The Marketing Lesson Regulated Poker Sites Could Learn From James Carville

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If James Carville was hired as a consultant for regulated online poker sites, he’d likely be in a conference room right now screaming “It’s the withdrawal times stupid!” in his trademark Cajun accent.

And Carville would be dead on.

Unfortunately, most of the unlicensed online poker sites that are still operating in the US haven’t gotten this message – and neither have the licensed sites in Nevada.

The 2006 state of mind

For US poker players withdrawal times (and to a lesser extent fees) are the only thing that matters at this point. You have soft games; who cares. You have a great deposit bonus and VIP program; so what.

After Black Friday all US players care about is one thing: How long do I have to wait for a check?

Yet virtually every unlicensed operator in the US online poker market is content to bury their withdrawal policies and speeds on some sub-page of a sub-page in their hard-to-find cashier tab, while they cycle through their latest deposit bonus, Sunday tournament guarantee, and jackpot Sit & Go structure on their homepage; all things that would certainly appeal to a US player in 2006, but not so much in 2013.

What makes this marketing strategy all the more bizarre is that several unlicensed US poker rooms have very good withdrawal times. Withdrawal times are definitely a weakness to be buried for some US operators like Lock Poker, for a site like Bovada or Black Chip Poker you would think they would display this information prominently and wear it like a badge of honor.

Licensed online poker sites following suit

Even stranger than unlicensed rooms’ failure to address the poker community’s primary concern is the willingness of the newly launched licensed poker sites in Nevada to follow suit like lemmings: burying their cashier page and focusing on the same things their unlicensed brethren are.

That’s despite the fact that regulated rooms can offer payout windows that absolutely crush even the fastest unregulated sites.

So, instead of focusing on the stark differences between licensed and unlicensed sites and highlighting things such as the regulations and safety of the site, and the ease and speed of depositing and withdrawing from the site, they have decided to compete head-to-head on the merits of their deposit bonus, VIP programs, and tournament schedule.

This would be like the Minnesota Vikings deciding to get into am aerial shootout with the Denver Broncos, instead of showcasing Adrian Peterson.

Carville’s hypothetical 30-second online poker ad

Politicians and their strategists have become masters of the 30-second TV ad; getting their message across as simply and coherently as possible, highlighting the differences between themselves and their opponent, and in the case of attack ads, doing so in a very blunt manner.

Licensed online poker sites are going to need to do the same thing: Highlight the differences and attack unlicensed rooms for their shortcomings.

If James Carville was in charge of this 30-second spot for, say, Ultimate Poker, it would probably look something like this:

  • Open with a split-screen of two players, one playing at an “unregulated poker site” and one playing at
  • Show both players winning a tournament for the same amount of money.
  • Show both players requesting a cash out.
  • Show a time lapse of the player at the unregulated site waiting and waiting for a check, while his counterpart at Ultimate Poker gets paid almost immediately and goes on to spend his winnings in a variety of entertaining ways.
  • Close with the UP logo and a slogan along the lines of “Ultimate Poker: Win Today, Get Paid Today.”
- 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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