It's frantic times behind the scenes of the online poker world, with rooms moving out, moving up, moving on. One of the most buzzworthy rumors of the past week is the planned merger of Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker, but my sources say that this one is more than just a rumor --- it's going to happen, it's supposed to be announced on Monday, and the combined entities will probably fly under the UB banner, although Absolute will likely remain around as the second biggest skin.
While the primary deal has trickled out through business channels, a lot of the finer points remain hearsay, if not unknown altogether. Ultimate Bet's and Absolute's 'press contacts' are pretty much that in name only, and they've been true to form in recent days; they're sitting tight and not responding in any meaningful way to most of the inquiries tossed their way.
This is the first merger of recognizable online brand names that can be traced directly to fallout from the UIGEA; for those keeping score, the merger of the Tribeca and Tain networks was underway prior to the UIGEA becoming law. That said, this merger's not going to be the last, nor the biggest; Party, 888 (Pacific) and SportingBet (Paradise) are all immersed in merger/acquisition talks at the present time, and it's a safe bet that you'll hear big news about at least one of the three in the next few weeks. Of the three, the situation as Paradise seems most dire, as they've already laid off 75% of one of their primary workforces and suspended all ongoing marketing efforts for the time being. Paradise's post-UIGEA playert decline has been among the most precipitous of all poker sites, and unlike the rather larger Party Poker, Paradise is at risk of falling below critical player-base mass.
More soon. Bet on it.