While many are hoping that regulated online poker will one day spread throughout the U.S., the handful of remaining poker sites and networks that service the U.S. market continue to operate.
Players in the U.S. who would like to play online poker and are not located in the three regulated states must take a chance at the likes of Bovada, Merge, Chico, Equity or the Winning Poker Network (WPN). The risks are well-known to most – that the lack of U.S. regulation could result in the DoJ once again clamping down on those non-regulated sites. Or, the poker rooms may just stop paying players and disappear a la Lock Poker. Either way, players may be left with nowhere to turn to recoup their account balances.
However, one other scenario is possible. That ipoker legislation will continue to move at a snail’s pace and the unregulated poker sites will continue to operate unabated – perhaps for years – attracting new players and growing. WPN is banking on the last possibility and has been running promotions toward that end.
WPN’s Freebuy Super Series II just concluded, a 60-event festival that guaranteed over $150,000 in prize money. All events were free to enter, with fees attached only to those players who chose to re-buy or add-on.
Whether the series was a success depends on how you look at the results. The re-buys and add-ons totaled about $80,000, according to USAfriendlypokersites.com. The other $70K or so was paid by WPN. But the goal was to attract new depositing players, and whether that was accomplished will perhaps be evident in PokerScout’s future player traffic numbers.
Million Dollar Madness
Next in the queue for WPN is five Million Dollar Sundays. That’s five tournaments, each guaranteeing $1 million in prize money, with the first to be played next Sunday, September 13. Four more are scheduled in October.
WPN pulled off a major coup in securing WSOP November Niner Joshua Beckley to play in all five events at Americas Cardroom and to do so via live stream on Twitch. The 24-year-old poker pro will interact with viewers as well as WPN CEO Phil Nagy while playing in the Million Dollar Sundays. That is bound to attract a horde of followers who will be keen on getting a read on Beckley’s thought processes as he shoots for the $200,000 first place prize.
In an OnTiltRadio broadcast last month, Nagy went on record as saying that in a year from now “you’re going to see we’ll be top five in the world for online poker.” Currently, WPN is 16th worldwide and averaging 525 cash game players. The 5th-ranked site averages 1,300 players, which would require a 147% increase to reach.
Can WPN achieve such a goal? Hard to say. Freebuy festivals probably help. As will Beckley’s presence on Twitch for the Million Dollar Sundays. And one U.S.-facing site, Bodog/Bovada, is in third place worldwide, so it can be done.
However, a cloud of uncertainty continues to hang over unregulated poker rooms in the U.S. And that uncertainty may be keeping too many players on the rail, fearful of losing their money in a non-regulated industry that’s perpetually on shaky ground.