A Brief History of Noble Poker
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2010-01-17, by TwoGunRecently, Noble Poker released a special offer for PokerTips.org readers. By signing up via a link from PokerTips and using bonus code tips25, readers can get $25 free without even needing to make a deposit (those that do make a deposit get a 100% up to $500 bonus as well). Please note that this promotion was recently cancelled due to account fraud.
It brought a nostalgic tear to my eye to see this poker room attempt to reinvigorate itself with such an aggressive, generous promotion. Until lately, Noble had been one of the more lackluster skins on the iPoker network, but it seems poised to make a comeback. I've followed this brand off-and-on for about five years now, and I think the history of what's happened is pretty interesting.
Noble Poker- The Early Years
Noble Poker was one of the first poker sites that was part of the iPoker network. The iPoker network is the creation of the online casino software company Playtech. While Playtech was well-established in the online casino sphere, they were relatively late in coming to the poker space. With the launch/marketing of iPoker not really occurring until late 2004, the iPoker network was one of the late-comers to the poker boom.
When the first iPoker site that wanted a review on PokerTips (I believe it was CD Poker) contacted me, I really doubted this emerging network's chances. By this time, all the major players, Party Poker, PokerStars, Paradise Poker (yes, they used to be big), the Cryptologic network (it too used to be large before rakeback destroyed it), and PokerRoom (before Ongame was a network) seemed well established. Full Tilt Poker successfully came onto the scene, but they came out about six months earlier and had the backings of major pros and a major television budget to boot.
We began reviewing Noble Poker in early 2005. The company that ran Noble Poker was actually the same company that later started Titan Poker. I thought Noble Poker, and other sites on the network, were good poker rooms. The competition was soft and the software had both 2D and 3D mode at the time. However, I just couldn't fathom this network really becoming a major player since there were quite a few established sites already.
Noble Poker- Sold
In the summer of 2005, online poker sites were launching many IPOs. One of the firms that went public was Empire Online, who owned Empire Poker. Back then, Party Poker was on network (it wasn't a standalone poker room like it is today). While Party was the bulk of the network, there were other players on it too, including Empire Poker, Multi-Poker, EuroBet, and InterTops Poker. Out of the skins, Empire Poker was by far the largest.
I am not exactly sure what the reasoning behind it was, but around August 2005, Noble Poker was sold to Empire Online. Within a month, a new skin on the iPoker network, Titan Poker, was launched by the company that previously owned Noble Poker (everyone was well aware that they would be launching a new skin as soon as they sold Noble Poker).
Though Noble Poker was a promising poker room, Empire Online's main business was still Empire Poker. In the past, it had mainly driven players to the network it shared with Party Poker via internet advertising. By the summer of 2005 though, Empire Poker had become a leach. Its main focus had gone from driving new players to convincing sharks and other high volume players to switch from Party Poker to Empire Poker by offering them rakeback. The other skins on the network, such as EuroBet, were acting in a similar fashion. This obviously angered Party Poker since they were driving all of the new players and fish to the poker room, only to have their largest rake generators leave them for other sites that offered rakeback.
In October 2005, Party Poker separated itself from its own network. It took its players/tournaments and moved them to a separate server, leaving the skins and their sharks behind. Most of those sharks that had rakeback accounts at Empire moved back to Party Poker (without rakeback) since the games were so much softer. The new skins network (which was mainly Empire players) began to implode on itself.
A few months later, Empire Poker sued Party Poker claiming a breach of contract. The two ended up settling the dispute a year later with Party buying Empire Online's assets for $250 million. This included Empire Poker, Noble Poker, and a few other miscellaneous brands and domains.
[b]Noble Poker- Recent Years [b]
If you were the CEO of Party Gaming in early 2007, you would probably be thinking, "what assortment of crap did I just buy for $250 million?" The main asset, Empire Poker, was of very questionable value. Party could continue to operate it as a stand-alone poker room, filled with rakeback sharks slowly nipping at each other until it collapsed on itself. It could also merge it with Party Poker, which wouldn't really add many new players to the network but would save Party from having to operate two networks that used similar software. It opted for the latter, and merged the two in early 2007. I doubt that many who play at Party Poker use the Empire Poker client today.
As for the other assets, the biggest was Noble Poker, which was a promising iPoker site in 2005 but had since been overtaken by other sites on the network, such as Titan Poker. As is understandable, Party Gaming seemed to chose to focus on Party Poker and other Party gambling properties and let Noble Poker and the others kinda sit around.
Since early 2007, a lot has happened in the poker world. This was the first year of the post-UIGEA world, so we saw sites such as Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars thrive due to their continued acceptance of US players. We also saw what happened to poker networks that allowed their clients to promote rakeback as a method of gaining new players. Poker networks that allowed rakeback, such as the Cryptologic network and the Microgaming network, were destroyed from within, since the poker rooms on the network focused on stealing each others exiting players instead of recruiting new ones. The Cryptologic network ended up merging with the Boss network, and they're still around, albeit one of the smaller networks. Microgaming eventually banned rakeback, but it may have been too late since it was now one of the smaller non-US focused poker sites.
Unlike Microgaming and Cryptologic network, the iPoker network banned rakeback as a method of attracting new customers from the start. This prevented the sites on the network from leaching off of each other and made them focus, instead, on attracting new players. The iPoker network thrived and began adding more and more brands, such as Mansion Poker and William Hill Poker. By late 2008, it was by far the largest poker network and is today about neck-and-neck with Party Poker for the largest non-US poker site period.
Party Gaming is now taking its Noble Poker brand quite seriously and is launching a lot of promotions (such as the free $25 for PokerTips.org readers, aimed at getting Noble Poker to be one of the top rooms on the network. How successful they will be remains to be seen. What's clear though is the poker network whom I originally thought never had a chance of being one of the top contenders is now about tied for being the largest non-US poker site.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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