How Big is the Serious Poker Player Market?

How Big is the Serious Poker Player Market?

imagesOne big poker marketing mistake I see the more niche poker operations make is overestimating the size of their potential audience. Generally speaking I see there being two audiences in poker, serious players and recreational players (Once upon a time I would have said fish and shark).

It is the serious player market that gets vastly overestimated. Most poker players are recreational, serious players are in a significant minority. However it is this small minority that tends to be the savviest, most knowledgeable, most vocal and wins the most money. Because they seem to have more of a voice, they are assumed to be bigger in number than they are.

So when people create products for serious players, stuff like software, books, training sites etc, they are often done with very high expectations. Don’t get me wrong, the market is big enough for a lot of these things, ask PokerTracker and CardRunners. But some of the stuff like bubble insurance, poker marketed energy drinks and dating advice for poker players (Not a joke, a real thing ) for me are too niche to do really well.

Another recent example where I think this market has been greatly overestimated is the International Stadiums Poker Tour. I have written at length already why I think it is likely to fail, and one big reason is they have made an assumption that 30,000 serious players from the UK and Europe will pay upwards of £300 (In some cases £3,000) to play, when the biggest attendances in Europe have only been around the 2,000 mark, and most events considerably much smaller. I know they are specifically targetting serious players, not recreational, because by their own admission they are not doing any mainstream marketing, so are completely relying on the informed minority via places like PokerNews, 2+2 etc.

Educated guesses at the serious market

images3So how big is the serious poker player market? I’d guess at less than 5% of the total market of active players (I think the figure will have a direct correlation with how many winning players there are). I’ve anecdotally asked this question of a number of key industry figures over the years and this week and if I was to guess based on what they said, I would say there probably about 200,000 to 300,000 people who would consider themselves serious players and maybe 50,000 hard core poker nuts (ie. poker nerds like me or professional level players).

However it has to be said that there was some great variation between who I asked, and what they defined as ‘serious player’. I define it as the kind of person who posts on 2+2, uses poker tracking software, multi table, has a good rakeback deal and is probably a winning player. Some people I asked defined serious players as those with the potential (or desire) to turn professional, and others defined them as simply knowing who Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey were. One person I asked about this was Bill Rini, who told me he thinks it was one of the toughest questions in poker to ask right now.

Based on my definition, I have seen some raw numbers published publicly that might give an indication of how big this market is. Twoplustwo have about 350,000 registered members. This gives a reasonable idea of the English speaking market, but not everyone posts on forums despite the widespread belief that they are representative of the entire market. PokerStrategy.com have over 6 million members worldwide. However a huge proportion of these are recreational players who signed up for a free bankroll, bust it, and never played again. I read somewhere  that DeucesCracked has about 75,000 members (Not active or paying members). All of these figures will include people who had multiple accounts, spam accounts and people who showed interest in but gave up on poker.

One area I do have some reliable figures for is the poker book market. The traditional No Limit Hold’em book is a good example of a venture I would warn people against, for profit. The market is certainly big enough in and of itself, but it is ridiculously competitive, there are so many titles available already. 10,000 is a good total sales for a title, 20,000 was considered great pre Black Friday, and only the Brunsons, Hansens, and Harringtons sell upwards of 100,000. Most books (Any book, not just poker) sell less than  500 copies in their lifetime, so if you are writing a poker book, make sure it’ stands out from the crowd, or is something you would happily do for free.

images2I’d love to get some figures on how many unique sales Hold’em Manager and PokerTracker have between them. I’d hazard a guess that 90%+ of serious online players use one of these two products, and therefore might give a good indication how many serious players there are full stop. Recreational players have no idea that these things exist for the most part, so by default knowing they exist = serious player.

The one positive about the serious poker player market is because it is relatively small, if your product is good, everyone will hear about it. Between them Hold’em Manager and PokerTracker probably have 90% of the serious online guys use their product, everyone has the Hendon Mob DB and TwoPlusTwo saved in their favourites, everyone uses PokerNews to check on live tournament updates and everyone has a PokerStars account. So the one saving grace is if your product is good enough, you should be able to convert a huge percentage of the total number of serious players (Whatever that figure may be).

I’m hoping to get some more data on this area in the future to see just how close my guesstimations were on this. I could be way off, but it’s not a question I see asked enough and will be interested to find out what other people think.