Offer promotions poker players can't refuse

December 02, 2014 3:00 AM


The concept behind Black Friday can be used to market any card room in Las Vegas. A friend called me this week about coming to California to play poker because the action in Las Vegas was dead. That got me to thinking about the key to successful marketing of card rooms.

The concept behind Black Friday, the biggest shopping season of the year for retailers, can be used to market any card room, whether in a brick-and-mortar casino or an online site. I have been in marketing most of my career, and even I finally fell for the hype this year and went shopping with the masses the day after Thanksgiving.

I went out looking for a deal on a name-brand tablet that was on sale for a deep discount, but the catch was there was only a limited supply. Of course, by the time I arrived they were sold out, but I ended up spending triple on what I was going to pay for the tablet on a lot of things I didn’t realize I needed until I walked in the door.

The concept is simple: Get the customers in the door. That’s the biggest challenge of any business. Do you remember when car dealerships used to run those big ads in the Sunday newspaper that said, “Hurry in! Only one at this price.”

Of course, that specific car would always be gone by the time you arrived, and the salesman would try and sell you on another. But it’s the same idea: Once you get people to your place of business, it’s easier to sell them on what you want them to buy.

This aggressive method of customer acquisition can make the difference between the success and failure of poker rooms. In the old days you heard the stories about shilling (a term that described paying people to make the place look busy) in slot parlors in Las Vegas. You must have action and get players in the door by whatever means necessary, including propping up the games.


I often wondered why poker has failed in places like New Jersey, and online poker numbers in Nevada are not meeting expectations. How could Ultimate Poker fail when the means to succeed are relatively easy to implement?

It seemed impossible for Ultimate Poker to fail in Nevada when they had all the tools and money for success when they launched in April 2013 with great fanfare. This was a historic moment for online poker. Ultimate Poker was the first site to deal the first legal hand of online poker in Nevada at 9 a.m. PST on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

Just a year and a half later they would be out of business. What went wrong? What they were unable to do was reach out to the Nevada player base. It’s a small market, so they failed in reaching a captive audience. If you know the players are not playing, then ask why not. Or better yet, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

In the beginning many online poker sites used bots that represented players, who in reality did not exist, to boost their traffic numbers. But to the average player the tables looked full around the clock. This illusion of non-stop action helped fuel the massive player growth in the early days of online poker. That may seem like a rather deceptive practice, but when gaming sites are not regulated as was the case for 15 years, that’s what you get.

The bean counters in their offices off the casino floor obsess over the cost of customer acquisition, which just complicates the matter. The simple point I am trying to make is this: Casinos need people to be successful. Nothing more and nothing less. Some people may say that’s easy to say but hard to accomplish. I say it’s easy to say and very easy to accomplish.

Casinos need people to play; online poker needs full tables to create action. Gambling is a social activity. People want to be where other people are when they are gambling. Ask players what they want to play at your establishment, and then do it, and they will come. How hard is that?

Right now with the ups and downs in the gaming industry, the players have all the power, and it is time they use it and demand more player benefits. This works both ways. Give the players what they want, and casinos will get what they want, which is increased revenue.

As more casinos are developed both online and globally, the more customer worth is escalating. The cost of acquisition will rise but so will profits. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

So how can a card room or casino be successful? How can a failing card room turn around their business? How can California launch online poker and be successful while not creating a monopoly for a few? We will show you how in Part 2.

Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at

GT Football Special