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PartyPoker Gambles on Waitlists in NJ Online Poker Market

PartyPoker will integrate a “waiting list” into its New Jersey online poker client, a company representative stated today in a post on the 2+2 poker forums:

“Hi all,

Having spoken with our Product team today – we have a wait list solution planned to go live early 2015. I will feedback with more detail when possible.”

The move comes in response to requests by players to add the feature for cash games dating back to May of this year.

Players Claim Addition Will Increase Traffic

Those clamoring for the change argued that the need to constantly scan the lobby looking for an open seat negatively impacts the number of games running on the site.

Recreational players are generally less likely to start tables, while simultaneously being loathe to stick around if they cannot get “in-action” quickly. Therefore, it’s usually left to the more serious players to be the catalyst for new games.

However, the continuous vigilance necessary to join any already running game at a moment’s notice is a distraction — and also just plain annoying. Players instead turn their attention elsewhere (including competing sites), and the resulting “out of sight, out of mind” dynamic generates a chilling effect on traffic generally.

This seems to have hurt PartyPoker’s bottom line enough for them to take action. After all, a poker room can only rake tables where cards are in the air.

Protecting Site Ecology Crucial

Waitlists on online poker sites are something of a hot-button issue as of late within the broader context of the viability of online poker.

Attracting recreational players is essential to any poker site, and nothing keeps them away like the sense they are being targeted — or “hunted” if you prefer — by sharks. PokerStars confronted this reality recently when it began to take action against “seating scripts” that automatically seat users to their direct left.

Things need not be this dramatic to have an effect, however. People notice when a wait list explodes as soon as they take a seat at a table, only to instantly vaporize when they stand up.

PartyPoker is absolutely correct to actively avoid this scenario. However, there are less draconian ways of doing so than to ban waitlists entirely. A successful model being used at Carbon Poker allows them for game types/stakes but not for specific tables.

Although posters expressed concern about the lack of detail in PartyPoker’s announcement, the change in policy will almost certainly implement something along these lines.

Pressure to Get It Right

Bwin.party, which owns the site, is one of the bright spots in the New Jersey online casino industry. Online gaming revenue for its partnership with the Borgata was over $3 million in November.

Given the struggles of Atlantic City casinos and online poker operators generally, it’s admirable to see one of the market leaders taking a risk. In a climate of uncertainty, no one really likes to change something that is already working.

However, I think they can be confident that tweaking their model — to allow players the option to wander away for a bit — will ultimately have the net effect of bringing them back more often.

 

 

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Bradley Chalupski

Bradley Chalupski made his first deposit onto an online poker site in 2009 and has been paying rake and following the poker scene ever since. He received his J.D. from the Seton Hall University School of Law in 2010.

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