Play Money Players Are Free to Officially Hate Me

Party Poker recently announced changes to their play money games which I’m sure many play money enthusiasts are going to hate. I guess I’ll add some more fuel to the fire by saying not only do I agree with Party Poker’s change but I was one of the people who supported such a change when I was with the company and I don’t think they should stop there.

Basically, what Party Poker has done is to put a cap on how many play money chips a player can accumulate. Their position is that the ability to accumulate large amounts of chips has resulted in a secondary market for play money chips on sites like eBay and ChipEmpire where players can run up huge balances and then sell their accounts.


First off, you have to look at what value play money players add to the poker site. After 120 days the value is close to zero. The number of conversions from play money to real money players is so small most poker sites write it off as zero value. That means if I can’t get you to make a deposit in 120 days I will never get your to deposit and essentially you’re just receiving a free service with me unable to recoup my cost of providing the service.

Some might argue that the fact that many play money players do convert to real money players that I’m making my money back on those players and that I should look at it from a global perspective. I give that argument some respect but the fact remains that if you don’t convert within 120 days then you simply costing me money. Money that could be spent on promotions and bonuses.

How can a play money player cost me money? They use network resources, server resources, etc. That’s in addition to the countless support emails they send (which most poker rooms ignore) asking for assistance transferring their play money empire over to another poker room and other senseless support questions. That may not seem like a lot of money per player but in aggregate for a large size poker room it could easily run into the millions of dollars a year.

Besides, why does any player need a billion dollars in play money chips? What’s the purpose? If they don’t want to make a real money deposit then why can’t they live with some upward limits on the amount of chips they can accumulate?

Of course, there is the legal issue as well. If the chips have monetary value via a secondary market is the room now providing wagering? Many sites allow play money players from countries where they cannot legally offer real money play so this is also a valid concern.

What I have also suggested in the past are two ways sites can monetize these players. This solves the problem for the poker room who is currently losing money on the players and it allows the players to continue enjoying the game they love.

The first idea is a subscription model. Players would be required to pay a monthly fee to play after they have been on the site for more than 120 days. In exchange for the fee the poker site could offer drawings or prizes giving most of the money back to players. I know there are some legal issues with this because if they pay for a membership and then receive prizes some jurisdictions might lump it into wagering but I’ve heard some creative ways around that problem that I think would work.

My second idea is to advertise on play money sites. Party Poker did this but I really feel they missed my vision when I suggested the idea. What I would have liked to have seen was perhaps a overlay on the table felt with a sponsor’s logo somewhat like you see on many televised poker events. You could also have certain rooms named after sponsors or offer freerolls in which the sponsor kicks in the prize pool (plus a little extra for the room) and you can require the players to take a quiz or visit the sponsor’s website for the password.

Unfortunately, what was implemented was banner ads in the lobby and around the table. I really don’t think that’s as effective because it doesn’t promote either brand (the room or the sponsor’s).

As the market gets more and more competitive I think you’ll see more rooms trying to monetize traffic or eliminate costs. Even though play money poker does help in conversions there is a point at which you’re simply providing a gaming platform for people who are never going to generate revenue for you.

photocred to jimmiehomeschoolmom

7 comments

  1. Why not instead of across the board subscription have a premium subscription system, where Party sells “add-on” play chips? That way they get to keep all the existing clients and profit from the demand for more chips. And people in places where wagering on-line is illegal are not forced to leave, because they can still be freerolling.

  2. I can’t say what they’ve done since I left but this thinking was in place without the consideration of conversion rates. That is a totally valid consideration as well. Probably not a huge deal in terms of dollars since people who are doing that probably aren’t high value players anyway but if it forces a few to go legit and open a real account . . . better than nothing 🙂

  3. Bill – is there any evidence to indicate that the selling of the play money chips is actually used to fund accounts via transfer? If so, Party could be unintentionally quelling their real money conversion rates by doing this. It doesn’t seem like it’s traceable, but I would imagine that it does take place.

Comments are closed.