To the surprise of no one, cash-game volume on WSOP Nevada dropped with a fury this week, plunging nearly 50 % of the way back to its pre-WSOP levels.
With the November Nine being decided on Monday the 14th, many of the state’s visiting poker community packed their things and headed home. Of those who stuck around to chase the dream, no longer would they be constantly reminded via a series of banners, plugs and cross-promotional events that WSOP.com and legal online poker were available in Nevada.
I’ve argued before that the success of WSOP NV’s marketing extravaganza would be measured by both its immediate and residual impacts. On the first count, it was a rousing success, bolstering traffic nearly 60 % from May 19th to July 11.
But I’d argue that the network’s ability to retain a portion of the players it reeled in during the live WSOP is what will truly define its efforts as memorable.
Cash-game volume on WSOP.com stumbles
In terms of week-over-week growth, WSOP.com would experience its worst week in the network’s short history, nosediving 16.4 % since last Monday. Conversely, volume on UP would hold relatively steady, with traffic up a marginal 1.9 %.
This latest trend illustrates the power of brand awareness. Despite the influx of poker tourists residing in Vegas during June and early-July, traffic on Ultimate barely nudged.
Any idea why? Because these same players were hardly made aware of UP’s existence.
Look at it this way: There could be a million dollar check taped to the bottom of one of the Rio’s poker tables, but if no one knows about it, is anyone going to look?
To the contrary, players situated at the Rio were inundated with reminders from WSOP.com. WSOP.com this, WSOP.com that – it got to the point where someone such as myself, who was already quite familiar with WSOP NV, never wanted to hear the phrase “legal online poker at WSOP.com in Nevada” ever again. I’ve since gotten over it.
But to the uninformed online poker enthusiast, it must have been music to his or her ears.
It’s for this very reason – increased brand awareness – that I was optimistic that post: WSOP traffic levels wouldn’t quite return to their listless May levels.
In lieu of the recent falloff, my buoyancy has waned, but…
…it’s still too early to tell
PokerScout only reports rolling 7-day averages. Thus, we won’t have a somewhat accurate assessment of post-WSOP numbers until at least Tuesday.
Going further, if we assume that some stragglers didn’t leave Vegas until the end of last week, than next Monday will be the first time we have a clear picture of the average number of cash-game players frequenting the site in the post-live WSOP era.
What PokerScout does display are 24 hour peaks. Listed below are Monday’s peak volume numbers across all NV and NJ regulated networks:
- PartyPoker NJ: 406
- WSOP NJ: 348
- 888poker (NJ): 204
- Ultimate NV: 152
- WSOP NV: 196
A peak 24-hour volume of 196 doesn’t bode particularly well for WSOP NV, especially when you consider that volume on 888’s New Jersey site – which boasts 7-day averages of only around 70 – is peaking at just over 200.
PartyPoker NJ, which averages around 140 cash-game players, usually eclipses the 400 barrier during prime time. Again, this is another indicator that peak volumes of 200 would equate to about an average of 70 players.
Based on this data, it becomes conceivable that volume on WSOP may fall markedly below its May low point of 96 – and for a site that just one week ago was the U.S. regulated market leader, that would be devastating.
Not feeling totally convinced, I compared last weekend’s tournament turnouts to the week prior. This is what I found:
- The network’s biggest weekly tournament, a $15k guarantee, attracted 104 entrants on July 6, 120 on the 13th and 119 last Sunday.
- Last week’s Weekend Warmup ($55 R&A, $5,000 guaranteed) crushed its overlay by $2,000. This week’s performed even better, exceeding its benchmark by a whopping $2,500, or 50 %.
- Last Sunday’s $27.50 R&A $3,000 Guarantee only outperformed this week’s iteration by a mere four runners.
Okay, something seems off. It’s easy enough to explain why cash-game traffic is spiraling downward at an unprecedented clip, but why aren’t tournament turnouts following suit?
In my mind, there are three possibilities, all of which are probably working in tandem. One, throughout the live WSOP, the network hosted a total of four exclusive tournament series. It’s likely that players gravitated more towards these special events than the poker rooms weekly MTT offerings.
Secondly, WSOP’s current promotional schedule is rather lacking, with not a single promo geared towards ring game players. Compare that to a month ago, when Multi Table Madness and a limited time 100% up to $1,000 match bonus provided players with extra incentive to try their hand at the site’s ring games.
Finally, when players left Nevada they likely withdrew their money from the site. As a result, cash liquidity fell drastically. Because there was so much less money circulating, cash game volume, particularly high stakes, began to suffer.
On the flip side, a thriving tournament scene hardly requires the same liquidity as a similarly thriving cash environment.
It’s just a theory, but what this tells me is that WSOP needs to get over its post-WSOP hangover and roll-out a cash-game focused promo, and fast.
Maybe then the network can avert becoming a one-trick, or in this case one-month, pony.