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Do Land Based Casinos Maximise Value From Their Poker Market?

Analysing the casino poker arena: by Carl “The Dean” Sampson

The game of poker in all of its various forms has been with us since the days of the old Wild West and frontier towns. The game has steadily grown in that time and it took the legendary heads up match between three-time World Poker Champion Johnny Moss and the prolific gambler Nick “The Greek” Dandalos to really drive the game forward. Then we had the arrival of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in the early 1970s and poker started to gain momentum.

However it was the arrival of the internet and the televising of poker in the late 1990s that quantumleaped the game into the monster that it is today. Millions of people all over the world play online poker every single day. There are countless poker tournaments played daily and million-dollar online events are now commonplace. The new, young breed of poker player was choosing to play online than to drag their bodies to a local casino.

The big problem is Inertia

The ultimate knock on of this was that more and more players were staying clear of card rooms and choosing to play online, where they could get advantages that live casinos and card rooms couldn’t offer. These were sign-up bonuses, rakeback, playing more tables, around-the-clock action and varying stake levels. In the early days of online poker there were safety and credibility issues. Once this problem had been resolved and players felt safe with their funds, then online pokerreally surged forward and enjoyed huge growth for several years running. The live card rooms were also showing increased business as the popularity of televised poker was making the game mainstream in the public eye.

One key problem that land based casinos have to overcome is inertia or the lack of desire to want to travel to a card room to play poker when you can easily get a game online. This is a problem that isn’t easily solved since younger players of today often view live poker games as being too old - ashioned and slow. After seeing hundreds of hands per hour online playing multiple tables and getting extra bonuses then the slowness of live play is a big problem for these players.

Everyone is a potential poker player

It has always been my belief that every single person that enters a casino is a potential poker player, even the ones that have never played before. Rather than compete with online poker and try to extract the serious grinders into their clubs then the key way forward to maximise their poker market is to utilise the people that are already walking through their door.

It is clear though that some casinos do not have the space for designated card rooms and these places are not really the focus of this article. At the end of the day though, live casinos cater more for recreational people. They have numerous casino games operating, bars, restaurants and even live entertainment. So their footfall is very good yet this is often not being maximised on their poker tables. In many landbased casinos the cash tables are usually empty for long periods of time.

The solution to the problem

I often think that the solution for land-based casinos when it comes to getting their clientele onto the poker tables is to first make them visually aware of poker. In other words, to stir their interest! It would be very easy to show live footage from the poker tournament if they were actually running one on screens around the casino floor. Another alternative would be to show old footage of World Series of Poker events or WPT final tables, or even episodes of High Stakes Poker with people like Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson competing for huge pots.

This then gets people thinking about poker. Formuch of the time in land-based casinos their cardrooms are empty either because tournaments have yet to start or have finished, or cash games are not running at that time. With numerous members of staff available who know how to play poker then it would be in their interests to run poker schools.

At the end of the day, poker (and especially Texas Hold’em) is a very easy game to learn. People that attended poker schools could be given information sheets to take home and tutorials on DVD or lessons placed could be uploaided on the casino website. Firsttime players could be given special start-up bonuses.

Increasing the Numbers

Most land based casinos have huge numbers of customers on their member lists and even small provincial casinos have 20,000 members or more. However only a small percentage of that figure are active and as many as half of that 20k figure may not be regularly attending the casino!

So a large potential poker market is being lost due to inertia or to online poker, or due to the fact the land-based casinos are often not maximising the potential of their own customer base. Mailshots and promotions would help to get many of these people active on the poker tables and playing poker. Because there is such a huge luck element in poker many of these new players would enjoy winning and would enjoy the experience of actually playing poker much more.

The adversarial nature of poker is what makes the game so appealing and once people play the game then they are often converts for life, even if they don’t become regular players. So the lesson is painfully clear to the land-based casinos: improve and maximise your own client base or run the risk of losing them to online poker forever.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is a professional poker player and coach and can also be seen on his website at www.pokersharkpool.com