The WSOP Continues To Show Us What US Online Poker Can Be

Written By Martin Derbyshire on July 12, 2019 - Last Updated on June 5, 2022
Photo Credit: Joe Giron/WSOP

To say legal US online poker revenue numbers have been a disappointment would be an understatement. They’ve been downright disheartening. But what role can the World Series of Poker play in boosting online poker?

First, let’s look at some facts.

Online gambling as a whole helped turn the Atlantic City casino industry around. And the numbers just keep on growing.

Just a little over two years after online gambling launched in the Garden State, New Jersey online gambling sites were posting over $20 million a month in revenue. Now, for the past five months at least, they’ve gone over $30 million and are tracking to break $40 million. NJ online gambling sites could conceivably have a half-billion dollar year in 2019.

In contrast, online poker revenues hit an average of $2 million a month out of the gate and completely plateaued. In May, NJ online poker revenues reached around $1.7 million with sub-$2 million months becoming the norm rather than the exception.

New Jersey just simply doesn’t have enough players to make it the online poker market the industry hoped it would be. The same goes for Nevada and Delaware, who don’t even bother to publicly post the abysmal revenue numbers each produces.

An agreement to share player pools finally signed by all three states in 2018 didn’t really help. At least not as much as some hoped it would.

What online poker in the US can be

However, with the help of the World Series of Poker the past two summers, it has given us a glimpse of what online poker in the US can be. It has given us real hope for US online poker.

The agreement allowed to open up its schedule of online WSOP bracelet events to players in both Nevada and New Jersey last year. The result was entry and prizepool records for all four events.

In fact, it was so successful bumped its online WSOP bracelet event offering to nine this year.

A little noise about enforcement of the Wire Act made it look like only two of these events would be open to players in both states. However, the Department of Justice balked and players in both Nevada and NJ have been able to enjoy the full schedule.

WSOP online bracelet event records fall

So far they’ve held eight of the nine scheduled events and many of the records they set last year have fallen again.

In 2018, the $365 ONLINE No-Limit Hold’em event drew a massive field of 2,972 entries, creating a $974,816 prizepool. This year, they bumped the buy-in to $400 and drew just a little under that, at 2,825 entries. However, the prizepool crested seven figures at $1,017,000.

The $565 Pot-Limit Omaha event held last year drew 1,223 entries, creating a $635,960 prizepool. This year, a similar $600 PLO event drew 1,216, but again, the prizepool grew to $656,640.

In 2018, the $1,000 Championship event drew 1,635 total entries, creating a $1,553,250 prizepool. It was the record for the biggest prizepool in US online poker site history. This year, the championship event eclipsed that, drawing 1,750 and creating a new record $1,662,500 prizepool.

Finally, the $3,200 High Roller event in 2018 drew 480 entries, creating a $1,459,200 prizepool. This year’s same-price High Roller event more than one-upped it, drawing 593 and creating a new record $1,802,720 prizepool.

The million-dollar prizepools missing from the US online poker scene since grey-market operators were booted from the country in 2011 were also created in an $800 event and a $1,000 Double Stack tournament added to the 2019 WSOP schedule.

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There is a market for online poker

The WSOP and its online bracelet events only come around once a year. However, they continue to prove there is a market for online poker in this country despite the disappointing revenue numbers throughout the rest of the year.

Pennsylvania will presumably launch its first legal online poker sites later this month. If other states get wind of the WSOP’s online success, they may want in too. There will never be another boom like the early 2000s. However, somewhat of a return to the glory days of online poker in the US could soon be on the offing.

The final $500 WSOP Summer Saver online WSOP bracelet event will go off this Sunday, July 14. It is open to anybody inside New Jersey or Nevada. Odds are it will also continue to provide even more hope for the future of online poker in this country.

Photo credit: Joe Giron/WSOP

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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