Marketing the PSPC and Online MILLIONS

Marketing the PSPC and Online MILLIONS

pjimage (1)I am genuinely excited about the two mega events from PokerStars and partypoker as both a player and somebody who works in the industry. I’ve written about both already quite a lot at from the player perspective but today I wanted to take a bit of a deep dive into the marketing prospects for each event. Which one will be easier to market, which one will be easier for the poker media to write about and what the opportunities are for both?

It’s worth noting that it is very early days for both events and we have a whole year to market both, so these are my early thoughts which will no doubt evolve. Please take the following as an analysis of what we know so far, there are some really talented people at both sites and no doubt there are lots of surprises along the way.

Beyond that caveat I’ll assume you are already aware of the events USPS and qualifying routes.


MILLIONS_LIVEThe obvious selling point in this event is that obscene $20 million guarantee and on face value $20 million sounds better than $9 million, even though the latter is added money, which in general is the more enticing prospect. The team from Dusk Till Dawn work closely with partypoker these days and their entire USP has been taking on massive ‘if you build it, they will come’ guarantees, often falling short but accumulating credibility for always paying out (it’s sad I have to mention that as if it is not a given in poker, but we have seen plenty of guarantee scandals in this game). I don’t know if Dusk Till Dawn have any involvement in this event but partypoker could certainly adopt something they have done well over the years.

Whenever Dusk Till Dawn look like they are going to miss one of their big guarantees they double their efforts and start pleading with the poker community to get in on the action. This is both in a ‘do not miss this potentially huge overlay’ value proposition as well as a ‘come on guys, help us out, we do so much for poker’ plea. The Online MILLIONS, a (presumed) re-entry with four ‘Day 1s’, can very much adopt this approach. If it gets to Day 1C and the overlay looks big, that in itself becomes a big last minute story that should command social media as well as the poker media headlines.

dusk-till-dawnDusk Till Dawn have always positioned themselves as ‘plucky underdogs’ in the poker world in this respect. They were, after all, a poker room created out of frustration with how bricks and mortar casinos treat poker players. As such they always have been able to harness the good will of poker players who genuinely appreciate what they do. It’s funny, but in the UK most players don’t want their events to be overlays, which is a testament to their reputation.

Even though partypoker are part of a much larger casino group, there is a real opportunity to position this event in those terms. While GVC Holdings are a massive operator, partypoker are still a minnow compared to PokerStars in poker market share. The poker community have so far been delighted by this new level of competition from them, especially with their live tour, which I believe has already become the best value live tour in poker. There is also a significant anti-PokerStars sentiment within serious poker circles right now. I hope it is all done in a friendly spirit of fun and it doesn’t get nasty, but it would be quite easy to position partypoker as the David to PokerStars’ Goliath, suggesting that it is incumbent on serious poker players to get behind this event to help challenge the PokerStars monopoly.

I’ve already suggested in my writing this will be the tougher of the two events and suspect that is not a problem for partypoker, who are really creating a ‘best of the best’ event. What this really is though is ready made history, unless PokerStars have some massive plan to gazump them during WCOOP, this will become the biggest online MTT of all time. This should be part of the poker marketing before, during and after – ‘play at partypoker the home of the biggest event in online poker’.

I would also hope that partypoker have some big plans where Twitch was concerned with this event. It is a given that some players will stream it, but whenever a big streamer is playing for big money, it tends to get poker on the homepage of Twitch. Lex Veldhuis managed to get 15,000 people watching PLO (of all things) when he was playing at a WCOOP final table with around $100k to the winner. The biggest online tournament of all time with something like $4 million to the winner should be the biggest poker stream of all time on Twitch and could convert a lot of new players to partypoker, so I really hope they have this in mind as part of the end goal of the project and have several big sponsored players streaming the event.

The PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship

Looking at the free qualifying routes for both events, partypoker is rewarding consistent players (In tournament leaderboards, for example) whereas PokerStars have a number of ‘mission’ type ways to earn raffle tickets to win a seat.

As enticing as big money is, over the years I have learned that low hanging fruit converts players very well. Working for several affiliate sites I have seen $10 instant bonuses get much more interest than $600 match bonuses, for example. Micro stakes strategy content gets way more eyes than how to beat $300/$600. Likewise, cashing once in the Sunday Storm or opening a single PokerStars Chest is going to be a much easier marketing proposition than asking somebody to be the most consistent MTT player of the week. Even though the PokerStars method is much more random and the partypoker approach is more autonomous. In fact I could see lower stakes players being quite intimidated by the Online MILLIONS, even though they have a low stakes MTT leaderboard, it still requires a lot of volume.

There is much more variety with these PSPC ‘missions’ even if they are very random. In some cases you have to win a marquee event, in others you can just cash, bubble, buy-in, open a ‘Chest’ or win a cash game hand with Pocket Queens. They even have done a good job integrating their live broadcasts by giving away a package for viewers of the PCA stream with ‘missions’ you are only aware of from watching. I think the end goal is for customers to experience the entire PokerStars offering throughout 2018, banking on the hopes they will enjoy it and keep playing even when they miss out on their PSPC package. Players are much more rewarded for ‘sampling’ PokerStars, whereas the Online MILLIONS is more about rewarding the best players.

PokerPages PhotoWhich gets to the crux of the appeal of this event, which is that it really is going to be an ‘experience’ first and foremost. It’s in the Bahamas and for the first time since the early poker boom we are going to see swathes of enthusiastic amateurs at a buy-in level we have never seen them at before. This will be a bucket list item for some, it will create some John Hesp-esque viral moments and if an amateur managed to win a mini-Moneymaker effect would not be out of the question. It will be much more fun to watch at the time, and after the fact on TV and YouTube. The players hoping to play will be much better able to visualise themselves playing it compared to Online MILLIONS, which will always be an advantage for live poker over online (of course the counter argument there is somebody will win $4 million from the comfort of their home).

The drawback for the PSPC is the random nature of a lot of the packages, it really is a lottery. I think there is an opportunity, however, for PokerStars to capture this ‘John Hesp/bucket list’ appeal by creating a few ways for players to qualify and go viral at the same time. Maybe some sort of promotion that rewards Twitch streamers, or judges YouTube auditions, or a freeroll for bloggers like they used to do with the World Blogger Championship. Something which would capture the enthusiasm for this event, reward effort instead of randomness, and give them lots of free marketing at the same time. The 300+ packages are all being given away for free anyway, so why not maybe make five of them go to viral sensations, whom we can root for in the event afterwards?


It’s early days for both the PSPC and the Online MILLIONS, I predict big surprises throughout the year as each site tries to outdo the other.I’m hoping to interview the people behind both events, as well as speaking to some people at smaller operators to see how they plan to compete with these two gargantuan tournaments, so stay tuned and join my mailing list below to be the first to get the latest updates:

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