Don’t ask me why, but the other day my mind randomly wandered to the summer of 2006, when I was covering the World Series of Poker for another website. While I was walking around the poker lifestyle expo with a friend one day, a representative from Ladbrokes approached and asked if we would mind taking some time out of our day to participate in a focus group of sorts. Since he offered to pay us each a hundred bucks, we happily obliged.
Ladbrokes was considering entering the U.S. market (ah, the good old days before the UIGEA) and was trying to determine what sort of image it wanted its poker room to project. I actually found this quite interesting, as I never really thought about the image, or personality, as it were, of an online poker room. Now, fast forward to 2009 and my inexplicable 2006 WSOP daydream that really had nothing to do with the 2006 WSOP, and I’m sitting here pondering how other poker rooms have positioned themselves to potential customers. Not only pondering it, though, but writing it all down, too!
Party Poker
Back when Party Poker was the king of the hill, its image was right there in its name. Join Party Poker and have some fun! Party Poker was the site for the every man, the person who plays five dollar home games. It was a place where everyone could feel comfortable and just enjoy playing poker. Their television commercials fed into this, too – regular people needing a break from everyday life and a silly catch phrase (OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH PARTY POKER!!!!!!!) helped fill up the tables with people just looking for a poker party.
While Chris Moneymaker’s rise to prominence allowed PokerStars to appeal to home game players with the dream of becoming world champions, the site has really cultivated the image of being a poker room where people come to be the best. From the name to the highlighting of its three consecutive WSOP champs (Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Joe Hachem), to its commercials where it pros are intensely competitive, everything about PokerStars screams “serious players only.”
Full Tilt Poker
Full Tilt Poker positioned itself as a site for poker fans. From day one, the room was designed to attract people who wanted to “Learn, chat, and play with the pros.” You want to play with Chris “Jesus” Ferguson? Ok, he’s right over there at the low stakes tables. Take a seat.
Bodog Poker
Bodog Poker was founded by a billionaire who lives a jet setting, playboy lifestyle, and the site is created in his image. It evokes the fantasy of being a cool, suave, high stakes gambler, someone who wears expensive suits, sips expensive martinis, and stays in expensive hotel suites at the casino. Sort of a James Bond-ish feel, without the violence, but with the intrigue.
Despite the differences in marketing, the mix of players at three of the four sites above (and others I did not mention) has become similar over the last couple years as the sites have significantly increased their efforts to attract the high volume, professional players. Even a site like Party Poker, which marketed itself as a casual site, has developed a VIP program designed to bring in the high rake contributors (although tons of sharks have always played there, as there were lots of fish to feed on and Party Poker’s software has been multi-table friendly for several years). Bodog Poker is the one that has never really embraced the high volume pro, as it has never had a real VIP loyalty program and it still only allows customers to play on three tables at a time, something daily grinders don’t like.
As one might expect, Bodog lags way behind those other three sites in player traffic. According to, Party Poker, PokerStars, and Full Tilt all rank in the top four in cash game traffic, while Bodog barely cracks the top fifteen.
When all is said and done, an online poker room can brand itself however it would like, but if it does not install features that players want, it won’t fill its tables.

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