Changes In Online Poker Markets, Products Mean Cash Game Traffic Is A Poorer Yard Stick For Measuring Success

Cash Game Traffic Is No Longer A Reliable Way To Judge The Strength Of An Online Poker Site

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After a five year absence, PokerStars dealt its first hand of online poker in New Jersey on March 16, 2016.

In the two months that have passed since, PokerStars has ascended to the number one spot in the market when it comes to revenue, and by a considerable amount. PokerStars currently possesses a 45 percent plurality of the New Jersey online poker market.

This quick rise to market dominance was a bit surprising. PokerStars has been dueling with the and 888 network for cash game traffic supremacy in the Garden State.

Cash game traffic has long been considered the most accurate way to judge an online poker site’s popularity, and therefore the site’s overall traffic and revenue stream. This no longer appears to be the case.

Is the old way of doing things over?

For a long time, the poker community has looked to this cash game traffic data, dutifully compiled by, as the be-all, end-all way to determine the pecking order of online poker sites. And when combined with samples of tournament traffic data, PokerScout’s cash game traffic data was supposed to offer us a snapshot of the amount of money an online poker site was likely pulling in compared to its competitors.

It now seems we have to adjust the way we measure online poker markets.

With so many new, immeasurable products being rolled out (PokerStars’ very popular Spin & Go’s are the perfect example of such a product), cash game traffic – and to a lesser extent tournaments – are no longer the solid measuring sticks they used to be for anything but cash game and tournament traffic.

And thanks to regulated markets, we now have the numbers to prove it.

Revenue might be a truer test of market share

With legalized markets reporting monthly gross gaming revenue, the failings of the old metrics are highlighted when we compare each operator’s revenue share with its cash game market share.

Prior to the launch of PokerStars in New Jersey, the combination of 888 and Caesars possessed 63 percent of the cash game traffic in the Garden State, compared to the 37 percent market share of its sole competitor, the tandem of partypoker and Borgata.

Yet, it was Borgata posting significantly better revenue numbers month-after-month.

This trend has continued with the arrival of PokerStars.

For example, on the revenue front in New Jersey during the month of April:

  • Resorts and PokerStars: $1,177,837 (market share = 45%)
  • Borgata and partypoker: $745,819 (market share = 29%)
  • Caesars and 888: $664,189 (market share = 26%)

Compare this to the three operators’ cash game traffic market share (based on average cash game traffic of 340 players):

  • Resorts and PokerStars: 120-140 average cash game players (market share = 35% – 41%)
  • Borgata and partypoker: 80 average cash game players (market share = 24%)
  • Caesars and 888: 110-130 average cash game players (market share = 32% – 38%)

Caesars and 888 are within reach of PokerStars when it comes to cash game traffic (they even managed to jump ahead of PokerStars at several different points in April and May), but the tandem doesn’t seem to possess an alternative revenue generator beyond solid cash game market share.

On the other hand, Borgata has been the preeminent tournament site in New Jersey since the industry launched back in November of 2013, and PokerStars has Spin & Go’s (and solid tournament traffic) to augment cash game revenue.

The and 888 network’s monthly gross gaming revenue is well below its cash game market share, whereas both PokerStars and Borgata have revenue shares well above their cash game market share.

These numbers indicate:

  1. and 888 rely heavily on cash game traffic.
  2. Borgata and partypoker continue to be popular with tournament players.
  3. PokerStars’ Spin & Go’s appear to be quite in vogue in the Garden State.

Final thoughts

Cash game traffic is still a solid indicator of an online poker site’s general traffic and popularity.

But in the new era of online poker, in whchi product offerings go beyond cash games and tournaments, several other factors have to be considered to accurately gauge who the market leaders are, and what game types are driving revenue.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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