lobby - without telling anyone - and predictably, when players found out, they were angry.

At WPT Global, we don’t think methods like these are fair. As I’ve already emphasised in this blog, the ability to win is precisely what makes poker special. Plus, if you ban winners, you simply replace them with different winners, in an endless game of whack-a-mole.

Our approach is different. To understand how, imagine for a second yourself as host of a private poker game, and you can invite anybody in the world to play. Who would you invite if you wanted to run the longest-lasting, most sustainable game?

You wouldn’t invite only pros. They wouldn’t want to play against each other anyway. 

You wouldn’t invite only casual players either, because the game wouldn’t last very long.

Most likely you would invite a small number of pros, to ensure the game was running as often as possible. Pros bring consistency. You’d be picky about the pros you invite - you’d want pros with social skills and who give plenty of action. But you would mostly invite casual players. This balance is the most sustainable. Indeed, the market for private or ‘club-based’ games, both live and online, has thrived over the past few years.

WPT Global’s FairGame AI tech does pretty much the same thing a private game host would do. We know the key to successful ecology is to maintain games with a balanced ratio of casual / inexperienced players and highly skilled / professional players. 

FairGame does this by:

  1. Predicting the win rate (an indicator of skill level) of every player using AI
  2. Limiting the number of seats at each table that can be occupied by highly skilled professional players 

In the majority of our cash games, a maximum of two seats can be occupied by highly-skilled pros. This means at least six seats are occupied by casual players. (The exact numbers can vary between table types).

This is better for everyone involved, for:

  • The casual player playing their very first session actually has a fair chance
  • The experienced pro is going to beat the rake and have a reasonable win-rate
  • The site (WPT Global) keeps players around for longer because they have a better experience

The reason casual players have a fair chance is because they face highly-skilled professional players relatively less often - in direct contrast to sites with no ecology management, where a brand new player might be seated in a 6-handed game with 5 expert opponents.

I know what you might be thinking, ‘If FairGame’s ecology management is better for pros, better for casual players, and better for WPT Global - who is it worse for? Who loses out?’
The answer is the system is significantly worse for a specific group of players we don’t want to serve, who I broadly describe as ‘bum hunters’. By this, I mean players who select games to the extent they exclusively play against the weakest-possible opposition, and achieve very high win rates using unethical tactics. Our system is designed to reward players who give action, so it is the bum-hunting group who loses out - and I’m fine with that.

So there you have it, the key to fair, sustainable games - and it’s exclusive to WPT Global. Knowing what you know now, why would you play anywhere else?

I am Alex Scott, President, WPT Global, thanks for reading.

*To be clear, there’s no way I could beat $2kNL today, except maybe on WPT Global. If only I was allowed to play!