New Innovation By 888 Poker Blurs The Line Between Poker And Gambling
Online Poker Report

888 Poker All But Removes The Skill Element Of Poker With Its New Lottery SNG Game, BLAST

Blast launches on 888 Poker
On Wednesday, 888 Poker stealthily launched its own take on lottery sit and gos, thus becoming the last major online poker operator to introduce some sort of the poker-slot hybrid. At present, the format is only available internationally.

BLAST deviates from traditional LSNGs in a few key areas. Namely, there are four players instead of three, and gameplay is interrupted after just a few blind levels, at which point the game converts to an all-in shootout.

What results is an even more frenetically paced poker innovation, that for better or worse, all but eradicates the skill advantage seasoned grinders have over the average net depositing player.

BLAST: Same ingredients, different formula

For all of its differences, BLAST still bears a great many structural similarities to its predecessors:

  • They’re hyper-turbo no-limit hold’em games, with two minute blind levels and relatively short (30 big blind) starting stacks.
  • The prize pool is determined before play begins via a randomized draw, with top multipliers showing up far less commonly than smaller ones.
  • Payout structures are winner-take-all at the lowest multiplier level (2x), but become more evenly distributed at the mid-range and jackpot levels.

As mentioned, BLAST games do not kick off until four players are seated. By contrast, most lottery sit and gos — including Spin & Go’s on PokerStars — are three man affairs.

Previously, the only other operator that supported a four-man format was PartyPoker, which introduced its own radical take on the LSNG format, entitled Sit & Go Hero, back in March.

Yet whereas Sit & Go Hero tends more toward the skillful side — at least as far as LSNGs go — 888 Poker has taken the opposite approach with BLAST, primarily through a shot clock dynamic that threatens to strip players of all control and leave the final outcome entirely up to chance.

That’s because once the shot clock reads zero, any remaining players will be forced all-in every hand. At the two lowest multipliers, which will be drawn with a frequency of approximately 96 percent, the shootout will begin after just six minutes of gameplay.

That said, BLAST does allow for more decision making at higher multipliers, as follows:

  • 10x prize pool multiplier: four blind levels, eight minutes total
  • 100x multiplier: five blind levels, 10 minutes of gameplay
  • 1,000x and 10,000 multipliers: six blind levels, 12 minutes before shootouts begin

Even still, the shot clock mechanic pushes BLAST more into the realm of pure gambling than any other LSNG that has come before.

High rake, dependency on luck make for an unbeatable game

The house take on BLAST games is noticeably higher than it is for lottery sit & go games offered by other sites. At the lowest buy-in level, $0.10, 10 percent of the buy-in is taken as rake.

As is the case across the industry, the house fee decreases at higher buy-ins, from 9 percent at the $1 level to 6.67 percent at the highest buy-in listed on the site ($30). Currently, the client only supports $0.10, $1 and $5 games, although it is presumed the $30 games are coming soon.

By comparison, PokerStars charges between 5 and 8 percent rake for its Spin & Go’s, and also awards players between 8 and 30 percent rakeback, depending on their loyalty tier. 888 Poker did away with traditional rakeback earlier this year, in favor of a challenge-based loyalty model that favors casual and multi-vertical players.

The high cost of admission, combined with the drastically diminished skill element should make it virtually impossible for anyone to show a profit over the long term.

Thus, from a player “edge” perspective, BLAST shares more in common with semi-skillful yet largely unbeatable casino games like blackjack and Texas Hold’em Bonus than it does with traditional hold’em sit & gos or ring games.

Measuring the impact of BLAST on the lottery sng landscape

BLAST will face several hurdles right out of the gate.

For one, it is entering a landscape that is already saturated with more cost-effective options. Whether 888’s tweaks to the format will prove enough to offset this disadvantage is a big question mark.

Secondly, it is likely that site regulars who rely on online poker to make a living will steer far clear of the format. Many have already voiced their discontent in a Two Plus Two forum thread.

Then again, BLAST may prove effective at driving casino players and net depositing poker players, as it offers them the opportunity to play on a virtually level playing field. New players may view BLAST as a good introduction to online poker.

Yet, I’m of the mind that even the most casual poker players will eventually notice that they’re hemorrhaging money at a faster clip than they were playing other lottery sit and go games.

Which may lead them to conclude (justifiably) that the only one with any potential of becoming a long term winner via the BLAST format is 888 itself.

Sign Up For The Grove Report – US Online Gambling Industry Insights Delivered To Your Inbox:
Robert DellaFave
- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several online poker publications and dreams of one day programming a poker simulation clever enough to beat the pros. Read more by following @RobertDellaFave on Twitter.