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The approval of the Siena Hotel Spa Casino by the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) on October 29, 2013 paves the way for the privately owned company to enter the Nevada online poker market in early 2014.
The Siena Hotel Spa Casino is located in Reno, Nevada. The hotel/casino has gone through a number of rebranding efforts over the years, and in 2010, after years of operating in the red, the Siena found its doors shuttered. The Siena was bought, renovated, and reopened by a group of investors in April of 2011.
With online poker legislation in the works, new Siena owner David Colvin and his son Eric created the online gaming company Z4 Poker in 2012 (which was approved by the NGC as a service provider in November of 2012).
Z4 was created with the sole objective of creating the Siena’s online poker platform in Nevada, which will be called HD Poker –a poker platform Z4 CTO Eric Colvin feels will be unique in the market, considering his statements in a press release issued last week:
“We’re extremely excited for the opportunity to compete in this new market. Our belief is that players will prefer excellent software and gameplay to expensive ad campaigns.”
Colvin went on to say that:
“The technology in the online poker industry has hardly evolved over the last decade, especially relative to the video game industry… We plan on launching something completely innovative that hopefully will be greeted with a sigh of relief by the community – something that will be disruptive to the existing technology…”
Taking these statements at face value, when HD Poker launches (a play-money launch is planned for early 2014, with a real-money launch to follow) it will likely be a convergence of social gaming, video games, and real-money online poker.
The closest any online poker provider has come to this type of combination is PKR Poker, which offers an incredibly realistic – but slow and cumbersome – 3-D poker product.
As PKR Poker has found, a video game-quality online poker room with souped-up graphics and advanced GUI is something of a niche market. PKR Poker is currently ranked 23rd in the world according to PokerScout.com’s online traffic rankings.
The issue for a poker room with high-end graphics and game-play features is, and will likely remain, the trade-off between the enhanced graphics and functionality.
This trade-off is something that is especially concerning for high-volume online poker players who favor speed and functionality over graphics in their online poker software. Casual players may be drawn to the bells and whistles but serious online poker players find them unnecessary, distracting, and likely to bog down their system’s CPU usage.
The questions then become: Will enough casual players signup at the site to attract the sharks? Or will the casual players just go to the established sites, with inferior graphics, that already have solid traffic numbers?
Siena and Z4’s HD Poker may provide the first answer to the question of who drives online poker traffic, casual players or grinders?