Tapping the Poker Demographic Hiding in Plain Sight
Tapping the Poker Demographic Hiding in Plain Sight
Paul Gould, CEO of Replay Poker, breaks down whether our obsession with re-engaging the millennial generation blinded us to the existence of another crucial but too often ignored demographic.
The World Series of Poker main event this year drew the second-largest field in its history. Some 7,874 hopefuls ponied up the $10,000 buy-in for a shot at the big one, creating an $8.8 million first prize. Only in 2006 – at the height of the poker boom – has there been more entrants, and we’re supposed to believe poker play is in decline.
So if reports of the death of poker have been greatly exaggerated, what exactly are online operators missing?
It’s true that online poker has struggled in recent years and has failed to keep pace with real-money and social casino. The former has stagnated and, in many cases, declined, while the latter has enjoyed meteoric growth.
There are many reasons for this – casino was quick to embrace mobile, for example, and it was quicker to shift to changing player preferences including gamification features and rewards. This left online poker operators playing catch-up.
Much has been made of engaging with the hard-to-reach millennial generation, which has eschewed online poker for eSports and strategy games like Hearthstone – a digital turn-based card game set in the World of Warcraft Universe. Hearthstone amassed 30 million registrations in its first 18 months – equivalent to 40 percent of PokerStars’ entire player-base.
Reengaging with this demographic is crucial for future-proofing the industry, of course, but has our obsession with tapping the disengaged millennial generation blinded us to the existence of another important demographic right under our noses?
What the heathy fields at the World Series could be showing us is that there is a vast source of older players who are already poker fans and active participants in the game, but that do not play online.
These are the people, perhaps, who fell in love with poker – and all kinds of card games – while playing for match sticks around the kitchen table because they didn’t have Xboxes to distract them.
Replay Poker believes there is huge opportunity to engage with traditional land-based players by introducing them to online play and that social poker is the ideal tool to achieve this.
A lot of mature, land-based players still lack trust in online games – they are suspicious of RNGs, uncomfortable with online payment gateways, and so on. Social poker is free to play and strong on community, which is key to building trust – and trust is key to engaging with this demographic.
Here’s our five-point blueprint for tapping a different kind of player, one which, once switched on and engaged, remains fiercely loyal.
Community: Today, a strong community is what drives the growth of your player base. It’s more than just friend-requests and forums. For example, at Replay Poker we currently have 65 players filling several volunteer roles, such as moderators, player representatives, Facebook friends, blog buddies and even translators.
Those relationships are invaluable, and the benefits are numerous. If you’re not engaging extensively in today’s ultra-connected world, then your competitors will be.
Education: Social gaming has the power to educate and digital communities are powerful learning environments. For example, there’s not enough awareness of probability theory, so players don’t appreciate how frequently improbable-looking hands come up when you’re seeing so many hands dealt online.
Just as when you’re playing roulette and you occasionally see long strings of black or red, if your looking at thousands of poker hands a day, there's every likelihood of receiving patterns of hands that appear not to be random. It's all a part of the long tail distribution of possible outcomes, but it leads to distrust.
We see it as the job of the poker room to educate players to understand this. Education is a powerful retention tool and trust-builder.
Technology: This is particularly important in relation to the shuffling algorithm and random number generator.
Take, for example, the merits of true RNGs versus pseudo-RNGs (pRNGs). While pRNGs are capable of passing independent laboratory RNG testing with flying colours, the perception of what’s “true” versus “simulated” is important in people’s minds.
Transparency: Trust-building begins with transparency. The aim should be to provide the most open poker platform possible without compromising on security. At Replay Poker, we let players replay any hand they’ve ever played, for example, whether it was yesterday or ten years ago.
They can also view any other player’s profile, see how many chips they have and their rank, and all their recent hands. The message we’re sending is: we’re not hiding anything from you, and that builds trust fast.
Culture: Try always to put players first. Every touch point with players should be an opportunity to reinforce trust. If a player emails a complaint, deal with it quickly and efficiently, leaving them with a really positive impression and increased trust in your site.
The above approach will certainly help to engage a more mature poker player demographic – whether social or real-money – but in essence it is best practice and will also help tap into the psyche of those hard to reach millennials.