Rational Group Obtains Patent that May Make Fast Fold Poker Exclusive

May 23, 2014

In the early stages of online poker, a mere Texas Hold ‘em cash game was sufficient to draw in the masses. But as the Internet poker industry has grown, so has its vast and seemingly unlimited potential for alternative variations and avenues of play. Such variations include Omaha poker, Draw poker, and Razz. Alternative means of play have also grown, such as mixed games and the incredibly popular fast fold poker variants. However, the Rational Group, owner of both Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, is attempting to monopolize fast fold poker via patenting in efforts to offer it exclusively, despite the fact that other sites do offer their own versions of the game.

On May 20th, the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has issued a patent to the Rational Group for the fast fold poker idea, Patent Number 8,727,850, known as the “Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming.” With this patent, other online poker sites could potentially be greatly affected.

After years at working to patent fast fold poker, rewording the applications dozens of times, the office finally accepted and patented the game in the Rational Group’s name, who technically didn’t invent the variant (Full Tilt was first with Rush Poker), but seeing how the Rational Group owns Full Tilt, this may have had something to do with the final acceptance of the patent application. If it is confirmed that Rush Poker is in fact part of the patent, the two sites (Full Tilt and PokerStars) could ultimately be the only sites online where this highly popular type of online poker game is offered. And this means no fast fold poker for US players until one of these sites gets into a regulated state market like California.

Fast fold poker is so vastly popular because it offers an accelerated format in which players can see more hands, more pots, and more wins per hour. Shuffling players around as soon as they fold or a hand is completed is a very efficient way to play Internet poker, and many online players enjoy the fast-paced format it offers. And it cannot be played live, so it is even more unique to online play.

This means that fast fold variants like Bovada’s Zone Poker and PokerStars’ FastForward Poker would likely be effected. WSOP.com and 888 are looking to offer Snap Poker, which may never even see the light of day if the umbrella of this patent proves big enough. Zynga’s Jump Poker would also feel the effects. While the result would be amazing for Full Tilt and PokerStars, it would likely push the format out of US play all together, hurting the entire industry as a whole in the long run.

But how will this affect the global market? Bill Gantz, intellectual property lawyer of Dentons Law Firm says that fast fold poker restrictions will not affect non-US sites and is furthermore surprised that the patent application was ultimately accepted after being rejected so many times.

Gantz says, “The amendments which allowed this patent to issue should seem obvious to the entire poker industry, and there should be ample grounds for vigorously challenging this patent.”

And there likely will be appeals from affected online poker sites as the industry continues to grow and the world continues to adapt to online poker.


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