What I Learned at the 2012 WSOP
I’ve been attending summer camp for degenerates, aka: the World Series of Poker, for seven years now. Each summer, I learn something new about the poker industry from my exposure at the WSOP.
Here are five things I learned this year at the WSOP that might be worth knowing as an iGaming affiliate:
#1: Smartphones/tablets are the future
It’s becoming more evident to me that the future of iGaming will be heavily dependent on tablet and smartphone users. When you look around the room at the WSOP, almost everyone is playing with their iPhone or iPad.
Poker players in particular are attracted to gadgets. If you run a poker affiliate site and haven’t yet optimized your site for mobile, I’d suggest prioritizing it. It’s also worth investigating which iGaming brands have mobile apps you can promote.
One day I expect to see people playing real-money online poker on their smartphones during play at the WSOP. With online poker having already been legalized in Nevada, that could happen as soon as next year.
#2: Huge sports crossover appeal
I think in general poker affiliates probably miss out on potential revenues from marketing sports-related stuff to their players. Poker players are huge sports-junkies.
During one day of play, I was wearing a t-shirt from a daily fantasy sports site called DraftDay. I had multiple people asking me about the shirt since it has sports-related connotations to it. When I told them about the site they all seemed pretty intrigued about the single-day fantasy sports leagues concept.
Caesars Entertainment, owners and operators of the WSOP, have picked up on the crossover appeal of sports to poker players. This year, they had huge projection screens in the largest gameplay room where sporting events were displayed. You could often catch players paying more attention to the sporting event on the screen than the action at their poker table.
Caesars also introduced WSOP final table betting odds at Rio this year. Despite the vigorish being pretty absurd for the props, it still generated quite a lot of chatter and interest among the players. Bottom line: poker players love sports and sports-betting.
#3: Poker players like supplements
I noticed one of the new advertising vendors in the hallway at the Rio this year was Onnit, a company that makes nootropics or “smart drugs”. It made sense to see them there paying some hot girl to pass out information on their products like Alpha Brain which are purported to give you an edge in the mental clarity department.
Personally, I have never tried any over-the-counter supplement pills that target mental clarity and am generally skeptical that they can do as much as manufacturers like to claim they do. That said, I know a few poker players that swear by these products. The idea of ordering pills online that give you an edge at the poker table is highly appealing to a lot of players willing to do about anything to get a leg-up on the competition. If you’re looking for any cross-marketing opportunities, supplements might be worth looking into.
#4: Everyone is broke and backed
It’s the dirty secret among participants in the high-stakes live poker tournament world: a majority of players are basically broke and being put into tournaments by well-bankrolled investors. Very few players actually have the bankroll to responsibly buy themselves into ~$40,000 worth of tournaments over the course of the WSOP. To remedy this, they sell action to their rich poker friends.
I know of a few different highly-successful poker pros that had $100,000+ of their money in play during the WSOP Main Event. Even though the buy-in is just $10,000, they’re able to get a lot more exposure to the juiciest tournament of the year by “backing” solid players lacking the capital to buy themselves in.
It’s a good deal for both the backer and the player. I invested $0 to play in the Main Event and instead raised the $10,000 from other players in exchange for a percentage of any winnings (ultimately, there were none). Although I would have only retained 20% of anything I won, from my standpoint it’s still a great deal since 20% of $8,500,000 is still more money than I can realistically expect to acquire anytime soon not to mention the experience of playing in the tournament is valuable on its own.
#5: Lots of wandering souls in poker
Playing poker for a living was always something of a fringe existence but things got even worse on Black Friday when the U.S. shut down poker operations. Since that time, many players have relocated out of the country to continue their online poker careers.
The result of this fragmentation is a “community” of people that are all searching for a clue of what to do with themselves following the conclusion of the WSOP. I predict there will be another wave of players relocating out of the U.S. this summer as the WSOP serves as a reminder of how fun and profitable it can be to pursue a career as a poker player.
It is my hope that one day some sense of sanity is restored to the U.S. government that will allow these well-intentioned poker refugees the chance to relocate back home. That is if they even want to by the time that opportunity rolls around. Some poker players view being forced the leave the U.S. as more of a gift than a penalty.