November 26, 2013 was a big day. It was my birthday and the day New Jersey online poker went live. I was set to celebrate both of these occasions but was sadly disappointed by one.
As a resident of New Jersey and a professional poker player, I have a vested interest in seeing online poker succeed. As a college graduate with degrees in marketing and management, I also have a few thoughts on why the business of online poker in NJ is failing. Maybe these credentials qualify me as an adequate voice of criticism and maybe they don’t, but I do know that the current state of online poker in NJ is dismal at best, and will surely fail unless drastic changes are made soon.
Improve Branding and Visibility
First off, a recent survey was done by one of the major sites on all NJ residents and the results were shocking. The percentage of people who didn’t even know that New Jersey online poker existed was staggeringly high.
Here’s your first problem, visibility. Never mind the choice of which site to play on because if people don’t even know it exists, how can they play?
Truly Connect New Jersey’s Land-based Casinos with the Online Poker Sites
Each site is linked with a brick and mortar casino in Atlantic City. Let’s start here. Here is your very first FREE point of visibility. You have all the wall space you can dream of and in most cases a poker room where existing customers already play. Unless I’m mistaken, casinos did not just link up with these sites out of the kindness of their hearts. They are obviously sharing in the profit and revenue generated by the site they have chosen to back.
Why not help them? Why not pool the resources of all parties involved and incentivize every customer to patronize business?
Here’s a very simple four-step example of what I talking about:
- Borgata advertises their site borgatapoker.com.
- Borgatapoker.com implements a cross-comp system that allows you to redeem loyalty points for a free night at the Borgata Hotel and Casino.
- Mr. and Mrs. Poker come down to Atlantic City and spend a lovely evening at the Borgata, maybe they play some blackjack, and return home.
- Now Mr. and Mrs. Poker go home and play a bit more online. While accruing points during their play, they earn a free meal at Bobby Flay AND a free room…
Do you see where I’m going with this? Let’s call this a loop of profitability. Quite simply, it’s a win/win situation for all parties involved. Casinos have this incredibly lucrative FREE marketing resource at their disposal and they are passing on it. Land-based and online gambling have an opportunity to help each other thrive and it seems as though all anyone wants to do is throw their hands up and say “this isn’t working.”
All I know is that if I had a vested interest in an online poker site and I had the brick and mortar casino to advertise it, I’d be mass printing wall paper with my site’s name in big bold letters.
You’ve Gotta Spend Money; Here’s How To Do It Wisely
Representatives of every site I’ve spoken with all have the same gripe, namely that they “don’t have the money.” Well, the cold hard fact of marketing is that you have to spend money to make money. HOW you spend your marketing dollars can vary though, and ultimately the marketing tools used will decide which company survives and which fails.
Every NJ online poker site has the opportunity to try and become the next PokerStars, but which of them have the moxie and marketing savvy to actually succeed on a grand scale?
Here’s another example:
This year, at the Aria500, Partypoker had a bowl of a few hundred patches. They gave them out to whoever wanted them. This to me was genius, but on a small scale.
From what I can see, amateurs imitate the professionals. Ultimately, everyone wants to be on TV wearing a patch and winning the money. Why not give Mr. and Mrs. Poker that experience on a smaller level? I’d be handing out that patch to who ever wanted to wear it.
Another company gave players their patch at this event, and the person who lasted the longest while wearing that patch won their entry fee back. For just $500 they got hundreds(!)of people advertising their company. If you were to quantify each marketing attempt and award exposure points in relation to dollars spent, this idea would certainly rank high. The moral of this story is that if you want to get more people playing online poker in New Jersey, be sure to spend those dollars wisely. They can go far with the right ideas.
Professional Poker Players Have to Do Their Part
Last, but certainly not least, I’ll address the professional poker players. If you thought I was going to simply write this article and JUST place blame on the companies, you are wrong. Whether we as players choose to accept it or not, part of the burden of responsibility for promoting online poker in New Jersey (and the rest of the United States) also lies on us.
The landscape of poker is changing and lately it’s requiring the efforts of all who are involved. Poker isn’t just about showing up, putting on your headphones, and collecting money. If you want your profession to survive you’re going to have to play your part.
If you want to see online poker make a comeback throughout the U.S., or especially if you’re a resident of states – like NJ – that have already legalized it, when you’re playing live be sure to talk positively about online poker. We all know it has its problems, and we have all experienced technical difficulties at one time or another. However, there is a time and a place to share these experiences. When you’re sitting at a $2/5 table with Mr. and Mrs. Poker is NOT that time.
Poker has afforded us professional players many opportunities, including the ability to sleep whenever we want, work whenever we want, and never have to answer to anyone. However, if we keep the mentality of “take, take, take” and never flip the switch to “give, give, give”, we may wind up having to dust off those resumes.
While it may not seem like a big deal to you, I assure you that if you’re kind to amateurs and make efforts to positively promote online poker to them, this small contribution will help. Hopefully if enough professional players pitch in like this, these small actions will someday combine to become something larger. It is incumbent upon as us players to help promote this game if we want to keep playing it.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
Please know that I also hold myself accountable to all of these standards. Those of you who know me personally know that I recently moved to Mexico to further pursue my career in poker.
While this may seem a bit hypocritical in nature, you should also know that I spoke to many of the NJ online poker sites before making my decision. Unfortunately, my ideas and advice fell on deaf ears. My hope is that this article does not.
I believe that we can all find ways to work together toward a solution instead of just complaining about the current state of affairs. Let’s do it!