The expansion of interstate compacts, recently approved to include Michigan, offers a chance for even more growth in the coming years. And beyond simply offering cash games and tournaments, operators are showing some creativity in appealing to players and keeping them coming back.
With that in mind, here are some things US online poker operators are doing right to keep the market growing.
1 – Appealing to a wide range of players
This continues to be a trend not just in US online poker but on international sites as well. Recreational players are the future of the online game and keeping them returning assures a vibrant pool of players for every bankroll.
Along those lines, major operators have stressed how important it is to appeal to a wide range of players. For example, the upcoming PokerStars Knockout Bounty Builder features 135 events with buy-ins ranging from $5 to $1,000.
Players have a shot at a title for just five bucks. The series also offers plenty of poker variants and tournament styles.
Partypoker US Network added to these efforts in April. The company ran the Cheap Stakes Series with buy-ins ranging from $20 to $50. The site continues these types of efforts each month.
At WSOP.com the Spring Online Championships are currently underway with buy-ins starting at just $20. A wide range of options means a wider range of players and events that won’t break the bankroll.
2 – Promotions, satellites, freerolls, and more
Promotions continue to be a major selling point and operators continue to up the ante. From freerolls to bargain-price qualifiers, getting in on the action has never been easier.
Stars introduced a new hybrid satellite with the Bounty Builder. The tournament not only awards Main Event seats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey, but also additional cash prizes.
Partypoker continues offering regular promotions as well as part of the platform’s tournament festivals. One nice bullet point came in March in Michigan. The company held a “thank you” freeroll to celebrate a year in the state with $10,000 up for grabs.
WSOP.com is even offering a freeroll on May 31 with a $10,000 Main Event seat on the line. Low-cost satellites and freerolls offer rec players plenty of ways to get in the action and even a shot at some championship events. Companies seem to be ramping up these efforts and that’s paying off for players.
3 – Big tournaments with plenty of variety
Operators have also embraced popular tournament styles like progressive knockouts (PKO). The Bounty Builder features all events in this fun format.
WSOP.com also continues offering players big events each month as part of the Online Circuit Series. The events award championship rings as in a live WSOPC series.
The operator continues offering a wide variety of events. The company also continues to stress freezeouts and limited re-entries as in the annual WSOP in Las Vegas.
Once again, players can expect double-digit online bracelet events for players in New Jersey/Nevada and Pennsylvania. Michigan also has some bracelet events planned, but is there a chance they join the shared liquidity market by the WSOP this summer? That remains to be seen, but could be a nice surprise.
PokerStars also continues to push the envelope with synchronized series in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey. In the Bounty Builder, players have a shot at six championship trophies – always a nice bonus for players. In April, the site awarded 90 trophies for SCOOP winners and the series crushed the guarantee by $2 million.
4 – Bringing the creativity
There is no doubt US online poker operators have gotten creative. Here’s a look at a few of those efforts.
Live tournament synergy
The $3,500 event is set for June 23-26 with a $1 million guarantee. BetMGM is awarding at least 15 tournament packages in each of its markets.
This is the second of these efforts with March Poker Madness also earning live tournament seats at Borgata in Atlantic City. Additional cross-promotion between MGM properties and the online poker platform offers a chance for some added publicity. Seeing one of those qualifiers win big in Las Vegas would only add to the story.
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WSOP.com has also included some nice live opportunities. As in past years, there are numerous online qualifiers for summer bracelet events in Las Vegas.
However, another big live event also appeals to the site’s online players in each market. All bracelet and WSOPC championship ring winners earn a free entry into the Tournament of Champions.
That event is a $1 million freeroll and is the last tournament of the live WSOP this summer, set for July 18. That’s some nice added incentive for live and online players alike.
Perhaps PokerStars can add to these live tournament efforts in the coming year.
Streamers and ambassadors
As the US online poker markets mature, more efforts to promote the game are being made by operators. Partypoker has added some popular poker player power to its lineup. Four-time WPT champion Darren Elias now represents BetMGM and also helps with designing tournament series and other behind-the-scenes efforts.
For the March Poker Madness series, the company had “hosts” in each of the company’s markets. Those included Elias in New Jersey, poker pro and coach Matt Berkey in Pennsylvania, and poker vlogger Andrew Neeme in Michigan.
PokerStars has also jumped on board by promoting and signing some Twitch streamers to its roster. WSOP has even gotten in the act, making 2009 Main Event champion Joe Cada an ambassador for the company in Michigan.
These continue to be popular with players. PokerStars’ Bounty Builder awards a nice trophy to the eventual series winner.
WSOP.com also does a great job in this capacity as well. The site offers a weekly sit and go leaderboard with cash and tournament tickets awarded to winners.
The player of the year race has also become a nice bullet point for WSOP.com. The annual leaderboard gives out $10,000 in cash, $1,500 in tournament tickets, and an exclusive winner’s ring.
If there’s one criticism on this list, it’s that partypoker/BetMGM and PokerStars haven’t embraced a POY race. Perhaps shared liquidity will bring a change to that.
5 – Staying the course
It hasn’t been easy for online poker players and operators alike since the state-by-state approach began in 2013. Legalization has been slow and player pools have shown major fluctuations at times.
But the industry now seems to be moving in the right direction with some solid gains. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada, and Delaware are all offering legal online poker.
With sports betting also seeing such rapid growth, some states may also consider poker and other online gaming. Could New York, Illinois, or Kentucky be the next to get on board?
It seems the industry is at least on course for some continued growth in the coming years. Staying the course may finally pay off.