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Chico Poker Network Pushes Recreational Model - Rakeback Affiliates Jilted

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The Chico Poker Network – consisting of the BetOnline, TigerGaming, and brands – has revealed a new policy whereby it is evaluating its marketing partners and penalizing affiliates who are referring the wrong type of players to these gaming sites. The stated reason given by Chico for this move is that “we have been working hard on improving our poker ecology.”


The poker players that the Chico Network evidently doesn't like are referred to as “negative revenue accounts,” i.e., winners. The affiliates being targeted are those whose players have withdrawn more money from the site than they have deposited. Those affiliates whose players are net depositors (that is, losers) are unaffected.

The strategy the Chico Network is implementing to combat affiliates that have incurred its disfavor commenced April 1, 2021.

As of that date, these affiliates will not be able to sign up new players, and their tracking links will therefore be disabled. Any attempt to circumvent this restriction will result in permanent account closure and the forfeiture of all funds.

Moreover, the targeted individuals will see their commissions reduced to 10% on their existing player revenue. The normal affiliate payout structure at Chico sites encompasses five tiers, from 10% at the low end to 35% at the top. Basically, CPN is paying these disfavored affiliates on their existing clientele as though they had sent fewer than three real money players to the sites in the past six months regardless of the actual numbers.

Additionally, the Chico Poker Network has announced that all rakeback deals are now null and void. Even players who have old rakeback accounts from before this rule was formulated will see their rakeback returns reduced to 0%.

Why Is Chico Doing This?

A hint to the rationale for taking these steps comes from the words from the network's statement: “improving our poker ecology.” For a while now, sites have been attempting to put more money in the hands of inexperienced and unskilled poker players at the expense of serious pros.

Losing players (or net depositors) tend to see the majority of their funds eventually transformed into rake and tournament fees, which are retained by the house. Now, there are occasional wins even among this segment of the player pool, with lucky tournament scores and short-term heaters at the cash tables, but the vast majority of the cash coming from these customers winds up moving back and forth between individuals while slowly being raked away into the hands of the poker room.

This is not the case with winning players. They not only tend to preserve their own deposits intact, but they also capture money from the fish – funds that would otherwise be, in large part, transformed into rake and contribute to the revenue of the gaming organization. Thus, the winners don't just take money from the losers' pockets; they also decrease the profitability of the cardroom itself.

It's therefore understandable that the Chico Poker Network is endeavoring to keep its poker room filled with casual users whilst simultaneously attempting to prevent veteran sharks from preying upon them. However, the specific way that Chico is going about this goal is questionable at best.

What Do Other Poker Sites Do to Disincentivize Winning Players?

We've already mentioned that the Chico Poker Network is not the only operator to have taken action to preserve the poker ecology. Yet most other sites have decided to adjust matters in-house without necessarily penalizing affiliates.

The PaiWangLuo Network, which consists of Bodog, Bovada, and Ignition Poker, has anonymous tables where nobody can see anyone else's screenname thus seriously diminishing the utility of opponent-tracking programs that accomplished pokerists often employ. At the same time, PWL limits the number of cash games a single player can sit at to four. This is a tactic meant to dampen the edge that mass-multitabling grinders have over the player population.

The iPoker Network, which has many skins including William Hill, bet365, and Betfair, has debuted a system it calls “Real Player Value.” This group bases many of its rewards and promotions on the rake paid by its customers. However, unlike traditional rakeback arrangements, the amount of rake assigned to each player is fudged a bit, up or down, to credit losing users with having paid more in rake than net withdrawers.

Therefore, the promotional budget at iPoker Network member sites goes mostly to players who will tend to return the bulk of it back to the house over time rather than to seasoned professionals who will wind up cashing most of it out.

Why Is Chico's Strategy Foolish?

Rather than dealing with players on an individual level or even dividing groups of users into distinct tranches through sophisticated in-house metrics, the Chico Poker Network is foisting the responsibility onto the shoulders of affiliates. Yet, by banning affiliates who bring in the “wrong” type of players, Chico is by no means assuring itself that those unwanted users will be evicted from its poker rooms.

The winning players whom the CPN apparently detests so much generally have the knowledge and savviness to sign up for whatever poker website they please – with or without an affiliate. But the recreational customers that the network seeks to court may only know about the CPN sites in the first place because they saw them featured on an affiliate's website.

By shutting down affiliates, Chico might wind up doing little to dissuade net winners from opening up new accounts while driving newcomers into the arms of competitors. This is the exact opposite of what they're hoping for!

ProfRB's Take on the Matter

Here at Professional Rakeback, we remain partners in good standing with the Chico Poker Network. Our visitors comprise a wide range of the poker playing populace from rank amateurs to modest small-stakes winners to sick high-stakes ballers. The readers we refer to the CPN are therefore a balanced slice of the internet poker ecosystem without undue weighting toward any specific type of player.

Yet, we sincerely feel for the struggles that smaller affiliates might be going through if they have been put on the Chico Network's blacklist. Marketeers who are just starting out or haven't quite got their customer acquisition strategies on point yet might have fallen afoul of network guidelines by accident.

It's our aim to educate everyone involved in online poker, including fans and followers of famous players, weekend users who enjoy poker for entertainment purposes, dedicated pros seeking to up their game, news outlets that aim to keep abreast of the latest happenings, and, yes, other affiliates too. While in a certain sense, other affiliates are our natural competitors and rivals, another way of looking at the situation is that when anyone in the industry improves his or her performance, we all win.

Therefore, if any affiliate negatively impacted by the recent changes at the Chico Network wishes to contact us and discuss the situation, we would be more than happy to listen and offer our two cents. We look forward to a frank exchange of views, information, and experiences, and we're always on the alert for any creative partnership opportunities that present themselves.

Ready to Play?

If you're not an affiliate but rather a poker player, then rest assured that this behind-the-scenes maneuvering doesn't really affect you much at all. You can still sign up for your choice of Chico Poker Network site and get a 100% up to $1,000 poker bonus to boot.

Read our review of the CPN room you're interested in for signup instructions and additional information: BetOnline, SB Poker, TIgerGaming (non-US).