The launch of interstate online poker between Delaware and Nevada was supposed to have an immediate impact on traffic.
So far, any traffic gains the two states have seen have been minimal.
Delaware and Nevada online poker participation rates
For all the fuss and criticism, Nevada’s online poker industry is performing relatively well, with a participation rate of just over 50 average cash game players per million residents.
Delaware is on the opposite side of the coin, with a participation rate of around 7 cash game players per million residents.
Historically, online poker sites in regulated markets can expect between 50 to 100 average cash game players per million residents – regulated markets with small populations, such as Nevada and Delaware, tend to perform even worse.
Nevada, which is not all that much larger in terms of population to Delaware (roughly 2.8 million residents compared to 1 million in DE), boasts 15 times the traffic Delaware is able to muster. Because of this, most analysts assumed Delaware’s population was simply unable to reach the minimum liquidity threshold for a sustainable online poker economy.
Pooling players with Nevada was supposed to solve this issue.
Player pooling has already produced positive results
Despite modest gains in overall traffic, the interstate pooling has led to longer peak traffic hours, and has been near flawless from a regulatory and technical standpoint.
888 and Caesars’ ability to pull off the first regulated interstate online poker network in the U.S. was absolutely crucial to make interstate pooling appealing to other states.
But now they need to take it to the next level and prove that it can work not just on a technical level, but that interstate online poker will actually be mutually beneficial for all involved.
The numbers don’t lie
PokerScout.com analyst Robert DellaFave put together a detailed breakdown of the traffic numbers pre- and post-merger that clearly shows the interstate pooling has been underwhelming thus far.
That being said, I’m not ready to push the panic button by any means.
I think he is spot-on in his assessment that the seasonal lull combined with the reserved way the interstate pooling was announced has contributed to the slow start, but I disagree with several of DellaFave’s conclusions, particularly the notion that the interstate agreement will only increase total traffic 15 to 20 percent.
*It should be noted that since DellaFave’s article was published combined traffic between Nevada and Delaware has risen even higher, as it has now reached 180 players according to PokerScout.com.
But give it some time
As DellaFave notes, the announcement of the interstate agreement was not what I would call robust by any stretch of the imagination. There were no major, coordinated press releases either before or after the pooling went into effect, and for the most part the interstate pooling simply flew under the radar.
I believe the slow start is simply a matter of the word getting out equally slowly. It’s going to take time, but this will change.
As more Delawareans learn that their state’s regulated online poker sites now boast multiple tables running around the clock, instead of just a handful of options during peak hours, and virtually no games throughout the day, they will return.
I’m still confident Delaware could boast average cash game traffic of well over 30 players (perhaps as high as 45 or 50 players) and that this influx of players from Delaware could lead to a modest increase in Nevada as well.
WSOP should change the story
So when do I expect the interstate network to really take flight?
This is actually a pretty simple question to answer: When the World Series of Poker is in full swing.
The 2015 WSOP kicks off on May 27 and runs through July 14, and it should be a boon for online poker traffic in Nevada.
First, there is a dramatic uptick in traffic at online poker news sites and poker portals during the WSOP which should alert a lot of casual poker players (who may have missed the original, somewhat meek, announcement) and fans that the interstate pooling is now in place.
Secondly, during the WSOP in 2014, WSOP.com Nevada saw a sharp spike in traffic, upwards of 40 percent in 2014. And that was with Ultimate Poker still in the picture.
A similar bump in 2015 would see WSOP.com Nevada’s traffic surge towards 200 average cash game players by itself. If Delaware can contribute another 40 players it may attract even more players from Nevada and creating a self-reinforcing increase in traffic.
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