Exactly five months ago, American online poker players were sent to the rail on Black Friday by their Department of Justice, effectively wiping out almost half of online poker traffic worldwide. Some high-profile poker pros have opted to move abroad to keep playing, but 99% of American online poker fans are essentially locked out for now. Nonetheless, popular sentiment seems to be that legislation will eventually legalize online poker in the United States; the only question being when.

Whenever it does (finally) happen, what remains to be seen is which online poker sites will grab the largest slice of U.S. market share. One thing’s for sure: Full Tilt Poker and Absolute/UB have essentially disappeared from the online poker landscape. This poker blogger doubts they’ll ever reappear again, unless entirely new, trustworthy management teams take over their operations and rebrand them.

Racing towards #1 in U.S. online poker
Racing towards #1 in U.S. online poker

PokerStars vs. Everyone Else

PokerStars was the industry-leading poker room before Black Friday. Despite losing a sizeable chunk of their traffic, they’ve successfully refocused their efforts on the European player pool to maintain a seemingly insurmountable lead over the competition ever since. Along with a stellar reputation and excellent brand name, PokerStars has something very unique going for them: they focus exclusively on poker. By comparison, competing online poker products are offered by larger online gaming companies like Bwin.PartyGaming and 888.

While PokerStars will likely be a top destination for U.S. online poker players upon legalization, it should be noted that their reemergence would hinge on whether the Department of Justice would allow it (not something that to be taken for granted at all, as they DID break the law).

In any event, legalization would open the door for some well-known American companies to try and position themselves for a solid market share. Most notable among these are land-based casino giant Caesars Entertainment and Zynga, the social network game developer.

Caesars Entertainment

A multibillion-dollar company, Caesars surely has the professional infrastructure and wherewithal to enter the online poker market. As they own the World Series of Poker, my guess is that Caesars would create and promote some sort of WSOP-branded online poker room. Already a known and well-respected entity to millions of American poker players, Caesars Entertainment would possess the unique ability to tie their new online poker room together with their unrivaled Total Rewards program. Furthermore, in principle, they would also be able to offer online satellites and prize packages to poker tournaments at any of their approximately 50 land-based casinos throughout the country.

As evidenced by their recent purchase of the Playtika social network, Caesars Entertainment clearly has their sights set on success once online poker opens for business in the U.S. With such incredible potential, this poker blogger wouldn’t be surprised to see Caesars Entertainment become a huge player in the U.S. online poker market almost immediately upon legalization.

Zynga Poker

Cardplayer Lifestyle first wrote about Zynga Poker back in March, and the social poker network’s growth has only increased since then. A database of approximately 40 million players translates into staggering potential revenues from real-money play.

Like Caesars Entertainment, Zynga too has taken steps towards preparing for the eventual legalization of online poker in the United States, having acquired MarketZero, an online poker tracker company. Moreover, Zynga Poker is no longer exclusive to Facebook, as it is now supported by Android, iPhone, MySpace, and Google+.

Anyone Else?

Aside from Caesars Entertainment and Zynga, other new players may emerge to try and grab a slice of the American online poker pie. To that end, some smaller land-based casinos, such as the South Point in Las Vegas and the Barona in San Diego, have already set up play-for-free online poker sites, which they’ll be sure to monetize once it becomes legal. In preparation for the opening of a wide open market, surely others are likely to follow suit.

13 Comments

  1. online poker games

    ‘Thank you for this blog. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something thats eye opening and important. You clearly know so much about the subject, youve covered so many bases. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blog.”

  2. ernest niedermeyer

    Your information is eye opening but I think you missed out on a big player and should mention that IGT a fully liscenced gaming manufacturer purchased the company Intraction for $115 million dollars in April. That company has the largest poker software. I am sure IGT did this for a reason. IGT is setting their roots early for the online poker once congress gets passed this legalization. Nevada and IGT are a couple and I surly would trust IGT over any outside competiton. Poker stars, NO. They broke the law, and let’s keep things in America

  3. Robbie Strazynski

    Hey Ernest – point taken re: IGT.

    Re: PokerStars, I clearly state “While PokerStars will likely be a top destination for U.S. online poker players upon legalization, it should be noted that their reemergence would hinge on whether the Department of Justice would allow it (not something that to be taken for granted at all, as they DID break the law).

    We’ll see what the DOJ eventually does with them. In the meantime, they seem to be doing fine 🙂

    Thanks for reading the article and feel free to pass on to your friends!

  4. ernest niedermeyer

    Robbie. I played on poker stars and full tilt. Poker stars paid me my balance and full tilt left me out in the desert. I liked poker stars much, much more and rarley played on full tilt. BUT I live in Nevada and am in the gaming business,Nevada will never ever let poker stars in Nevada Nevada law states once you are busted for a felony do not come here especially when it comes to gaming. The DOJ has nothing to do with Nevada gaming. I just know IGT will in the soon near months announce they will be in the running. Right now the Nevada lawmakers are getting together with the laws and regulation to protect the online players. It is in the Review Journal quite often.

    I will never ever again put my money in a foreign online company again. “PEACE”

  5. Robbie Strazynski

    Ernest – I hear what you’re saying. That sort of brings up the idea of whether online poker will end up being a Federal or State issue. What you’re saying holds full force if legalization ends up being a state issue, as if so, only states like CA, NV, NJ, FL, etc (those with established land-based gaming already) will legalize it…
    If it ends up being legalized on the national level, however (a distinct possibility) then it’ll supersede state law. All I know is that both the Federal and state govt’s are hurting for cash right now and are generally eager to increase their tax revenues in any way they can…so that’s definitely a good thing for us online poker fans.

    I guess we’ll just have to be patient and see who succeeds…Thanks again for your great comments! Enjoy Nevada! I always love coming to Vegas and have also been up north in Reno/Tahoe and even Virginia City – great place to live 🙂

  6. ernest niedermeyer

    Hey Robbie- I wish I had kept the article in the Review Journal about 4 months ago. I was headlines in the business section where Nevada was the first state to be recognlized in law for online poker. I beat out NJ due to NJ legislation was lax and lazy in moving forward with whatever law it was. If you want you can do some R&D to find out about this article.I think the feds will make the law change but it will then go to the states. Our Gov’t needs to tax the online poker to make easy money. Do the math on 150 million players each day in games that have ante’s and the buy in tournaments 24 hours a day. CASH COW, RIGHT?
    To bad the feds did not make a deal with the 3 major poker sites and make them pay a tax for doing business. They did what government does mess things up. We do not need the FEDS in this. The states will do better and $$$ will come in the form of the taxes. And the players will be protected which is most important. Have the online sites put up a deposit to cover all monies from players, cash or insurance I’m sure the lalwmakers will present alll of this to the feds before leagalization.

    I am still betting on IGT

  7. Aura Bernecker

    Great article.I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.Thanks for sharing with us.Keep up the good work.

  8. Ernest niedermeyer

    Like I said in October IGT will be the one to bet on for online poker. Nevada yesterday passed into law to let online poker legal in Nevada. Nevada is the first. Put your $$$ on igt and buy their stock “NOW” It is up to the feds to complete the process

    Ernie

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