2013 marked a revolution in the US poker industry as Nevada and two other states launched their online poker initiatives. The road to legalizing online game play was a long and treacherous one, but was also one that most of the parties involved are pleased they embarked on. Not only has online poker altered the poker industry in general, but it has had a profound effect on the WSOP as well.
Marketing for Nevada’s online poker platform typically targets the state’s residents, however the owner of the WSOP, Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc., is heavily promoting its online options for WSOP participation to out of state players. They are recruiting and encouraging players to engage in online WSOP events while simultaneously enjoying the live events. The addition of a mobile poker client to the WSOP range of options has made it possible for players to play online games while at the live poker tables without a laptop. This change is expected to increase the number of players who enjoy both online and live games during the tournament.
The range of online events tied to the tournament has also expanded in an effort to support the demand for dual participation, including the addition of an online WSOP bracelet event. Bill Rini, the head of online poker for the WSOP pointed out that live poker play takes place at a much slower pace than online players are used to, and they can get bored during the games and often turn to their smartphone or tablet during the live games. There have not been any problems with players being so distracted on their mobile devices that it detracts from the live games.
It is expected that the option to play online during live games will appeal especially to the younger players who are used to playing fast paced, multiple tables and hands during their online gaming sessions. Some older players who are ‘old school’ may reject the online options, but marketers are hoping that promoting the option heavily may sway some from this camp as well. Caesars determined that offering mobile options during the tournament would enhance player experience and increase participation (and their bottom line).
Free wi-fi will be offered in the ballrooms to ensure all players have access during the events. Rini indicated that the addition of a mobile client and expansion to the online options was in response to player demands for these features. The addition of the online bracelet event is just one of many exclusive online satellite events that provides players with the opportunity to win seats at upcoming live events. The mixing of online and live game play is expected to take the WSOP to a whole new level. This year’s tournament has created the optimal atmosphere for meaningful blending of online and live game play, with industry watchers anxious to see how this impacts the tournament with regards to participation levels and revenue.