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Online Poker Struggles to Retain Players in a Fast-Paced Market

Despite a resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic, the online poker industry is now struggling to maintain player acquisition as consumer preferences shift towards quicker and more gratifying gaming experiences.

The Decline in Player Acquisition

The online poker scene enjoyed a significant boost during the pandemic as people sought entertainment from home. However, as life returned to normal, the industry has seen a decline in player acquisition. The demand for instant gratification and fast-paced game rounds has become a major challenge, leading to reduced player retention and difficulty in engaging the older generation with new innovations.

Expert Insights at Recent Summit

At the Summit, the “Back to basics – does poker really need re-inventing” panel, moderated by SBC Media Project Director Martyn Elliot, brought together experts to discuss the future of online poker. They explored why the game struggles to compete with other online casino verticals and entertainment options.

Amit Berkovich, VP Head of Poker at 888, explained that the market is saturated with various entertainment options, including recreational games and popular platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Netflix. Berkovich argued that while the game itself does not need to be reinvented, it requires innovation to stay competitive. He suggested that the structure of poker is solid, but the industry needs fresh ideas to attract players.

Peter Jesko, Strategic Consultant at Casino Guru, echoed this sentiment, stating that online poker is not dead but offers fewer opportunities for consistent earnings. He highlighted poker’s unique blend of gambling and skill, which distinguishes it from other games.

The Value of Live Tournaments

The discussion also covered the importance of live poker tournaments that stem from the online scene. Telly Bartolo, Marketing and Event Manager at Casino Malta, emphasized that live tournaments offer more than just gameplay; they provide a social experience where players can travel, meet people from different nationalities, and enjoy a comprehensive experience.

Berkovich mentioned that 888’s live tournaments often result in financial loss but serve as crucial branding and content creation tools. These events enable the company to connect with the poker community, receive feedback, and produce high-quality content.

Ivan Shumilov, Business Development Executive at Evenbet, described live tournaments as the “pinnacle for players,” offering significant and visible experiences through participation in large-scale events.

Challenges in Retaining Players

The panel also addressed the issues of player retention in online poker. Shumilov pointed out that simpler online casino games like slots are more appealing to players due to fewer instructions and quicker outcomes. Berkovich acknowledged the challenge of retaining poker players and proposed gamifying player education to make it more engaging and less patronizing.

Bartolo agreed, warning that too many rules and excessive education could deter players, making it harder to provide the quick and simple experiences that younger players desire.

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