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PokerStars has been an industry leader for most of its existence in the online poker sphere. And over the past few years, it adopted Full Tilt and expanded to offer online casino games, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports. Amaya adopted the entire family and continues to find new ways to grow PokerStars.

So what are its competitors to do? Lagging so far behind PokerStars in everything from cash game traffic to tournament guarantees can be disheartening.

However, some sites are finding ways to grow. Innovative marketing plans, recreational player models, and even some big endorsements may help sites like 888poker and PartyPoker compete on a more even playing field with PokerStars.

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According to PokerScout at the time of this writing, PokerStars had nearly 26K cash game players on its global site, while 888poker was in a distant second place with 3,800. The iPoker Network was next with 2,500, Bodog was next, and PartyPoker was in fifth place with 2,100.

At one time, PartyPoker was the top site in the world, but its exit from the United States market in 2006 was a part of its overall downfall. Since that time, it has been purchased by bwin to become, and that company was just overtaken by GVC Holdings.

888poker is part of 888 Holdings, which is an overall successful company with a number of offerings, from sports betting to online casino games. The company was part of takeover talks with last year, but GVC produced the winning bid.

Revival and Survival

PartyPoker has been open about hopes of growing its poker platform. There have been numerous reforms and improvements implemented as a part of this campaign to bring players back to the site and attract new ones. Pieces of the puzzle have included the removal of most withdrawal fees, better tournament schedules, blocking third-party software, and adjusting its loyalty program to benefit recreational players.

“Poker for the People” is a larger campaign is a four-pronged program. “For the people” includes more poker offerings, “hear the people” is an attempt to draw players into conversations in order to cater better to them, “meet the people” provides more opportunity to get to know pros and players, and “teach the people” offers more poker tips and training.

888poker is doing many of the same things, such as revamping its loyalty program and catering its offerings more to recreational players. One of the ways the overall plans are evident is in the recent signing of Kara Scott to the team. Her role is to interact with players online and at live tournaments, rather than just wearing a patch and competing in random tournaments around the world.

The “Live the Game” campaign from 888 is one that consists of advertisements and promotions that put poker players in real-life situations to exemplify the beneficial aspects of poker and how they can be used in life. There are also special tournaments, player offerings, and various promotions running regularly.


Using Advantages

When a competitor stumbles, someone else should be there to grab the ball and run with it.

Some of the recent PokerStars moves, such as the most recent rake increase, rub players the wrong way. It is in these moments that other online poker sites with grand visions need to take advantage of the situation and offer a hand to those players. Players are loyal to PokerStars but only to a point, and an alternative that makes good financial and logical sense may be able to win those players over.

Sites that want to compete with PokerStars have a long and steep road ahead. However, they have a bit more flexibility to try new ideas, experiment with innovation, and take risks in order to win the hearts of established players. Drawing in a new demographic and taking the lead in growing online poker as a whole is also a technique that is often overlooked due to the risk involved.

It is tough to compete against a virtual monopoly. Sites like PartyPoker and 888poker are certainly trying, but the volume of their efforts needs to be turned up to a higher level in order to make any real headway.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.