The combination of NJ.PartyPoker.com and BorgataPoker.com got off to a very fast start in New Jersey, putting so much distance between themselves and their competitors that it seemed like everyone else was playing for 2nd place. But in recent weeks the Party/Borgata stranglehold appeared to be slackening, and WSOP.com is suddenly within striking distance.
The question is, is WSOP.com up to the challenge? Do they have the capability of closing, or will within striking distance be as close as they get?
Looking back at the two site’s traffic trends from www.pokerscout.com it becomes readily apparent that WSOP.com is on the ascendency.
During their online Championships tournament festival, WSOP.com saw average cash-game traffic jump from 160-170 players to a high water mark of 220 players –the site has since settled into an average of about 190 players.
On the other side of the coin, Party/Borgata was running consistently at about 260 players, but this has since dropped off to just 220 players, with the beneficiaries being WSOP.com and US.888Poker.com –a site that is sort of lost in the shuffle, but has been making very steady progress since mid December.
Looking at these traffic statistics we have to remember that the New Jersey online poker market is still in its infancy, and therefore fairly volatile. Additionally, the WSOP.com Online Championships (with two $250k Freerolls) may have created an outlier, where traffic at one site saw a quick, but unsustainable jump.
What is keeping partypoker in the #1 spot?
WSOP.com has the better rewards program, slightly inferior but competitive software, and I would argue the better brand. Not to mention that partypoker has been plagued by customer support failings, and WSOP.com has managed to avoid any serious complaints from the poker community.
So what is it that is keeping WSOP.com from overtaking partypoker?
In one word; marketing.
Partypoker is employing the same tactics that allowed them to be the #1 poker room in the world prior to UIGEA forcing them out of the US in late 2006; namely a powerful marketing campaign, and a reluctance to kowtow to grinders, instead focusing on casual poker players.
Not only do they have a strong presence online, many poker-based websites have partypoker NJ advertising located somewhere on the site and several seem to have fully dedicated partypoker NJ pages, but the company also has an incredibly strong presence on mainstream media outlets like NJ.com and other New Jersey online publications.
Additionally, partypoker has pulled off the first marketing coup in the US market, inking a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center that has already produced massive amounts of partypoker signage and other marketing efforts including partypoker kiosks where representative can help you create an account.
Betfair was the biggest marketer prior to the launch of online poker, but it has been partypoker that has dominated marketing efforts, and been the most innovative over the past two months.
WSOP.com could be #1 tomorrow… if they wanted to
Still, all it would take for WSOP.com to ascend to the #1 spot would be to join forces (also known as networks) with another 888 powered online poker site in New Jersey, US.888Poker.com.
WSOP.com made the (curious to me) choice of maintaining their own liquidity in both Nevada and New Jersey, despite using the same software provider as several other poker rooms.
I’m not really sure if this is a forced experiment that Caesars Interactive is running (to see if they can sustain their own viable player base) or if this is part of some longer-term strategy, but in poker liquidity is instrumental, and WSOP.com is foregoing liquidity for some other purpose.
Whatever the reason, if WSOP.com and US.888Poker.com joined together they would be far and away the largest player pool in New Jersey. And if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times; more players brings in more players.
They won’t be joining the AAPN
Joining forces with US.888Poker.com would obviously be at the expense of Caesars long-term plans in New Jersey and in the US. There are likely several good reasons that WSOP.com is not part of the AAPN already –reasons too intricate for me to figure out like spinning off subsidiary companies or some other aspect that would require me to translate legalese— but it doesn’t seem like the company is in a hurry to scrap their current business model.
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