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There's been plenty of talk about how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) sucks. Yep, it does. Some folks agree, but they take a step back, think about it, and find opportunity. This bill affords those with an innate sense of opportunity a chance to capitalize on a bad situation.

In this post, I'm not going to go into details on where I think there is money to be made, but instead I want to address a situation I know many are concerned about...the plummeting registration numbers expected at the major tournaments now that 3rd party registrations will no longer be accepted. In other words, you can't win a satellite on a poker site and then let the poker site handle the registration process for you.

For now, I'm going to focus on the 2007 WSOP, though these ideas could be adjusted for other major tournaments such as WPT events. I will also focus on the two online poker sites I believe could capitalize on this situation, Full Tilt and PokerStars.

The 2006 WSOP was gravy for online poker sites. Satellite winners to the main event were huge and the marketing and advertising opportunities were abound. PokerStars alone sent more satellite winners to the 2006 main event than there were total entrants in 2003. This bill changes everything. According to a recent article by

A large majority of the 8,773 players who participated in the 2006 Main Event qualified in this manner, and in combination with the passing of the UIGEA and several sites' withdrawal from the U.S. market, all but ensures that the WSOP will have significantly smaller participation numbers in 2007. Phil Gordon, one of the celebrity endorsers for Full Tilt Poker, suggested that the change will eliminate perhaps 75% of the Main Event entrants, predicting that 2,200 players might be a reasonable expectation for 2007.

Recently, Pot Committed did a great job in her blog post detailing how this change could alter the tournament circuit dramatically. While I think things will probably never be the same, it is times like these where poker sites must get to work.

In essence, the thought process is, if Joe Average plays a satellite to a large tourney, but gets straight cash put into his account instead of the 3rd party registration, then he will just keep the cash and forego the tourney. This is a huge obstacle to overcome and I agree that many, many people will just take the money and run. What now?

Take Full Tilt for example. Let's assume a player wins a satellite to the main event worth $12,000 ($10,000 for the buy-in and $2,000 for expenses). Full Tilt could release the $2,000 directly to the satellite winners Full Tilt account to prepare for travel expenses. The remainder of the $10,000 would be held until the player arrives in Vegas. At this point a Full Tilt representative could give the funds to the satellite winner.

At this point, you have to wonder what is going to keep the player from booking a flight back home immediately or donking off the $10,000 at the cash game tables? I say incentives, baby, incentives.

First off, Full Tilt should offer any satellite winner to the main event either A) a complimentary seat to any $1500 WSoP event for that year, or B) $1,000 (10% of the buy-in) credited to their Full Tilt account. These options would only be available to players who register for the main event and agree to wear Full Tilt gear throughout both tourneys (if they choose the complimentary $1500 seat).

Now I can already feel the blank stares towards the computer screens from folks wondering why in the hell Full Tilt would pony up $1000 or $1500 per person to get them to play at the WSoP main event. And I say that is some damn fine advertising they will have going on. In a time where plummeting registrations are expected, a poker site could emerge as the knight in shining armor.

Imagine 3200 sign-ups for the main event where 1200 of them are from Full Tilt satellite winners. Sure Full Tilt will pay out $1.2mm - $1.8mm, but that will be some of the best advertising around. Not only will there be a buzz about what they accomplished (much like Stars had with the 2000+ sign-ups in 2006), but their brand name will be ALL OVER the main event as well as another event if the players choose the complimentary ticket option.

Now I'm sure there are logistics issues that I'm probably not thinking enough about, but that is not what I'm trying to do here. I'm just trying to think of some ideas that might work, such that others can put them into place. I could be way off on if it is feasible and if a site would be willing to pony up that amount. However, imagine the publicity that this could bring. I don't know what there budget is, but I see a lot of commercials going on so I figure they could probably fit it in.

Moving on, it doesn't need to stop there.

Full Tilt could also offer distinct avatars to those individuals who will play in the tourneys. For instance, they could have an
avatar that looks like a trophy with something like, "Team Full Tilt 2007 WSOP Qualifier" inscribed on the front. Anyone who satellites into the main event could use that avatar indefinitely. Imagine playing at Full Tilt and having that trophy as your avatar. PokerStars could do something similar, but it would just be smaller since their avatars are smaller. Maybe they could use a button instead.

There are many other incentives sites could offer such as freerolls, free swag, personal profiles, tourney backing, etc...

I guess what I'm getting at is the larger poker sites could become a beacon for the tourney circuit. Sure it might be a loss leader due to the costs, but I believe it could be a huge benefit in the long run. Sites like Full Tilt and PokerStars are probably starting to see an influx in U.S. players who were banished by sites like Party Poker. FT and Stars have already "saved the day" for many players by announcing they are here to stay. Now might be the time to announce an answer to the 3rd party registration conundrum.

With the above post, I'm not saying I have the answer. I'm just saying there is an answer and I hope we get to see it soon. I have never played a large field, high buy-in tournament, but I damn sure want to some day.

Things may never be the same, but that doesn't mean we quit. I say...

...Lets Light This Candle.

posted by TripJax @ 2:17 PM,


At 3:35 PM, Blogger pokerpeaker said...

Those are great ideas, Trip. Why aren't you working for Full Tilt?

At 4:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great thinking. Great post. I'm not sure if its the only site, but provides icons that will show at the table if you want them to if you win events. At $2.20 and $5.50 SNG tables I've sat with people who have won anywhere from $50 freerolls to $20k freerolls, and seats to WPT events or Aussie Millions. I think this is a brilliant idea, and I want one of those icons bad. But I'm just kinda gay like that.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger TripJax said...

I haven't played at, but after reading your comment i went there and noticed that feature. Pretty damn cool. I'm sure there are many other perks, but we'll see.

Oh, and thanks Peaker!

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Trip, these are really excellent ideas. For starters, I've been saying the same thing for a couple of weeks about the qualifiers into the WSOP for 2007 -- take it from me, these sites will find a way to let people win the buyins to these events still, even if they can't directly register the winners for the WSOP tournaments themselves.

When I won the Bracelet Race this past summer to play in the 2006 WSOP, that's exactly how it worked. $500 cash into my full tilt account as part of the $2k winning package, and the rest of the deal was $1500 in wsop buyin chips that were only available for direct pickup by me at the Rio, no more than 25 or 30 feet away from the registration desk for the wsop. This would be a perfectly viable way (I think) for the major U.S. online poker sites to still offer wsop and other major U.S. tournament packages.

And I really love your trophy icon idea. Don't even try to tell me there aren't tons of players out there who would kill for some of that stuff.

Nice thinking man. Hopefully you can take over Lee Jones's job sooner rather than later.

At 2:24 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...


You hit it on the head. The advertising value of having players at these events will allow sites like FT to toss some extra incentive dough for those who actually choose to buy-in/pay for the events with their "satellite" $$. I don't even think it will be such a loss leader when you consider the juice that the sites are making on the satellites. Plus, the players will be only able to get seats from a limited number of sources (FT, Stars, and some smaller sites), so there will be more satellites for those particular sites and hence more tourney fees that they can use to offer $1k to players who follow through and play the events.

I swear, I have no idea how you keep coming up with this type of stuff.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

This is similar to MMORPG type trophies (playing nets you a higher realm rank/title/weapons/other geeky stuff).

It works because I know of one player who has played Dark Age of Camelot for several hours a day (8+) for the last three years to obtain the highest ranking.

At 8:16 AM, Blogger cc said...

Good stuff, and congrats last night! Well done.

At 5:27 AM, Blogger MrCy said...

Gambling at the WSOP is a thrilling experience.


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