Don’t offer poker!!!
Really. It’s that simple.
Most sports books offer poker to their customers as a way to keep players from discovering other poker sites. They understand the tendency for there to be cross-over players from sports betting to poker and they’ve attempted to keep their sports book players from wandering off to other sites for their poker playing.
That’s all fine and dandy but there’s an attitude in the industry that the sports book owns that customer or at least that customer’s betting action, which is an incorrect assumption. It’s sort of like your local cable company selling you bundled internet, cable television, and phone and then getting upset when you start canceling your premium cable channels because you’re spending too much time on the internet to watch as much television as you used to.
Rather than improving their cable channel lineup or providing you extra value, now the cable company wants to restrict your use of the internet in the hopes that you’ll spend more time watching television and move back up to your old package. They call their new internet offering, Enhanced Internet, and claim they are removing the internet’s clutter out of your way. Of course, Enhanced Internet involves blocking YouTube, Facebook, and downloading of movies and music.
That’s basically what’s happening right now with sports book customers. They’re being sold a bundle of gambling products but the sports book wants to control how and where the players lose their money and direct them to the products where they have the highest profit margin. This is an understandable business strategy but it’s not exactly honest when they say the changes are for the benefit of the player.
If the situation were reversed and the sports book’s customers were the sharks gobbling up the fish and then turning around and donking off their poker winnings in the sports book, there isn’t a single sports book that would be complaining about how unfair the game is. Not one.
I mean, you never hear sports books and/or online casinos lowering their sports or casino edges to help keep their customers gambling longer, do you? Do they handicap sports bets to make them more fair for customers who are bad at sports betting? Are there any casinos that will lower the house edge in their games in order to keep players gambling?
The problem with poker and sports books and casinos is that they’re two entirely different types of business. Yes, they’re all considered gambling, but games you play against the house and games like poker where you wager against other players are like night and day when it comes to how the room makes money.
Unfortunately, sports book operators think like sports book operators and casino operators think like casino operators. Neither thinks like a poker room operator.
That’s why I proposed that sports books and casinos should just get out of the poker room business unless they’re going to run their poker room like a poker room.
You can’t run a poker room with the same mentality that you run your sports book. It doesn’t work. Eventually the entire poker ecosystem will collapse under the weight of the sports book’s heavy handed attempts to make poker players act in a manner more agreeable to the sports book.
A lot of this tinkering the sports books want to do is based off the entirely false assumption that they are entitled to the player’s action. By that I mean that if ABC Sports Book sends a player to ABC’s skin on XYZ Poker Network, ABC falsely assumes they own the poker action. They view every dollar lost at the poker tables as a dollar lost from the sports book.
But if ABC didn’t offer poker there’s no guarantee that the money would have found its way to ABC. Let’s say that I have $200 to wager with every month. I put $100 on ABC and bet sports and I take the other $100 and put it on my favorite poker room and play poker.
Now ABC starts offering poker and my full $200 goes onto ABC. ABC is assuming that the $100 I spend on poker is money they are entitled to win from me in the sports book. They don’t understand that they gained whatever action they’re getting on my poker play as a bonus. That was money that was going elsewhere before.
But when you hear the sports books and even the poker networks talk about it, they speak in terms of owning the action. For instance, they say stuff like, “Our players are losing money to the sharks,” but the players don’t belong to the sports book. If the sports book didn’t offer poker the player would be playing on a different site losing that money. All they did was provide an incentive (convenience) for betting sports and playing poker under the same roof.
Or, what if I start off betting $200 a month on sports at ABC and really get into this poker thing. If I start spending $100 a month at their poker tables ABC views whatever money I lose to other players as money out the window for them. But in reality, if they didn’t offer poker I would have cut back my sports wagering by $100 anyway and been giving my poker business to someone else.
That’s why they’re trying to make poker behave more like games against the house. When they say that they want to handicap the game or even the playing field, what they’re really saying is that they want to figure out a way to make the players churn the money and generate more rake rather than losing it to players who are not going to give it back to them in the sports book or casino.
The big challenge for sports books and casinos is coming to grips with the fact that they need to treat their poker offering as a completely separate and independent entity. They have to quit thinking about them owning the customers and all of their action, and think about it as if they were building up a stand-alone poker business.
I mean, you don’t see Caesars Entertainment going around at the WSOP trying to get people over to the casino games, do you? Of course not. Caesars treats poker as a completely separate business unit. They realize that there’s money to be made building the WSOP brand. And while it may cannibalize some of their other gaming, it is also bringing in business they would have never had access to without poker.
On the other hand, you don’t see too many sports books known for their poker room offering. Nobody seems to be running their poker operations like they’re trying to be a market leader in poker.
Online sports books and casinos need to come to terms with the fact that as the popularity of poker increases that many of their players will divert some of their gambling money to poker. They can either accept that and try to offer the best poker playing experience for their players and keep some of that action (via the rake) or they should just abandon poker altogether.
It’s playing that middle that’s hurting the game. Forcing players to gamble on their terms rather than how players want to play has consequences. You can only force so much onto the players before the freedom, selection, and quality of games on other sites outweighs the convenience of doing all of their betting under one roof. And since that’s really the only thing holding most of these sports book poker rooms together, it could be a fatal mistake for them.