Not a commercial post, although I will focus on Poker Stars today. As most of you will know, Stars are the behemoth of the online poker scene - with peaks equalling the entire traffic of their closest 3 rivals* and growing all the time.
* thats Full Tilt, iPoker and Party, even more of an achievement if you consider that 95% of poker is played at the top 15 sites.
Anyway, there are several reasons cited as to why Stars continues to dominate, even setting aside the smart way in which they took over the US traffic from Party. My 'food for poker thought' today is that there is an overlooked element when people consider Stars' success... but first, the usual reasons:
- Stars is biggest because they have the best software? Well, its great, I mean one of the best, fast and smooth and easy and all that good stuff - but special? exceptional? that much better than Tilt etc that it could explain almost 3 times as many players?? Nope.
- Stars VIP Club is often cited as 'industry leading', and yes it is very good - especially for those mid-limit or multi-table grinder types... the more recent cash bonuses match some rakeback deals too. But wait a second, your average lower level recreational players do not really benefit that much... I mean no more than a decent rakeback % at Cake or points for cash at Pacific (to pick some random examples!)... this helps because it attracts the grinders which give the games liquidity, but only at the margins compared with other sites.
- Game Selection and number of tournaments... same answer, both are excellent but not different or exceptional enough to explain the huge disparity between their player base and that of other sites.
- Lack of decent competition... could be a factor!
Now, I have a different theory and the clue, as the saying goes, was in the title!
Stars offer a very small bonus compared to some other sites, it is a 100% match on first deposits up to $50, and to me this is the key to all of their success.
Think about it for a moment. New players do not sit at their computer one evening and think: "Hmmmm, I heard that online poker is fun, I'll deposit $1,100 (or even $500) and have a try".
Nope, they are looking for a small initial outlay to 'test the waters', we have all been there - back in the day when I first played (at Party) I'd deposit $100 at a time, lose it, do something else for a month and then find the software on my PC and maybe deposit another $50... yep, I was a regular losing joe who worked hard and blew off money for fun, as most players are even to this day.
So, when you see a $500 bonus and a $50 in those circumstances it is natural to go for the lower one, right? I mean you sub-consciously reason that you'll tackle the $500 one just as soon as you win a few games with your initial $50 right... and once you have a Stars account then everything is in that 'Goldilocks Zone' of 'just right'... so you stay there!
Anyway, the truth - as always - is somewhere in the middle. Stars success is due to a combination of doing everything very well indeed rather than leadership in any one area... my thought is that the small bonus has made a big difference though!
Gl at the tables, Mark