In 2010, Full Tilt showed dominance in the online poker software sector once again after rolling out a new variant called Rush Poker. This never-before-seen concept enabled players to cut out unnecessary waiting time by folding their hands and immediately being taken to another table with new cards. Thanks to Rush’s popularity, Full Tilt Poker was able to greatly increase its player base.
Unfortunately, hard times struck when FTP owners were indicted following Black Friday (April 15th, 2011). Just a couple of months later, the Alderney Gambling Control Commission revoked Full Tilt’s license, which meant no more Rush Poker games for a while. Despite having what they believed to be a patent on speed poker games, other sites quickly began developing their own fast variants – one of which was PokerStars. And as you’ll soon see, Stars is now trying to make sure no other sites can duplicate fast poker.
Imitation or Infringement?
This past spring, PokerStars provided plenty of excitement within the industry after launching Zoom Poker. Much like the aforementioned Rush, Zoom Poker enables users to play far more hands in less amount of time. The “Fast Fold” feature is particularly notable here because it allows players to fold a hand and immediately be taken to a new table even before it’s their turn. You can actually try Zoom Poker yourself and get a 100% up to $600 bonus.
Moving along, Zoom was a hit with the poker world right away, but not with Rush designer Full Tilt. Despite not being able to offer real money games, FTP still felt their patent – Player-Entry Assignment and Ordering – was valid after being filed back in January of 2011. But no courts seemed to take the patent seriously any longer because FTP had been out of the market for nearly a year by the time Zoom Poker was being offered.
Protecting their Property – PokerStars
In a strange twist of irony, it is now PokerStars fighting to keep other sites from offering speed poker variants. They purchased Full Tilt Poker from the US Department of Justice and now believe they have a patent on any fast poker variants. Paul Telford, who is an attorney for Stars, spoke about the matter by saying, “Together with our patent attorneys, we are undertaking a full analysis of the Rush Poker patent applications we have acquired.” He added, “When the time is right, it is our intention to use these patents to protect the inventive elements of the Rush and Zoom products.”
If Telford and the rest of the PokerStars attorneys can enforce this patent, then other sites stand to lose a lot of money. The iPoker Network (Speed Hold’em) and Party Poker (FastForward) are just a couple of entities that have rolled out speed variants, and there are other networks/sites that are either running or developing fast poker.
Considering PokerStars’ strength and size, might as well join PokerStars now, and be with the winning team when it comes to online poker.
Poker Rooms not going down without a Fight
Seeing as how certain poker rooms could lose millions of dollars if the Zoom/Rush patent is upheld in court, these companies are definitely looking to fight the matter. Instadeal Network CEO Per Hildebrand is one of those who scoffs at Stars’ attempt to monopolize fast poker. He believes that the patent won’t hold up after saying, “The funny part is that their lawyers once must have concluded that the product is not patent-able. They launched Zoom and now want to argue it is.”
Hildebrand certainly makes a good point here because PokerStars once took a chance on violating patent laws to run their own version of speed poker. And this effort to keep other sites from running fast poker seems pretty hypocritical. However, the main difference is that Full Tilt had not run a real money poker game in months; Stars, on the other hand, is still going strong as the world’s largest poker site.
Assuming they can get the patent enforced, it would certainly change the landscape of online poker because everybody would have to go through either Stars or FTP for speed poker. This being said, it’d be nice if Hildebrand is right and courts rule that Stars can’t patent fast poker variants. But either way, players can still benefit from speedy cash games somewhere, which is great for those who want to log several hundreds hands or more per hour.