The WSOP final table aired (almost) live on television last week, with ESPN viewers able to watch the action on a half-hour delay while being able to see each player’s hole cards.
That kind of coverage is undoubtedly good for poker as a whole, but it also had an immediate impact in one area that has been struggling as of late: the regulated online poker markets in the United States.
In both New Jersey and Nevada, it seems as though the World Series of Poker brought people back to the virtual felt. On Monday and Tuesday nights last week, viewers were able to watch Martin Jacobson work his way through the final table and win the $10 million first prize.
That generated some rare mainstream media coverage of poker, which in turn seems to have convinced more players to give poker a try.
WSOP.com Benefits Most From Coverage
Not surprisingly, the WSOP had the strongest impact on its own branded sites. In New Jersey, each of the three major online poker sites saw an increase in their average cash game traffic in the week after the ESPN coverage began when compared to the week before.
According to figures at PokerScout.com, traffic at partypoker NJ was up about four percent, while the All American Poker Network (an 888poker-branded site) saw a ten percent increase. But WSOP.com was the major beneficiary, as traffic increased nearly 18 percent after the televised final table coverage began.
The Nevada version of WSOP.com also saw benefits. In the week after the Main Event final table, cash game traffic was up 23 percent, a significant surge for a site that was already the market leader in the state. However, it’s unclear how much of this was due to the television exposure for the brand, as WSOP.com undoubtedly benefited from the closure of Ultimate Poker, its only rival for traffic in the state.
However, news of the Ultimate shutdown only broke late in the week, so most of the increase is likely due to the World Series of Poker Bump.
Brand is Biggest Asset for WSOP.com
It’s no surprise that WSOP.com was the major beneficiary of the ESPN coverage. The fact that the Caesars-operated site has the World Series of Poker brand attached to it is one of the main reasons why it quickly took the lead in Nevada’s online poker market, and quickly became one of the top two rooms (along with the Borgata/partypoker site) in New Jersey.
Even those who don’t play poker seriously are familiar with the WSOP, meaning the brand has some built in legitimacy and trust among the general population.
In New Jersey, that was mostly seen in how traffic changed in tournament play. In the week after ESPN aired the WSOP coverage, WSOP.com saw large increases in their tournament fields, with even their Sunday major $25,000 guaranteed tournament attracting 138 players, up 20 percent from the week before and covering the guaranteed prize pool without any overlay. Meanwhile, the Borgata’s site saw tournament traffic fall by about 10 percent over the same period.
In Nevada, that branding power is even more obvious. The World Series of Poker is the most popular live tournament series in the world, drawing tens of thousands of poker players to Las Vegas every summer.
This year, that included a large number of serious players who were interested in giving online poker a try, temporarily bumping up traffic numbers throughout the state. June was the first month that saw Nevada online poker revenues rise above $1 million; not surprisingly, most of that came from extra traffic at WSOP.com, which was heavily advertised to live players at the World Series.