MOVING ON UP: Four Important Things US Online Poker Operators are Getting Right

September 7, 2022
MOVING ON UP: Four Important Things US Online Poker Operators are Getting Right

Progress may not be as quick as players might like, but US online poker has seen some progress over the last few years. The days of wide-open international online poker are gone for American players, but the industry has taken a foothold with the state-by-state approach.

US online poker continues showing historical revenue highs for regulated states. Players can now find legal online poker in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, and Delaware, hopefully with more on the way.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at four things the US online poker industry is getting right.

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US online poker options

Currently, players have three main real money online poker options in the US. Those include:

1 – Expanded tournament schedules with buy-ins and events for everyone

US online poker operators continue ramping up tournament series each month. The Online Circuit Series continues to attract nice fields each month at WSOP.com. The chance to win a championship ring seems popular with players.

PokerStars is bringing USCOOP to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey from Sept. 9-26 with $4.5 million guaranteed.At PokerStars, the platform continues running major monthly series as well. The site offers buy-ins for every level and plenty of poker variants.

After years of running more generic series,BetMGM/partypoker also began bringing more creativity in late 2021 with more expansive series. That seems to be paying dividends and the network has seen a resurgence in 2022.

US operators are finding the sweet spot in reaching across all buy-in levels. A shot at some nice guarantees through a small buy-in or tiny satellite price point is appealing to more players. All platforms continue offering some great nightly and weekly events as well, complete with satellites.

These aren’t gimmicks, but a connection to players who aren’t looking to be the next Daniel Negreanu or Phil Ivey. Most recreational players are simply looking for some fun playing poker after a day at work. Poker should be fun and US online poker operators are bringing plenty of it.

2 – Bigger promotions

Some extra bang for the buck is always nice and online poker operators continue with some nice extras on that front. PokerStars’ recent announcement of offering up Platinum Passes for US online players is a great example.

Players on the site have an opportunity to win a $30,000 travel package to the PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) in January in the Bahamas.

That’s some nice value and Stars is offering passes up for grabs in the upcoming US Championship of Online Poker (USCOOP). Other opportunities continue in the coming months as well. Adding some unique trophy events to USCOOP is also a nice touch.

Again, these types of efforts add to the fun. WSOP.com continues with a nice Player of the Year feature that awards the annual winner:

  • $10,000 in cash
  • exclusive championship ring
  • $1,500 online tournament tickets

This is a great promotion and expanding the concept should expand to Michigan and Pennsylvania. Other operators should also pick up the idea. WSOP.com also continues with a freeroll in September with a $10,000 Main Event seat up for grabs.

At BetMGM, Pick-A-Card promotion also offers players a daily shot at tournament tickets. That operator continues expanding its offerings as well. Operators are doing well on the promotional front and players are recognizing that.

3 – Keeping community focused

One thing many players say about the US online poker market is that it may be small, but it’s very tight-knit. Legalized states tend to have a friendly atmosphere where players know each other.

A quick scan at USPoker’s Winner’s Circle feature shows the loyalty to the game many players feel in each state. Players are also quick to share their successes and discuss the scene on social media.

Pennsylvania online regular and poker pro Jeff Stellwagon echoed those thoughts. He recently spoke with USPoker about his own poker life and the camaraderie among players in the Keystone State.

“I cannot wait for online poker to come to more states and to have interstate poker,” he said. “But I truly love battling against the Pennsylvania player pool every day and the community feel that we have here.”

Fostering that community feel by poker operators only adds to the success of the industry. One aspect of the modern game adding to that? Streaming. Whether you’re new to Twitch or have no interest in watching others play poker online, the fact is that these online poker mini-reality shows continue growing the game.

US streaming may still be in its infancy compared to massive successes like Lex Veldhuis and Jaime Staples, but there is a growing group. That can only help add to the interest in the game and reach younger players.

4 – Live poker tie-ins

Adding some synergy from the online game to the live felt offers operators a chance at creating some real buzz around their platforms. The BetMGM Poker Championship this summer proved a nice success. 

The company brought a large group of online qualifiers. New Jersey qualifier Benji Folson even finished fifth for $50,000.

“I had such warm, quality interactions with the other qualifiers, the Aria staff, the BetMGM staff, and many of the other competing players,” he says. “I understand the appeal of playing live MTTs much more now, and it’s not just because I luckboxed my way into a fifth-place finish.”

WSOP.com also offered some great online satellites this summer for live tournaments at Bally’s/Paris. The Tournament of Champions also seemed like a hit at the WSOP. The $1 million freeroll awards seats to players who win a championship bracelet or ring, whether live or online.

Could PokerStars be getting in on the act as well? The company ran the Moneymaker Tour for Platinum Passes in 2019. Road to PSPC events are already running internationally now as well. Could another live Stars series be in the works?

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Challenges remain, but momentum building slowly

There are certainly positives for the US online poker market, but some struggles also remain. The market is still  small and merged markets aren’t moving quickly.

Michigan officially joined the interstate compact with Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in May. However, no platforms have yet been approved to share liquidity with the Wolverine State yet.

Getting that accomplished could be a major boon for the industry. Adding other smaller states that have also legalized but not yet launched, such as West Virginia and Connecticut, could also be beneficial for the US market.

As USPoker previously reported, a combined US market of current legalized states would potentially place the US among the top 10 in global online poker markets Seeing more states, especially populous ones such as California and New York, could significantly add to the pool as well.

That would mean larger player and prize pools. The growth of sports betting and online casino gaming shows Americans are interested in more iGaming. As more states legalize those gaming options, adding poker seems like an easy add-on. Things certainly aren’t moving quickly, but there are at least some positive signs on the horizon.

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