In spite of the legal grey area surrounding the offshore (and virtually unregulated) online poker industry, three of the top four online poker networks which continue to accept US customers following the US government crackdown on Black Friday have seen their strategies pay dividends.
Over the last two years, the Winning Poker Network (WPN), Bodog and the Chico poker network have all outperformed the .COM poker market in terms of the cash game traffic they have managed to generate.
On a relative basis, Chico has outperformed the .COM market by 125%, WPN by 77% and Bodog by 43%.
Over the two year period, cash game traffic in the global .COM market has fallen by 23%, but all three of the US facing offshore sites have gained traffic. Bodog is currently the third ranked online poker room in the world.
Success A Result Of An Innovative Approach?
Each network has taken a different route to achieve its success. Bodog has relentlessly pursued a recreational player model, adopting anonymous tables, and banning other forms of third party software that would give professional players an advantage.
WPN has adopted several measures to build its player base. It became the first operator to offer a chance to US players to play in a $1 million guaranteed tournament, the first major poker room to fully adopt Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, and it has upgraded its software regularly.
WPN has not neglected to innovate in both marketing and game development. Substantial changes to its “The Beast” rake race, and its bad beat jackpot have provided a much better benefit package to players. Slot machine style tournaments and satellites, along with the new Freebuy tournaments, show that it is trying hard to adopt the lottery-style prize distribution model that has been so successful for .COM and regulated online poker operators in encouraging greater participation from recreational players.
The Chico network received a boost when it was bought by Julian Holdings. The new owners turned around what had become a real mess, with slow to no payouts transformed into fast and efficient deposits and withdrawals.
Chico has also introduced Bitcoin to its cashier, and offers a $50k rake race for sit & go players. Its promotions cover a spectrum from MTT guarantees to cash payouts for being dealt four of a kind at a cash game table, providing much greater incentives than many of its competitors.
The Not-So Secret Ingredient
While it is clear that these online poker operators are working hard to provide a product that online poker players want, those operators that do not accept players from the US have had their share of successful innovate game variants and promotions as well. The most notable aspects that separates these two groups is the presence of the players in the US which have been starved for online poker since the US Department of Justice stepped in and seized hundreds of millions of dollars in 2011.
In fact, since the famed raid on the industry known as Black Friday, the only other notable action taken against foreign sites that have continued to facilitate online poker games for people within the US happened a month later, in May 2011. Since then, there have been no publicly reported actions taken against US-facing offshore sites.
During that time, the people behind the now-defunct Lock Poker have disappeared owing players millions of dollars, and US-regulated online poker rooms—which failed to meet unrealistic revenue expectations—have pointed the finger at these offshore sites as part of the reason they have struggled.