Few would argue that Black Friday has taken a devastating toll on the US online poker market. Week on week, Sunday’s online tourneys on PokerStars, Full Tilt and Cereus saw an average decline of 28% in number of participants, a nearly 50% drop in guarantees, and an overall prize pool down 34%. Poker tracking sites are reporting cash games traffic is down 33% at Stars, with Cereus off 39% and Full Tilt off almost 50%.
However, some poker tracking sites are trying much too hard to find a silver lining by pointing out that, of the sites that continue to serve the US market, Cake was up 9% week on week, Merge was up 23%, while Bodog showed growth of 25%. These increases might sound impressive, but it’s worth noting that none of these sites boasted anywhere near the market share previously enjoyed by the indicted companies, so a 1% loss by Stars and a 1% gain by Bodog doesn’t mean the respective losses/gains cancel each other out.
These percentages remind us of the figures always cited by companies just getting into the mobile gaming space, who breathlessly report their mobile divisions experiencing 400% growth year on year. It sounds great until you realize that the previous year’s mobile divisions consisted of three walkie-talkies, a ballpoint pen and a steno pad. Mobile gaming is indeed growing, but these percentages are not the best barometer for tracking its progress.
To put the poker picture in perspective, consider that Bodog’s Sunday $100k Guaranteed drew 615 entrants, up from 531 the week before — a 16% increase. Sounds impressive, but in terms of flesh and blood, that double-digit percentage increase represents a grand total of 84 extra players. And there was still a significant overlay. Compare that to the combined drop of over 8,000 players at Stars’ and Tilt’s major Sunday tournaments.
Crunching the numbers further, we find the combined loss of cash players at Stars, Tilt and Cereus clocks in around 22,303. Compare that with the total 837 players gained by Merge, Cake and Bodog in the same period, and it becomes clear that the vast majority of players have yet to find a new poker home. In short, Friday’s move by the Department of Justice has achieved its desired effect. Poker in the US is now, at least for the foreseeable future, dead, and any suggestion by poker traffic monitoring sites to the contrary is wildly off the mark and irresponsible.