It’s that time of year again. The 2015 World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) is upon us!
Hosted by the world’s largest online poker site, PokerStars, this year’s WCOOP boasts an astounding 70 events which guarantee a total of $45 million in cash prizes from September 6-27.
Leveraging a global player pool that covers most Rest of World markets, everyone from top pros to recreational online poker players have marked the dates on their calendars in the hopes of a big payday.
But that’s not the case for millions based in the United States who are forced to grimace every few months when a new Stars acronym garners headlines, while they play in segregated, licensed statewide markets such as New Jersey, Nevada or Delaware. The WCOOP Main Event alone guarantees more cash ($10 million with a $1.5 million payout to first place) than entire US “regulated” online tournament series.
The only option those players have if they want larger prize pools is to risk play on unlicensed US-facing sites, which many view as a “ticking time bomb” that will eventually be shut down by government entities.
That said, there are plenty of lessons that US-facing poker sites can learn from the 2015 PokerStars WCOOP.
Shared Liquidity Must Happen
The most glaringly obvious drawback to licensed US online poker sites is that regulation only exists currently in three states. You could put the brightest minds in the industry together in one room and they still wouldn’t be able to devise a plan for massive prize pools without an eventual structure that allows most if not all of the US to compete in a consolidated player pool
Unfortunately, the prospects of this happening relatively soon are bleak, as outlined in a recent report by colleague James Guill on the current status of legalized online poker in California. Another write-up by Charles Rettmuller explains that PokerStars could soon enter the New Jersey market, but even if and when that happens, the player base will be nothing compared to the RoW pool.
In order for regulated online poker in the US to reach its potential, country-based shared liquidity must happen — not just between the two smallest markets (Nevada and Delaware), but nationwide.
PokerStars WCOOP 2015 Schedule
The PokerStars WCOOP 2015 Schedule is something to marvel at, even for those of us who remember a previously wide-open global online poker market. Seventy events over three weeks, a slew of different poker games, and a nosebleed $51,000 buy-in Super High Roller NLHE tournament.
The excitement that Twitch live streaming superstar Jaime Staples exudes in a recent video blog is genuine. Not only are the prizes potentially life changing, but the sheer number of poker varieties, stakes, and formats dwarf premier series of regulated US sites such as WSOP.com and PartyPoker.
The WSOP offered its first ever live-online combination bracelet event earlier this year, which could be a step in the right direction considering the brand’s continuing global recognition. Perhaps it will make similar opportunities available for US players in 2016 that could extend to WSOP Circuit events.along with its online satellite tournaments.
Attracting New Players Through Marketing, Freerolls and Bonus Offers
Besides sporadic seasonal reload bonuses and a handful of freerolls, there really isn’t much incentive for recreational US-based online poker players to stick around on regulated sites once their initial deposit bonuses have been cleared.
On top of that, many players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware aren’t even aware that regulated online poker exists in those states (we would know, as we get frequent questions from readers on the legalization of online poker in those states).
Once they do find their way to a licensed site, they’re often deterred by a reg-heavy player base, MTTs that have 20 or less entrants, and a lack of incentives to not press their luck on an unlicensed site. Better marketing efforts, more freerolls and superior bonus offers are needed.
As the 2015 WCOOP approaches, US-based sites (and their customers) can only salivate at what could potentially be. Both parties are relegated to supporting the legalization of US online poker on two fronts — nationwide and statewide — for the time being.