Last week, the 42nd edition of online gambling’s biggest traffic driver, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), kicked off in Las Vegas.

The WSOP is always the poker and casino world’s most anticipated event, online or offline. This year, though, that anticipation is tempered. A big question looms: How will the events of Black Friday, and the United States’ government’s ongoing crackdown against online gambling, affect this year’s tournament?

The 2011 WSOP: What won’t change

Media exposure. To the surprise of some, ESPN is still broadcasting the WSOP. In fact, the network is ramping up its coverage of this year’s tournament, and adding some live coverage, to boot. That means, ideally, more publicity for the event, which could lead to more search engine activity.

Brand exposure. Although the “Black Friday” poker sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt won’t be allowed to advertise at the WSOP, there are no restrictions against players wearing their logos (though those images probably won’t make it to TV). Whether or not pros will want to associate themselves with those sites is debatable, but it’s still likely that you’ll see a few Full Tilt Poker logos at this year’s WSOP. (Just not from Phil Ivey.)

The 2011 WSOP: What might change

Attendance. The biggest concern over the 2011 World Series of Poker is attendance. Ceasars Entertainment has owned the WSOP since 2005, and, since then, attendance has gone up each year, even though the UIGEA stalled that growth a bit. This year, even though some are predicting a slightly lower attendance, most believe it’ll still be a very respectable showing, with about 80% of last year’s attendance.

Sponsors. With PokerStars and Full Tilt out of the loop as official sponsors, more branding opportunities will be seized by online poker sites PartyPoker and 888. That gives these relative underdogs a chance to grab more publicity (and potentially drive more traffic for their affiliates).

What you can do now

Given what we know and don’t know above, then, what specific steps can affiliates take to make money off the black cloud hanging over the World Series of Poker?

Because you’re an affiliate marketer, the surest way to make more money is to drive more traffic to your site. And with its high-profile media exposure, the WSOP presents a great opportunity to do just that, by creating specific WSOP content, tying it to your affiliate partners, and marketing that content on the search engines and major social media sites.

Here are three ways to get started:

1) Master WSOP keyword trends. Find out what elements of the WSOP people are searching for and create blog posts to market to those niches. Do people search more for daily results? Chip counts? Blog posts? Monitor these keyword niches every day, and market to them.

2) Be a WSOP newshound. Even bad news — and maybe especially bad news — can be a powerful traffic driver. Especially now as the WSOP gets underway, top-notch news sites are offering some premium exposure. Stay on top of that news and build content around it to give visitors a reason to seek you out.

3) The power of positive spin. Given online poker’s recent problems, one niche that’s been pretty underused lately is the element of positive spin. Most WSOP reports focus on the potential trouble the tournament faces each year. Affiliates can buck this trend and report positive news — what’s going on with the Grudge Matches, daily winner and tournament updates ( is a great source for this). Doing so may attract poker fans who are sick of the fallout from Black Friday and just want to enjoy the world’s great poker tournament.

Questions? Comments?

Most poker affiliates already have lots of experience marketing the World Series of Poker. It’s the reason a lot of poker affiliates are in the business in the first place. If you’re one of those affiliates, we want to hear your thoughts! Have you been marketing this year’s WSOP differently than in the past? What do you expect to happen between now and the Final Table?

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