Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The State of Party Rakeback

Many of you who played at Party/Party skins and had a rakeback deal are probably correctly wondering a couple of things:

1) Is Party currently allowing rakeback?
2) Can I get a rakeback deal at Party?

Like many things, there's no simple answer. By all accounts, Party was ready to give tentative approval for its largest affiliates to publicly offer rakeback deals, but backed out of that plan at the last minute. Their public stance at the moment is as follows:

"PartyPoker.com does not permit affiliates to promote rakeback (or any other discount schemes) to players. There are rumours that we are offering / endorsing rake back to affiliates. These are false claims and we are taking action against anyone who claims to have “special deals” with us."

Which actually is fairly ambibuous when you get done to nuts and bolts. They're careful to only mention "promoting" and "claiming to have special deals" as forbidden, and never really address the question of whether affiliates can offer rakeback, as long as they do so quietly and non-publicly.

Some affiliates have even been told this directly by their affiliate managers (many of whom get commission-type incentives and bonuses based on the results of the affiliates they work with) in a wink, wink, nudge, nudge fashion. As long as you do it discreetly, smartly, and privately (wink wink, nudge nudge), you can offer rakeback and no one will ever be the wiser.

Which brings us to the second point, as far as whether you can get rakeback on Party. And again, the answer isn't a simple one.

Despite no official support from Party to offer rakeback, there are ways that affiliates can track the play of players. The easiest is through one of the tools that Party currently offers, which is the ability to create trackers for different campaigns. That's where the bonus codes we all love come from, including the ubiquitous BONUS CODE IGGY. As an affiliate, you can create codes like that for different campaigns, including offline ones, where you might print business cards with your code on it, so that when people signup and type it in you, as an affiliate, get credit for it.

While Party has yanked the ability to create trackers for the sole intent of offering rakeback, they still allow you to create multiple bonus codes for marketing campaigns as mentioned above. So an obvious workaround for affiliates who want to offer rakeback is to create a code, say IWANTRAKEBACK, and to then have one person sign up using it. You would only create and use the code for that player, and would create and use a new one for the next player signing up through you for rakeback, use it only for that player, and so on and so forth.

There are obvious problems with this approach, though, mainly that it leaves a pretty glaring red flag in its wake, since all you have to do to ferret it out is to look for trackers/codes with only one player, and see whether that affiliate has many, many trackers, all with exactly one player attached to it. Even if they aren't looking for those trends currently and acting upon it when they find it (and they may or may not be), they can easily do so in the future, if they choose to.

So while this approach would work in theory, in practice it's not optimal. If you sign up with an affiliate to get rakeback at Party who employs this method, be sure you understand what's going on, and that it leaves obvious trails that may lead to your rakeback gravy train abruptly being cut off at some point in the future.

The other way to currently get rakeback at Party is a little simpler but involves a good deal of trust. Players sign up through an affiliate and use PokerTracker to track all of their play. At the end of the month, they send their monthly results (which includes total rake paid figures) to their affiliate. Their affiliate then pays them an agreed upon percentage of their rake back.

The advantage of that system is that even if Party officially bans rakeback, as long as the affiliate and player getting rakeback keep their mouths shut, there's no way Party will ever know that the affiliate is offering rakeback, as from their point of view it simply looks like a normal player referred by an affiliate. The obvious disadvantage, though, is that much trust is involved, as the affiliate has no way of knowing under that system that what the player claims they paid in rake (backed up by their PokerTracker results) is correct. Players could easily lie and fudge those stats to get more rakeback cash back, and the affiliate can't really disprove it. The affiliate has to trust the player to a large extent, since all the affiliate sees on their end is the total money they earn, without it being broken out by individual players.

(I wouldn't be surprised if at some point an affiliate improves that system, however, and invests in the ability to datamine 24/7, for every Party table. It's actually possible, if you're motivated enough, and as a result you'd have a record of every hand played at Party, each and every month. So you'd know exactly what players paid in rake each month, and could kick back an agreed upon percentage to players who sign up via your affiliate links.)

The other workaround is to have your "wife" or "husband" start a poker blog and sign up as an affiliate for Party, and for you to create a new account and sign up via their affiliate link. They'll get paid a percentage of your rake every month for your play, which basically works out to a rakeback deal, just one that doesn't involve an external affiliate. They don't actively serve as an affiliate or promote Party or anything, the purpose of their signing up as an affiliate is just to allow you to be able to sign up under them yourself, so that a percentage of your rake is returned to you by the affiliate payments. The only problem with this is that Party does eventually flag accounts that only have one player signed up through them, and you'll have to jump through assorted hoops to get your account unlocked, to get paid, etc.

For the moment, those are the only current workarounds I know of, as far as how to get rakeback at Party. And, for the record, I'm not endorsing or condoning any of them. I'm also not sneakily soliciting private emails from people looking fo rakeback at Party, as that's just about the last thing I'd want to get entangled in right now. Given Party's penchant for screwing all sorts of people over at the drop of a dime, it'd be far too easy to be left holding the bag, owing players large sums of money, with no chance of getting paid.

Just make sure that you watch your respective cornholes if you're thinking of going down any of the Party rakeback paths outlines above.


WillWonka said...

I know I must be missing something huge here... but why does Party (or any site for that matter) care about what an affiliate does with their affiliate monies? It only seems to serve them better as the affiliate can actively pursue future poker customers. They don't lose anything as they are already paying the affiliate. It seems as it is easy enough to track individual stats (as other sites do it... and as you say at a flick of a switch).

What am I missing?

Ignatious said...

excellent post, per usual. what a wacky crazy world poker has turned out to be.

damnit, email me.

ScurvyDog said...

Mr. Wonka,

It's a tricky thing, as far as how Party (or any online poker site) deals with rakeback.

In a perfect world, they wish that affiliates didn't exist and that no one knows the meaning of the word rakeback. They would much rather keep that extra 15-30% they pay out. From the sites' point of view, a business model that didn't involve affiliates or rakeback would be optimal.

In the real world, they need affiliates, and have all embarked down a road where they pay affiliates 15-30%. They can't really back out now even if they wanted to. So they're stuck with affiliates. And affiliates are greedy, and started rolling out and promoting rakeback programs that pay back a certain percentage of their profits, as the affiliates realized that through volume they could make even more money.

Which benefits Party, too, in theory, but there's a tipping point where too many players getting rakeback negatively impacts Party's bottom line. Party doesn't mind paying affiliates (and in theory don't care what affiliates do with that payment as far as incentivizing players), but what makes Party crap in their pants is the thought that the average fish at Party becomes aware of rakeback and signs up a second account solely for it. It's especially painful if it's a player that Party acquired themselves via expensive tv advertising, who previously didn't sign up through an affiliate. Party instantly goes from getting 100% of that player's rake to 70-80% of it, with no additional benefits.

So yeah, for new players that would come through an affiliate anyway, Party doesn't care whether what they pay the affiliate is redistributed as rakeback or not. Party gets the new player regardless at the cost of 15-30% of their total rake.

For existing players not already signed up through an affiliate (or for players who signed up through an affiliate who elected to take the cost per acquisition payment plan), it kills Party for them to discover rakeback and create a new account solely for it. They instantly lose 20-30% of that player's rake, which previously went right into their pocket.

Drizztdj said...

Ah but they do profit from giving rakeback...

because what's the rake from a player who moved to UB's new skin because Party wouldn't offer rakeback.


Poker.com said...

Another big reason is that a lot of bigger affiliates hate having to compete with rakeback and the fact that it becomes a bidding war to retain players on your tracker. Affiliates will just bid more and more to their players in rakeback until they are earning nothing. At the end of the day there are better ways for poker rooms to incentivise play than offering rake back such as loyalty programs, special tournaments, freerolls etc etc. Expecting rakeback is like asking your real estate agent not to charge you for selling your house. It is the cost of playing poker and I predict that eventually all rooms will put an end to rakeback once we start seing some more mergers and folding of online poker rooms.