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Copyright © 2023. All Rights Reserved. Poker History. Editor: Erik Smith.


With much of the industry suffering from dwindling player numbers and increasingly tougher games, one online poker company chose to go in the opposite direction and focus 100% on the so-called recreational players.

US-facing site Bodog Poker has long had a reputation in the industry for its opposition to main market trends, and of course, for the flamboyant nature of its founder, serial entrepreneur and internet bad boy Calvin Ayre.

According to Bodog, the toughened conditions of the online poker market offered the company an obvious opportunity to secure a niche share through focusing on a segment of the player pool that is often neglected; the loose, recreational players.

While other major networks like PokerStars and PartyPoker changed rake structures and others straightforward chose to punish high-volume rakeback players, Bodog chose instead to concentrate on how to attract recreational players through making its offering of online games more attractive to lesser skilled players.

The outcome was the Bodog Recreational Player Model, which openly favored players with little experience in online poker. The model worked by taking away some of the key elements and tools from regular players, hoping that this would rid the games of some of the most predatory regulars, thus making the game more fun for recreational players, who would no longer have to worry about being eaten alive by the sharks.

The Changes

To accomplish this, Bodog started out by removing all screen names from its ring games on Bodog Poker. This granted all players full anonymity while playing, and secured that no player would ever risk having opponents marking them down as easy targets, also called “bum-hunting”.

Next, Bodog took away the note-taking option from all players, as well as it removed the possibility to see filled up tables in the poker lobby. Finally, the poker room also released a software update, which allowed all players to request full hand histories, including opponents’ hole cards, in an effort to fight collusion.

These changes combined with a rakeback systems that favors recreational players over grinders made Bodog Poker the first company to outright declare war on high-volume regular rakeback players, and openly support recreational players. There has been intense debate about the overall success of the Recreational Player Model, and it is hard to say whether or not Bodog has actually managed to position itself as the preferred room for players who seek a fun and uncomplicated online poker experience.

What is certain, however, is that Bodog Poker effectively showed the industry that there is room for alternative approaches to handling some of the biggest problems of player liquidity and “locked up” games. This leaves Bodog as a company that has once again gone against the trends of the industry, giving it a well-deserved mark of distinction from many of its largest competitors in the market today.