The story that dominated headlines in 2015 was the massive popularity of Spin & Go’s  (approx. 150 million real money games played), which was driven by two key attractions:

·         The special $1 million Spin & Go tournaments, which cost as little as $0.50 to enter, have resulted in 13 million-dollar winners to date.

·         Spin & Go’s are perfect for mobile players. With most new players on PokerStars and Full Tilt now playing on the mobile apps, mobile-friendly formats are likely to become even more popular in 2016 and beyond.

Online tournament festivals and special one-off events also flourished with PokerStars hosting the biggest World Championship of Online Poker to date (70 events), which resulted in the richest WCOOP ever with more than $66 million awarded to players across three weeks. There was also the biggest online tournament buy-in ever – a $51,000 Super High Roller – that was won by Canadian player Ben ‘Ben86’ Tollerene for more than $600k. The PokerStars sports betting team also trialled a betting market for the tournament, which saw hundreds of bets and magnified viewer interest in the event.

Finally, if ever proof was needed that online poker is still incredibly popular around the world, PokerStars set a new Guinness World Record for Largest Online Poker Tournament in October, when 253,698 players registered for a $0.01 event, beating the previous record of 225,000 players set in June 2013.

In May, two of the world’s most famous sportsmen – Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr – joined PokerStars as brand ambassadors. The signings demonstrated a strong strategic move to introduce poker to mainstream audiences, Cristiano Ronaldo having the most popular Facebook page in the world with more than 100 million fans, and Neymar Jr also having over 50 million fans.

Another big signing, albeit very different in nature, was Twitch superstar and poker pro Jason Somerville joining Team PokerStars. The host of Twitch show ‘Run it Up!’ has helped bring poker to new audiences within the gaming world. During the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), Somerville achieved peak concurrent viewing figures of more than 37,000. That kind of popularity has helped to get poker onto the home page of Twitch where more than 180 million unique monthly viewers can see the channel. Somerville now has more than 144,000 followers and nearly 9 million channel views. He’s not the only member of the team to be having Twitch success though. In April Jaime Staples was signed as a Friend of PokerStars (now a Team Online Pro) and has 49,000 followers on Twitch, while veteran Team Online Pros Randy ‘nanonoko’ Lew and Felix ‘xflixx’ Schneiders regularly broadcast their play to more than 21,000 and 15,000 followers respectively.

Finally, after spending a little over a month in Steam’s greenlight process, Full Tilt recently became the first major online poker brand to be approved by online gaming platform Steam. This is part of an ongoing plan to bridge the gap between traditional online gaming and competitive mind sports like poker.

PokerStars’ live events went from strength to strength in 2015, with record-breaking events at many stops. Globally, there were 58 events, incoporating 945 tournaments in 19 countries, with Estrellas Barcelona and BSOP millions each attracting 3,000+ players.

The combination of the above generated over $270 million in prize pools and created 15 $1m+ winners. EPT Prague, which just finished in the Czech Republic, has smashed records again, with a total of 97 events. But it doesn’t stop there – the festivals just keep growing, with a jaw-dropping 104 events on offer at PCA 2016, including PokerStars’ first Blackjack tournament. 

In July,  Full Tilt made some big changes to improve the playing experience. The changes involved streamlining the lobby, helping players get to their games more smoothly and quickly, and making the game more accessible and fair.

At the end of October, PokerStars also unveiled a plan to enhance the playing experience and re-emphasize the fun and social aspects of online poker. This included an announcement of plans to release innovative new games and broad consumer marketing campaigns in 2016 – including new campaigns featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr – which will put the poker ecosystem on the right path to deliver growth for years to come.

Investments in research and development will bring new innovations to the game, beginning in the first half of 2016 and continuing throughout the year, to increase play from existing customers and attract new ones.

In addition, PokerStars announced the introduction of VIP Steps for 2016 – a simplified rewards system that replaces FPPs, Stellar Rebates and Milestone Rewards with StarsCoin, which also surfaces the VIP Club on the table and gives players attainable, daily goals to strive for.

PokerStars’ sports betting received a limited release beta launch in spring 2015, but has steadily grown since and now features the ability to bet on more than 25 sports, including poker and eSports. The offering, which has been rebranded BetStars, is now available online, on mobile and on tablet for iOS and Android users. In early 2016 the brand will undergo a big marketing push, including the introduction of exclusive new products.

The PokerStars online casino offering continues to grow, too, with the addition of a Live Casino room to the online software in March, followed by an expansion that incorporated Blackjack and Roulette on mobile, along with Slots on desktop, in April.

In September PokerStars also entered the increasingly popular daily fantasy sports arena, with the launch of ‘StarsDraft' by PokerStars’ in the USA, a fully regulated site that brings the safety and security of the PokerStars experience to daily fantasy sports.

Story via PokerStars