Thomas Skaggs -- winner of WSOP 2023 live event #78 -- shows off his WSOP gold bracelet. Trophies, Bracelets, Rings: How US Online Poker Operators Are Getting Physical Thomas Skaggs -- winner of WSOP 2023 live event #78 -- shows off his WSOP gold bracelet. Trophies, Bracelets, Rings: How US Online Poker Operators Are Getting Physical
WSOP.com

[WSOP gold bracelets] symbolize the ultimate dream for players, representing not only monetary success but also an esteemed place in the rich history of poker. When it comes to bestowing prestige upon first-place winners in poker, no brand does it better than the World Series of Poker (WSOP). While many sporting events opt for trophies and medals to honor players’ achievements the WSOP brand goes above and beyond by awarding coveted gold bracelets to its champions on top of the winning prize.

This unique tradition sets the WSOP real money platform apart from its counterparts, as its gold bracelets hold a special significance in the poker community. They symbolize the ultimate dream for players, representing not only monetary success but also an esteemed place in the rich history of poker.

In the world of real money online poker in the US, one brand that has long mirrored the WSOP’s approach is PokerStars. Acknowledging and celebrating personal milestones, PokerStars has been known to award bracelets to its prestigious WCOOP series winners, imitating the live WSOP format more than a decade ago. Additionally, the platform has offered elegant watches as rewards for its counterpart SCOOP series.

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However, over time, PokerStars discontinued the practice of awarding bracelets or watches to top performers. It did recently re-introduce the concept of offering physical hardware for select championship events, including the Main Events for WCOOP & SCOOP, though bracelets are no longer part of the rewards.

Apart from PokerStars, only GGPoker, the current leading online poker network, provides physical trophies to tournament victors, but only during series associated with prestigious brands like the WSOP or World Poker Tour (WPT).

US Operators Leveraging Physical Trophies to Celebrate Players’ Achievements

Yet, the US online poker market stands out as a unique domain where all operators engage in awarding physical trophies to the winners of their prestigious events. These operators — namely WSOP, PokerStars US, and BetMGM Poker — recognize the importance of celebrating players’ achievements and fostering a sense of pride in their successes.

PokerStars offers exclusive trophies to US online poker players as part of its major tournament series such as US COOP, which runs twice a year, the annual Winter Series as well as recently concluded Summer Stacks series. BetMGM spreads trophy events as part of its Championship series, held twice or thrice a year, while WSOP runs monthly Circuit Series giving away prestigious gold rings to winners alongside the online bracelet series, conducted once or twice a year.

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Although these trophies may not possess the same legendary status as the WSOP esteemed bracelets, they have managed to carve out their own place of honor among players. These trophies create a sense of community among players and provide them with social currency. Sharing images and stories of their trophy wins on social media platforms allows players to connect with others, showcase their achievements, and gain recognition within the online poker community.

This viral sharing of successes amplifies the reach of the operators’ brands, creating a positive feedback loop that attracts more players to their platforms. And the US operators have well realized the importance of community-building.

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Intensified Competition in the US Market

The timing couldn’t have been better, as the landscape of real money online poker in the US is undergoing a new phase thanks to Michigan joining the multi-state online poker compact, allowing for operators in states that are part of the agreement to share player pools. Michigan’s entry into the compact allowed PokerStars US to launch its shared liquidity network, becoming the second operator after WSOP.

Thanks to this liquidity agreement, the PokerStars US real money network, comprising PokerStars NJ & PokerStars MI, has bounced back to the top spot in New Jersey in terms of cash game traffic after a few months of playing an underdog in the market. The network is currently neck and neck with WSOP’s tri-state shared liquidity network, with the latter topping the revenues for the month of June.

Meanwhile, the BetMGM Poker network, comprising BetMGM itself, partypoker, and Borgata, still operates in a segregated manner with no cross-border liquidity but is enjoying annual growth in all of the markets where it operates. The network is poised for further growth once it launches the impending shared liquidity network that would allow it to connect BetMGM NJ & BetMGM MI networks. It is also long rumored to launch an online poker room in Nevada.

As the competition intensifies, such innovative approaches to enhancing the player experience will continue to shape the strategies of online poker operators, ultimately driving growth and success in the industry.