WSOP Impact On Online Poker Traffic In Nevada
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How Is The World Series Of Poker Impacting Nevada Online Poker Traffic?

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For the second consecutive year, the World Series of Poker has sparked material traffic gains on WSOP.com in Nevada.

Yet, despite the operator’s best efforts to encourage online play, Nevada’s last remaining online poker room (with all due respect to Real Gaming) has yet to experience the same kind of growth that it did in 2014 – at least as far as cash games are concerned.

Growth margins impressive, just not remarkably so

The live WSOP resulted in immediate gains for WSOP NV, with cash game liquidity climbing an impressive 19% within the Series’ first ten days.

Since, the site has appeared to enter a mid-Series slump, evidenced by the operator losing nearly half of its initial gains over the past 10 days.

The graph below, which is an updated version of the one featured in the June 9th edition of PokerScout.com‘s twice-weekly analysis publication, the Scouting Report, clearly illustrates WSOP NV’s recent struggles.

It also offers a useful visual comparison of WSOP NV’s performance during the 2014 and 2015 WSOP.

Source: PokerScout.com

Source: PokerScout.com

A few noteworthy observances:

  • Although traffic patterns follow a similar curve for both years, WSOP NV’s initial growth period lasted longer in 2014.
  • It was also more pronounced, with liquidity surging 32% during the first two weeks of the 2014 WSOP.
  • In 2014, traffic remained relatively stationary throughout the middle portion of the Series, only to reach its then annual high water mark during the Main Event.
  • Average player counts on WSOP NV are significantly higher in 2015 than in 2014, primarily due to Ultimate Poker’s departure from Nevada’s regulated market in November 2014.
  • As of the first day of the 2015 WSOP, year-over-year traffic on WSOP NV was up 57%. That number has since shrunk to 38%.

Why hasn’t WSOP NV turned in a stronger cash game performance?

Going into this year’s Series, there was every reason to believe that WSOP NV would outperform the benchmarks set in 2014:

  • Since last July, the operator has launched Android and iOS compatible versions of its software, facilitating the ease in which players can multi-table live and online games.
  • WSOP.com was white-listed from the Nevada Gaming Control Board‘s one account per IP address restriction.
  • The inclusion of an online bracelet event is arguably the US regulated industry’s strongest cross-promotional foray to date.
  • WSOP NV’s other efforts on the promotional and marketing fronts have been more aggressive and focused.

Yet, for every reason that suggests WSOP NV should be setting the industry on fire, there’s a less apparent one as to why it shouldn’t:

  • The starting stack sizes for many of this year’s live events were enlarged dramatically, resulting in longer days at the felt, and increased fatigue among players.
  • The inclusion of more lower buy-in tournaments enabled budget-restricted recreational players to participate in more live events, in theory diverting their attention away from online poker.
  • For out-of-state poker tourists, there was a novelty factor associated with regulated online poker in 2014 that isn’t quite as strong this year.
  • WSOP NV is currently hosting a very robust WSOP satellite schedule, as well as the WSOP.com Online Championships tournament series. Together, they may be detracting online players away from the cash game tables and to other sections of the poker lobby.

The final point is worth elaborating on.

WSOP.com looks strong by other measures

Gauging the success and failings of an online poker operation solely in terms of cash game traffic would be short-sighted.

As an example, WSOP NV’s performance during the 2015 Series thus far may seem rather lackluster if we limit our analysis to average cash game player counts.

But view the operation from any other angle, and the tables turn:

  • The overwhelming majority of its WSOP satellite events are smashing their guarantees, often drawing so many entrants that two or three first prizes must be awarded.
  • I’ve witnessed instances of WSOP Online Championship events surpassing their minimum benchmarks by 200% or more.
  • Although cash game traffic hasn’t grown by the same margin as in 2014, there appears to be a higher prevalence of players grinding higher-stakes games, thus representing an overall increase in player value.

How will the Main Event affect cash game liquidity on WSOP NV?

Based on 2014 trends, cash game liquidity on WSOP NV should ebb and tide for the duration of the pre-Main Event schedule.

Expect a notable increase on or around July 5, when the first flight of the Main gets underway.

Last year, liquidity rose 10% from Day 1A to Day 4, before dipping slightly.

After the 2014 Main played down to the November Nine, traffic trended downward for the better part of two months, dropping 45% before all was said and done.

I expect similar trends this year, although I feel that the Main Event surge will be less pronounced than less year, if only because players will be more attracted to the site’s numerous Main Event satellites.

The inevitable drop-off that follows the conclusion of the Series should also be less dramatic, primarily because WSOP NV is currently the only game in town. Expect liquidity to drop slightly below its pre-WSOP levels, but nowhere near 45%.

Image credit: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com.

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Robert DellaFave
- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.