For most of the online poker world, May is a time of falling traffic numbers and planning ahead.
But for one poker site, the opportunity to bolster its traffic numbers has never been better.
WSOP.com holds the unique distinction of bearing the same name as the most recognizable brand in poker. And in just two weeks, the poker frenzy that is the WSOP will be kicking off at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada – the same state in which WSOP.com currently resides as the most frequented online poker site.
Already, traffic on the site is gravitating upwards – a trend that is likely to continue as the hype surrounding the world’s most fabled tournament series reaches a fever pitch.
Just how many players will visit WSOP.com during their time away from the Rio will ultimately hinge on the network’s willingness and ability to capitalize on its cross-promotional opportunities. Thus far, it appears to be doing a mostly admirable job.
Cash-game volume in Nevada bucks the global trend
7-day cash-game traffic averages for Nevada’s three online poker rooms (as of May 11) are summarized below:
- WSOP.com: 108
- Ultimate Poker: 54
- Real Gaming: 0
Since April 30, volume on WSOP has jumped an impressive 20 percent. Over the same period, Ultimate Poker would see its traffic drop nearly 11.5 percent. However, it should be noted that since going live with a software patch on May 4, traffic is up 8 percent.
The updates to Ultimate’s much maligned software couldn’t have come soon enough, as since peaking at around 200 cash-game players last August, the US’s first regulated poker site has seen its volume slowly dissipate.
In Real Gaming’s defense, it has yet to launch a real marketing campaign. Still, given Ultimate Poker’s inability to sustain market viability, it’s difficult to envision Nevada being able to sustain a third poker room.
With the WSOP coming to town, WSOP.com pushes the envelop
Looks like WSOP.com will be celebrating the 45th annual WSOP by rolling out a prestigious event of its own. Set to kick off on May 25, WSOP.com will be hosting a seven tournament high-roller series. Up for grabs will be $200,000 in guaranteed prize money – a rather pithy amount by high-roller standards, but up there for Nevada.
WSOP.com was wise to set the price for entry high, as it’s difficult to fathom the average WSOP player wanting to grind low buy-in online tournaments during their spare time.
Less sagacious was the network’s decision to position its guarantees so low. To illustrate WSOP’s conservatism, most high-roller events will only need to draw 100 players at most to fulfill their guarantees.
Entry into high-roller events will range from $215 to $530, with the May 31 main event featuring a $50,000 Guarantee.
The problem with low guarantees is that they appeal to fewer players. In a few weeks, Vegas will be inundated with young, tech savvy gamblers – many of whom will bust from a live event just in time to log-in and play online. Wouldn’t they feel more compelled to play in a bigger event, especially if they just played for life-changing money?
Was WSOP so concerned about overlays that they purposely kept the guarantees low? Considering that a much smaller company in Ultimate Poker reaches into its own pockets on a regular basis, I would think not.
Give WSOP credit for the timing and entry point of its high roller series, but the guarantees are about half of what they should be.
Tournament volume plunges
Oddly enough, online tournament volume in Nevada was down drastically, although it may have had something to do with players leaving town to play in the PokerStars SCOOP (or Mother’s Day).
Turnout totals for NV’s biggest iPoker tourneys as follows:
- WSOP $15k Guarantee: 78 runners, $15,600 prize pool – down from 104 the week before.
- Ultimate Poker $10,000 Sunday: 84 draws, $7,466 entry pool ($2,356 overlay) – 18 less entries than the week prior.
On a more positive note, nearly every other weekend major, included WSOP’s $215 qualifier to the Main Event, exceeded its guarantee – some by a more than two-to-one margin.
As more Nevada players attempt to grind out a bankroll for the WSOP, I would suspect online tournament entry numbers to rise next week. But given the volatile nature of the US’s regulated iGaming market, who really knows.