Poker appears recession proof

Mar 24, 2009 4:07 PM

As reported last week in GamingToday, Nevada’s poker rooms held their own in January, while other areas of the casino posted mostly double-digit declines in revenue.

The state’s 886 poker tables generated $12,670,000, less than 1 percent below the amount "raked" a year ago.

The "rake" is what the poker room takes as its revenue from every poker pot.

On a per table basis, January’s revenues were even better than a year ago. Poker rooms raked an average of $14,300 per table, slightly more than the $14,244 they raked in January 2008.

Poker in Nevada remains popular for several reasons. The game itself offers value, plenty of "bang for your buck" since astute players can generally play for hours on a bankroll that would be eaten up quickly by other games’ house advantage.

The operative word here is "astute," because poker contains a significant skill element, which players can master through time and effort.

It’s also a social game, in which players interact with each other over extended periods of time.

Poker also offers intangibles other games can’t offer. For instance, a skilled poker player – or even a rank amateur – can achieve a lottery-like payoff or even celebrity status by winning a big poker tournament.

We see this every year in the major tournaments, such as the World Poker Tour or World Series of Poker.

But probably the most important factor in keeping poker popular has been the innovative and creative way poker room managers have given poker players what they want.

For instance, more and more rooms are adding other games, such as Pot Limit Omaha, Omaha 8 or Better, Razz and Limit Hold’em. These games tend to favor the more experienced players, and they also extend the playing experience.

Poker rooms also haven’t forgotten about comps and other perks for players. The Palms, for instance, features a liberal comp schedule, plus a casino rate on guest rooms for poker players, as well as other incentives such as free roll tournaments and bonuses.

Finally, poker room managers have been insightful in their promotions, as well as relentless in promoting them.

So far this year we’ve seen some great poker tournaments at casinos such as The Venetian, Caesars Palace, Wynn Las Vegas, and next month Bellagio’s poker room takes center stage with the World Poker Tour’s Classic event.

Other events such as the Jennifer Harmon charity tourney, as well as the Hard Rock’s "Positively Kids" charity poker tournament generate loads of publicity and are popular with players.

Overall, we’ve seen that sitting on your hands (and your handle!) won’t cut it in the casino. The other areas of the casino should be aggressive in their promotions and, taking a lesson from poker room managers, the best ideas will undoubtedly succeed.