In 2006 PartyPoker had the American online poker market by the throat. But the UIGEA put an end to their reign when shareholders in the publicly traded company decided remaining in the US market wasn’t a road they wanted to go down.
Now, some seven years later, PartyPoker is back in the US via New Jersey, and looking to reclaim their lost empire. But can they do it?
When PartyPoker pulled the trigger and left the US market in late 2006, it immediately lost three quarters of its player base and ceded control of the online poker industry to PokerStars and to a lesser extent Full Tilt Poker.
The company continued on in friendlier foreign markets, and once again became a major player in the online poker industry. But PartyPoker never came close to challenging the US-facing PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for online supremacy. Something that it now hopes its US return will enable it to do.
After Black Friday most people thought PartyPoker’s route was the long-term winner, as the company avoided the major entanglements heaped on both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.
But to everyone’s surprise, PokerStars somehow further consolidated power after Black Friday, and PartyPoker was once again holding the leftovers, fighting the iPoker Network, 888 Poker, and the retooled Full Tilt Poker for the number two traffic spot.
All that could be changing though, as PokerStars continues to find itself ostracized in regulated US markets. After years of being caught in PokerStars’ wake, sites like PartyPoker are finally getting some glimpses of daylight. But can they find their way out?
Until PokerStars manages to get off the ground, the main competition for PartyPoker in the US market will likely come from Caesars Entertainment and their partner 888 Holdings.
As far as software it’s not even a contest. PartyPoker’s software blows 888’s out of the water. But 888 has the brand recognition thanks to one of Caesars’ main assets, the World Series of Poker, which has turned into the WSOP.com online poker room in the US.
So it looks like we will witness a battle between the superior product and the superior brand play out in New Jersey.
Thus far the two sites are running fairly close in New Jersey with PartyPoker out to a small but significant lead, according to Pokerscout.com’s traffic data.
PartyPoker’s rise to prominence was a well-orchestrated marketing plan that focused on multiple forms of marketing from TV to print to online that focused on the site’s entertainment value, and not on the “seriousness” of online poker.
Party was also aided by having one of the best online poker products in the business, with lightning-fast graphics and almost non-existent glitches. It may not have been the prettiest online poker room back in 2006, but it functioned extremely well.
The combination of being in the right place at the right time (already being established when the poker boom began in late 2003), having a really good product, and later marketing efforts made PartyPoker the number one online poker room in the world.
Had UIGEA never happened I would fully expect PartyPoker to still be the number one online poker room.
A return to prominence will be no small task, as the poker industry has changed quite a bit over the past seven years. It’s likely that many of the people who have fond memories of their time at PartyPoker in the early and mid-2000’s are no longer potential customers.
Seven years is a very long time to be away, but PartyPoker has shown an ability to overcome strife, considering their post-UIGEA predicament, and has always been on the cutting edge of advertising.
A key factor in Party’s potential return to online poker supremacy will be its ability to tie-in one of its own assets, the World Poker Tour.
If Party can use the WPT’s TV and brand presence to bring in casual players to their newly-launched US poker room, it’s anybody’s guess what the poker industry will look like in a year or two.
After all, who would have ever suspected the major changes we have seen over the past decade, with the rise and fall of sites like Ultimate Bet and Full Tilt Poker.