The Hendon Mob Sells, And Here Are 3 Sites That Could Be Next

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Today’s news that The Hendon Mob has been purchased by Zokay Entertainment (terms not disclosed) comes only two weeks after Playtech announced a $50mm plan to gobble up super-affiliate

There’s a common thread between the two acquisitions: Both Hendon and PokerStrategy offered an attractive mix of new traffic, an existing audience and a virtual warehouse of player data.

And Bluff offered a similar trifecta prior to their acquisition by Churchill Downs.

Assuming that mix continues to be attractive to potential buyers, here are three online poker media properties that could easily be the subject of the next big buyout headline.

PocketFives boasts one of the most active online poker forums in the world, a steady stream of staff and user-generated content and what most consider the definitive ranking system for online MTT play.

But the real appeal of the site may lie in the vast quantity of data PocketFives has accumulated with regard to online poker tournaments and in its success overlaying a gamification layer (not just the main rankings, but achievement badges, regional leaderboards and more) on top of that data.

Taking over a community and maintaining the spirit of that community is always a unique challenge, especially for an operator. And that may limit the list of potential suitors. But for a major media or marketing company looking for a flagship property for an online gaming portfolio, PocketFives would be an attractive option on many levels.

Training sites are possibly the closest thing to a no-brainer for an operator looking to build a media portfolio. The natural tie-ins are many (think CardRunners and Full Tilt), and the heavily-branded content stream is a major asset, especially in an environment where we’re seeing more and more demand for video across multiple devices.

There are plenty of poker training sites out there, but only one has Phil Galfond. And Run It Once has a few other edges, including a stronger-than-average brand aesthetic that projects a lifestyle appealing to just the sort of customers online operators are hoping to attract.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that Pokerfuse wasn’t around before April 2011. In that relatively short span, the site has become a go-to source (for many the go-to source) for online poker news.

News sites are tricky acquisitions, and Pokerfuse is no exception. It would be tough for an operator to snap up the site without questions being raised about the impact of ownership on editorial decisions, questions that could easily (fairly or not) undermine the reputation that is responsible for so much of Pokerfuse’s success.

But the site’s ability to set the conversation – not just among players, but also in industry circles – might prove too tempting to resist for a marketing company planning to service multiple operators or to a media conglomerate looking to cover all possible non-operator aspects of the online poker ecosystem.

What else to watch for

While there’s unlikely to be a headline-justifying deal coming out of the online poker industry every two weeks, the general trend of consolidation looks set to continue.

Specifically, I’d expect more and more small affiliates and mid-tier affiliates to join forces in an attempt to hit the scale necessary to exploit heavily regulated markets. You won’t hear much, if anything about these deals, but they have the potential to lay the groundwork for the next super-affiliate site.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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