Monday, May 09, 2005

Mmm, Malaise...

Many things rolling around in my monkey brain, none of them incredibly unique and/or interesting. Hah.

For all of you bonus monkeys out there, you might want to take note of recent developments at Empire (and Party to some extent, by proxy). Long story short, Empire is stepping up efforts to rid themselves of players who only play for bonuses, auditing accounts and deleting those that only deposit for bonuses, play almost exactly the raked hands required, and withdraw. If you have money in the account when it's locked it will eventually be returned to you, but it could take weeks for this to happen. This is a fact, not rumors or insinuations, and has already happened to numerous accounts.

If it's important to you to continue to have access to Empire reload bonuses, it's probably smart to start doing some cover play now. And I'd avoid the one day bonus they're offering on May 10th, as it has warning signs writ large all over it, and isn't a great bonus to begin with. By cover play all I mean is that you should chunk a little money in there every now and then when no bonus is active, and burn through some hands. It's very, very easy for them to flag your account when you deposit for a bonus and clear exactly the required hands and withdraw. It's a lot harder for them to flag you, though, if you have even a minimal amount of play when no bonus is active.

Stepping back a bit, I think this trend will probably continue, with online sites paying more attention to the bottom line in relation to bonuses and affiliate programs (including rakeback programs, which Party is also aggressively trying to stamp out on its own site and its licensees). The fact that Party Gaming and Tradal Ltd. (owner of Empire) are both positioning themselves for IPOs likely is accelerating the maturation of incentive programs, from the happy Wild West early days of anything goes, throw money at everyone to attract new players at all costs mentality, to a much more disciplined approach, where the incentives they do offer are targeted at player demographics who generate the most money for them.

The effect will likely ripple outward, too, as bonus-oriented players will migrate from the Party skins to other sites with more favorable bonuses. Which will eventually cause those sites to alter their own promotions, as their bottom line gets hit harder and harder. And so on and so forth.

So what the hell will happen? Bonuses will always exist, but likely not in their current form. Party and its skins will likely just end up giving everyone the finger and offering only a token signup bonus, knowing that they've got a good hammerlock on the current sweet spot demographics: fish with money that aren't aware of anything and the skilled players who are aware and seeking the aforementioned fish. Both of those demographics will play a ton of hands even if Party is offering them no bonus whatsoever.

I have to think that some sites will get smarter about the incentives they offer, finding ways to reward long-term players who stay on their site and hand them gobs and gobs of rake money, week in and week out. The current system ("Here's X dollars, play Y hands") is doomed, as far as a way of building long-term loyalty. Someone is going to crack and just build rakeback into their system, paying out X percentage of your rake on a sliding scale, based on how much rake you pay. Yeah, I know, sites have tried it, but none were "successful" sites to begin with, and basically doomed from the get-go. I wouldn't be surprised at all if UB or Absolute eventually gave something like that a shot.

I imagine some sites will also beef up their selection of items that you can redeem points for, so that you can actually get something more useful than a polo shirt or a suede jacket. Or simply let players convert loyalty points into tournament entries (including real tournaments, not just freerolls like Party does). That'd give players a real incentive, as far as their play equating to a free shot at say a $100K guaranteed tournament, and it'd also defray the cost for the site, to some extent, as they're still generating income from all the other normal entries.

More babbling to come later, when I knock out some jobby job work, on the relative value of chasing bonuses, even when you're a winning player and typically play mid/high limits.


Mourn said...

I think your last point is right on the money. You're going to see bonus money offered as tournament entires. "Deposit $500, Play 1500 raked hands a week for four weeks and get an entry in the last Friday night $100+$9 tourament of the month." This will appeal to players who are already there, keep the money on deposit longer and discourage the hit and run chasers to a large extent.

I also agree that we're probably looking at better items in the stores, which is a good thing. Stars already has a decent selection and UB's system is interesting where you can actually play for points. Party's selection is abysmal, and as ususal, they are way behind the curve but don't care because everyone plays there anyway.

The sliding scale rakeback would be the most attractive to serious players, I'd love to see a 10,000+ player site give it a shot.

Mike said...

is easy. rich

masterp said...

I like that idea of a poker site offering sliding scalerakeback