The Online Poker Phenomenon

February 7th, 2007 | Categories: off topic

Poker ChipsThe poker phenomenon has swept the world by storm over the past few years. Not only does it seem to be on TV at all hours of the day, but there are millions playing online around the clock.

Sites like PartyPoker, ParadisePoker, AbsolutePoker, and PokerStars have risen to mammoth proportions. With multi-million dollar revenues and high-volume traffic, it’s no wonder the space has become so competitive, lucrative, and cutthroat. You could say the stakes are high (lame joke).

Marketing has surpassed the point of being annoying and obtrusive. It has attained the status of other such historic mass-marketed SPAM offerings, namely porn, erectile dysfunction, and weight loss. SPAM, SPAM, SPAM… “Come play at our POKER site!”…

Aside from SPAM, these deep-pocketed outfits market their services via more traditional online tactics like SEO and affiliate/referral programs.

Search engine optimization provides the free, qualified leads, but gaining first or second page status on the competitive terms in next to impossible. Long-tail traffic can provide steady users, but not sustain a large company. Secondly, these online poker sites are paying huge referral fees for new sign-ups. Referees and affiliates can make serious cash referring players to the given sites. To top it off, the players also receive a bonus, as they are usually given cash to start or try out the service, i.e. $50 for example.

Another subtle marketing tactic employed is through TV, magazines, and old-world media. These gambling outfits are not allowed to market their ‘pay-sites’. To get around this, they market a free poker service at their .NET address, as opposed to the regular .COM (which is of course the pay service). This allows the sites to gain exposure without breaking the law. Obviously, the sites hope everyone move to the .COM site and begin to pay. People either accidentally type .COM and end up there, or head to .NET and get referred there.

The free sites offer tuorials and, obviously, free poker games. The goal is to get you hooked… then pay, of course.

There are many incentives for poker players though. Money is the obvious first one that comes to mind. But fame, TV exposure, women, fast cars, and endorsements also ensue from success. The poker world is like Las Vegas. Hell, it is Vegas.

It will be interesting to watch the huge legal problems the industry has been facing with national laws and regulations over online gambling. Different countries have different laws. This creates for a huge headache as the Internet is worldwide, and cross-border regulations are ambiguous at best. In the past year the US has cracked down on online gambling, forcing some establishments to set up shop elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continues in other countries.


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