Research: China Online Poker Glimpse

Short brief about the law against online poker in China, how does it work?

Online gambling is illegal in China, making online poker games essentially dead in the country. There are no Chinese legally owned or operated poker sites. As far as the players go, they aren’t breaking the law because it’s not against the law to gamble online, but this still doesn’t mean the government wishes people to play. China is well known for its censoring of the internet and can and will block any websites it does not feel to be appropriate for its people, and this includes gambling and online poker websites.

Despite this, players have found ways and means to play online. And online operators are becoming more innovative in their offerings by not having “real money” transactions but instead use alternatives that can be converted to cash. Officials here do realize that given that there are no Chinese online poker sites, no one is breaking the law as far as far as operating these sites, as the Chinese recognize that these sites are outside their jurisdiction, something that not all countries properly admit to. But once again, in China, Mah-jong and poker games are taken off the approval list following a wave of earlier government crackdowns over concerns that such titles may connected to illegal gambling.

Can people download poker apps?

June 2018, a major crackdown, known as Chinese Black Friday, occurred in China. The government banned all online poker applications, removing them from App Stores, and going as far as forbidding the promotion of Poker on any Social Media. It’s not that they always block poker websites, but this can certainly happen here, although the first thing you need to know is that this blocking is limited to the online poker website itself. People aren’t blocked from playing there, the most they can be blocked from is downloading the software, and once they do that, they are in the clear.

The Chinese have been well accustomed to getting around censorship, and the use of virtual private networks (VPN) to access the internet is very popular in general because of the Great wall firewall, and this is the tool that online poker players use to get around these poker related restrictions.

So, all you do is log on to the network and then you can travel to any site you wish without government detection, Android APK and IOS “Enterprise” workaround solves the problem. So there are now a lot of online poker players living in China and while there is still a lot of room for growth, as not everyone is aware of this means of playing, the market here is expected to continue to grow.

Can people pay for the online apps? How online payment works for those apps?

Yes, they can, but not through an official way. We all understand the APP is totally free but for playing games need real money. Taking example of Poker Master, which is not a cash deposit site, player can do an in-app purchase for getting some virtual items, but for playing in the games their funds will flow to home game host or the agent who raises the game with gateway/mobile payment methods. Taking example of Poker King, which is a cash deposit site, they have payment service provider to allow players directly deposit/withdrawal with both gateway/mobile payment methods.

Information about prices of poker apps and prices of all features inside poker apps.

Note: *   screenshots attached, ** means in-app best seller

Poker Master Store/Mall

Red Dragon Poker Store/Mall

How player pays in Poker King Club?

How player pays in Red Dragon Poker?

Download for the whole document.

Research: Open Face Chinese Poker

Hi Poker

Level: 1/2/3/5, 10/20/30, 50/100

Game Type: Normal(普通模式), Super(血战模式), Ultimate(血进血出), Bleeding(血流成河)

Joker Mode: With Joker(有癞子), No Joker(无癞子)

Dealing: Sequence(顺序发牌), Concurrent(同时发牌)

View: Horizontal(横板), Vertical(竖版)

Bleeding: Head cards to Fantasyland, three of a kind 17 cards, AA 16 cards, KK 15 cards, QQ 14 cards, Players stay into fantasylands will get same amount of cards as his/her first fantasyland.

Volume: In the past, highest estimate number 1000 tables/day (including tables existing very short period), valid 800 tables/day in total.

「Hi Poker」 was called 「Ace Poker」 back to late 2017, its registered numbers at that time was about 88,000 players with duplicated accounts counted (unique players ~ 40% – 35,000 players). In October 2018 「Ace Poker」 finally changed to the name,「Hi Poker」.

It is said that「Hi Poker」 was going to develop their anti-collusion system since 2019. It will randomly choose players asking for a voice message verification during a game. Also, it is said the system will randomly burn a card from the deck and shows to all players in order to interrupt and mislead bots’ calculation system. This sounds promising for security and player experience but nothing came out until today.

There is one unique function on this platform named 「Maximize Boost」 (一键最大) during the play, when players click this button it can automatically sort your cards which maximize the points for this fantasyland hand. It costs virtual coins and proved it’s popular among the players (Revenue come from this can up to highest¥400,000/month). By the way the estimate revenue comes from their virtual coins is about average¥300,000/month.

「Hi Poker」 has stopped running because of the massive 「judicial freeze accounts incident」 happened in early June last year and back online after several months, it is believed that 「Hi Poker」 has business relationship with some major OFC alliance owners from Poker Master. For these alliance owners (so-called 「主机」), they have powerful resources which may finally lead them to target on planting their mini-games API into platforms like 「Hi Poker」.

Poker Master

Level: 1/2/3/5, 5/10/20, 50/100

Game Type: Normal(普通模式), Super(血战模式), Ultimate(血进血出)

Joker Mode: With Joker(有癞子), No Joker(无癞子)

Dealing: Sequence(顺序发牌), Concurrent(同时发牌)

View: Vertical(竖版)

Fantasyland: Three of a kind gets 16 or 17 cards, setup before game starts.

Volume: In the past, highest estimate number 2000 tables/day (including tables existing very short period), valid 1100 tables/day in total. Now, it’s hard to have even one $50 table. During the day, 6-7 tables could be seen up to $20. When the peak time arrives, $50 table become available and may just stay one table.

According to the inner voice from 「Poker Master」, OFC players didn’t grow and there are only 2-3 big alliance owners are hosting for OFC games for long-term business. Also, the OFC bots are everywhere in Poker Master which keeps decreasing the OFC players’ willing of play. Before Poker Master was beaten by bots it can up to 12 tables of $50 and dozens of $5/$10 at the same time but now you can hardly see any high-stake tables.

Platform seems no attention or plans on making any changes for its OFC users as player resource are basically controlled by hosts and 「Poker Master」 is a credit site not a deposit site. Even though, these players will stick to those alliance owners and it’s worth to keep an eye on what will these host do with the traffic. Just like I mentioned before about 「Hi Poker」, inner source shows host from 「Poker Master」 has worked with 「Hi Poker」 already and might planning to do something. I won’t be surprised if there is another new OFC platform comes out in China.

Stakes/ClubsHi PokerPoker MasterPoker ClansFish Poker
Normal Stakes/Clubs Size (CNY/USD)

Poker Clans (Deposit Site)

Level: 0.1/0.2/0.5, 1/2/5

Game Type: Normal(普通模式), Super(血战模式), Ultimate(血进血出)

Joker Mode: With Joker(有癞子), No Joker(无癞子)

Dealing: Sequence(顺序发牌), Concurrent(同时发牌)

View: Vertical(竖版)

Hand PointsJackpot Bonus

Volume: 200-300 could be the biggest number of players online at the same time. Tables’ number is big but including tables existing very short period (5-10mins), it’s more like PokerStars 「ZOOM」 game which made me very hard to estimate how many tables they have each day.

Player pool is small and since the platform is target on micro stake players it doesn’t have a high margin. The good thing for 「Poker Clans」 is it’s a cash deposit site and its online MTT has a stable traffic of 2,000-3,000 ppl at the same time which provide its OFC a certain liquidity. As a manner of fact, 「Poker Clans」 is going to launch its mini games (Featuring 「Texas Cowboy」 as 「Coming Soon」) aiming to increase its revenue.

But still, if its strategy is only focusing on Chinese micro stakes then it will never be competitive because players won’t trust it (net deposit increase) unless its brand can go as big as Poker King or other cash deposit sites. When we come back to OFC in 「Poker Clans」, it still has a potential to go big if the platform can be more diversification and make good use of its unique feature 「Jackpot」.

FeaturesHi PokerPoker MasterPoker ClansFish Poker
Normal Type
Super Type
Ultimate Type
Bleeding Type×××
English Verison××
First Fantasyland1716/171716/17
Joker/No Joker
Maximize Boost×××
Features Landscape

Fish Poker

Level: 1/2/3/5, 10/20/30, 50/100

Game Type: Normal(普通模式), Super(血战模式), Ultimate(血进血出)

Joker Mode: With Joker(有癞子), No Joker(无癞子)

Dealing: Sequence(顺序发牌), Concurrent(同时发牌)

View: Horizontal(横板), Vertical(竖版)

Fantasyland: Three of a kind gets 16 or 17 cards, setup before game starts.

Volume: In the past, highest estimate number 150 tables/day, 6-7 tables up to $20 at the same time.

Players mainly form Chongqing City, Sichuan Province, Xian City and Shanxi Province, and a few groups of players come from Beijing and Zhejiang Province. This territoriality shows the path of its marketing which also means most of the hosts in Fish Poker stays in above areas/cities in mainland China.

「Fish Poker」 turned out to just have a tiny market share of OFC, its OFC games are all relied on club hosts and missing of the alliance structure also restricted the growing of those clubs. This just made all club hosts discrete which for sure restricts the scale of its traffic eventually.

Stakes/ClubsHi PokerPoker MasterPoker ClansFish Poker
OFC table volumes (GMT+8 Evening)

OFC Player Landscape

I will define the OFC players into two groups, A & B.

Group A are those players who play the private games hosted by agents or alliance. They will be raked heavily by the game organizers and most of them can be found on 「Poker Master」, 「Hi Poker」 and 「Poker Clans」. Group B are those who play regular games in public hall or held private games by themselves where they won’t be raked that much. It is believed that in 2017 all users belong to group A and then started to switch to group B since the players noticed that they can’t profit because of variety reasons such as rake, pro and cheats . Now the scale of group B players is much bigger than group A players.

It is believed that there are around 80% of the group B players play in 「Poker Master」 and around 15% in 「Hi Poker」. If we see the market as a $100 cake to buy, I believe the group B players can afford $90 and the group A can only afford $10. Especially when the group B players have formed a stickiness to platforms, there are chances they may just switch between group A and B over and over again. After-all player stickiness is the increased chance to utilize the same product or service that was bought in the last time period. Overall, the growth speed of OFC players are extremely slowly in China and also missing good local platforms which is very unlikely to happen in recent years.