WSOP.com opened for real money online poker to Nevada players yesterday. It became the second regulated online poker room in Nevada. Ultimate Poker became the first when it launched on April 30, 2013. This has created competition in a market where Ultimate Poker enjoyed a monopoly for 4.5 months. We have decided to compare the two sites based on several categories that are important to players.
Cash Games Available
WSOP launched a full suite of games. Players at WSOP may choose between Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Omaha High/Low, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud High/Low. Ultimate Poker only offers Texas Hold’em.
WSOP launched with software nearly identical to what its partner 888 uses for its international online poker room. This platform is full of features that appeal to players. WSOP players may rotate seat position, take player notes, use waitlists for full tables and enjoy synchronized tournament breaks at 55 minutes after each hour. This is just a sample of features WSOP has that are not offered by Ultimate Poker.
Ultimate Poker offers five deposit options. Depositing cash at any Station Casinos cage is popular among live poker players. Ultimate Poker players may also deposit by credit card, electronic check, paper check by mail and bank wire.
WSOP accepts credit cards and electronic checks. The lack of a cash deposit option has been the subject of criticism from players. Some do not have bank accounts, while others are not comfortable with providing bank details. WSOP has indicated a cash deposit option may become available in the future.
Some Las Vegas visitors may be reluctant to deposit electronically on hotel wireless networks or do not have bank account information readily available, which is another reason cash deposits are preferred by many players. Ultimate Poker allows out of state players to deposit before coming to Nevada. WSOP does not accepts deposits from anyone outside Nevada at the time of login.
Ultimate Poker offers two withdrawal options. Players may pick up cash at any Station Casinos cage or receive a check by mail. WSOP players may receive an electronic or paper check.
Advantage: Ultimate Poker
Ultimate Poker has offered several deposit bonuses since its launch. Each of these bonuses carried favorable terms. Early offers cleared at a rate of one dealt raked hand for every $1 in bonus. The latest bonus offer cleared at 100% rakeback. WSOP currently offers players a bonus that clears at 20% rakeback.
Advantage: Ultimate Poker
Ultimate Poker offers the Color Up VIP program. This program allows players to earn points starting with their first cash game hand or tournament buy-in. Returns start at just 1%, but climb as players achieve higher tiers. Players that rake $100,000 in a year will break 30% rakeback when exchanging points for cash, including the ability to convert 1 million points into $10,000 in cash or $7,000 in cash with a $5,000 bonus bet at Red Rock. There are also two weekly freerolls at Ultimate Poker. Green Chip players and above qualify for a $250 freeroll, while players Black Chip and higher will receive entry to a $1,000 freeroll.
WSOP offers a VIP program called Action Club. Players must reach the Silver tier to earn WSOP reward points. This requires $100 in monthly rake. Silver players will earn a 2% return when exchanging points. Diamond is the highest monthly tier. This requires $1,750 in monthly rake and returns 10% in point exchanges. The Elite annual tier requires $25,000 in rake and returns 14%, while Seven Stars requires $200,000 in annual rake and returns 20% when exchanging points. There may be other WSOP VIP features in the future.
Ultimate Poker uses the winner-takes-all rake method. This means that the winner of the hand will receive all of the points related to rake for the hand. WSOP uses the contributed rake method, which means that players will earn points based on the percentage of the pot they contributed.
Ultimate Poker’s Color Up program dominates WSOP’s Action Club in virtually every way. The returns are generally higher and players earn points immediately, not after generating $100 in rake.
Advantage: Ultimate Poker
I had a reason to need support at the launch of both Ultimate Poker and WSOP. Each support department handled my situation properly and with a personal touch after escalating my issue to the next level. Management of both companies contacted me by phone in an attempt to resolve the issue. While everyone’s results will vary, in my opinion, both support departments have demonstrated to me that they are capable of offering excellent customer service.
Ultimate Poker rakes 4.5% from no limit games and 4% from fixed limit games. WSOP rakes 5% from all cash games. The caps are nearly identical between the two sites. Tournament house fees at Ultimate Poker are 9.9%. At WSOP, the house takes 10% as an entry fee.
Advantage: Ultimate Poker
As part of this story, I went to Rio to take pictures of how WSOP.com was being promoted at the home of the World Series of Poker. Rio is also marketed to Las Vegas locals. I assumed that I would find the WSOP.com’s real money online poker room heavily advertised there. The launch was not marketed at all, at least from what I saw.
A walk around the casino floor on the night of September 19th did not reveal any promotion of Nevada’s newest regulated online poker room. Some tables and chairs had a WSOP.com image without any mention of online poker. I also did not see any signs on the exterior of the property advertising real money online poker.
There was one banner located in the rear of the poker room that mentioned WSOP.com and online poker. It stated:
Online poker for real money. Coming Soon.
It appears that WSOP has decided to have a soft launch and work out the bugs before beginning its marketing campaign. WSOP.com announced a “marketing blitz” in a press release:
WSOP.com will also roll out a comprehensive marketing blitz to support the Nevada launch. The approach will be multi-faceted including online, offline and cross-marketing tactics. From television spots in major sports programming, to shows like Breaking Bad and Jimmy Kimmel Live, to branded room keys and poker rooms in our Nevada-owned properties, CIE will utilize a broad array of tactics to enlighten consumers and property guests of WSOP.com’s new product offering.
I decided to visit Red Rock after seeing no marketing within Rio to see if Ultimate Poker was still heavily marketed there. The effort had been scaled down a bit from the launch, but marketing material was still prominent. There were signs above many slot machines and by the poker room. The Boarding Pass display on every slot machine also advertised Ultimate Poker among other casino promotions. Red Rock’s electronic sign along Highway 215 advertised Ultimate Poker’s $1 million Summer Series.
WSOP launched a sponsored forum at Two Plus Two that has been active. Its reps have been available to help players with support issues and answer general questions. Ultimate Poker has a support thread in the Internet Poker forum devoted to its players that has also been active since its launch.
It is clear that WSOP has marketing plans that have yet to take effect. For that reason, I will not reach an opinion about which room holds the advantage. The WSOP marketing effort sounds interesting and I would not blame the company for wanting to make sure its player verification services are perfected before advertising outside of the online poker community.
Tournaments were not included in this comparison because it appears that WSOP is still working on the schedule. Sit and gos are also still being added to the WSOP lobby.
Which Poker Room is Better?
Some features are more important than others to players. This means that there is no blanket answer for which poker room is better. The lack of a cash deposit option might be a deal breaker for some players, while others may want to only play Pot Limit Omaha. The fact that there is now competition in the Nevada online poker market can only be a good thing for players.