Fast-fold poker is popular on just about every online poker site in the world. Could these games now be in jeopardy in the United States?
At the end of April 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) made a decision to issue a patent to the Rational Group for fast-fold poker. The Rational Group is the parent company to both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, the latter being the first in the world to offer fast-fold poker.
As initially reported by Pokerfuse, on May 20, 2014 the USPTO will issue Patent Number 8,727,850 listed as "Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming". The patent will specifically cover Zoom Poker offered at PokerStars, and it is unclear whether it will cover Rush Poker, Full Tilt's version of fast-fold poker, as well. Either way, it is speculated that the Rational Group will license its intellectual property for use on Full Tilt Poker.
While this should have no effect on poker outside the US, it will give the Rational Group full control of the fast-fold intellectual property rights in the US, at least on regulated sites.
The patent will force US regulated sites, the biggest being partypoker NJ and Borgata Poker offering Fast Forward as their fast-fold poker variant, to either come to an agreement with the Rational Group for a license to continue offering fast-fold games or be subject to litigation. WSOP.com Nevada, WSOP.com NJ, 888 NJ, and the Delaware regulated sites are also currently offering fast-fold games in the US, with a variant named Snap Poker.
The patent may potentially cause some issues for sites and apps offering play-money gaming within the US borders as well. In December 2012, Znyga launched Jump Poker for iOS devices, a play-money version of fast-fold poker. Even though no real money is changing hands, the patent is believed to cover play-money gaming as well.
Gray-market sites, such as Bovada, will also be subject to this patent. However, whether Bovada, which currently offers Zone Poker as their fast-fold poker variant, complies or not is debatable considering they already violate US laws, specifically the UIEGA, and continue to offer unregulated real-money poker to US residents.
The patent approval is a shock to the online poker industry considering that Full Tilt and PokerStars have tried many times for approval, each time being rejected. The patent approval process dates back to 2008 when Full Tilt Poker launched Rush Poker.
How this shapes fast-fold poker games in the US is still up in the air. So stay tuned at PokerNews for more developments on this issue as they happen.