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Vicky Nolan

Lassoing Pay-Players with Free-Play Poker

18 October 2001

Officials at, a poker portal Web site, say they have an ideal tool for attracting new players to online gambling sites. The company has developed free-play poker tournament software that its creators think could become an invaluable addition to the marketing mix for online gaming and betting sites.

"We've now realized that the software we've developed, free-play multi-player poker software, is a fantastic marketing tool for attracting gamblers, whether it be casino players, sports bettors, poker players," said Mark Napolitano, a founder of the privately held Austin, Texas-based company.

The software attracts new players and retains them for hours at a time, during which time sites can promote to and "harvest" their players, Napolitano added.

"It's a great tool to attract masses of players and retain them in one place for a long period of time," he said.

Just how long is players' attention captured through the software? For several hours at a time, Napolitano said, since poker tournaments tend to last at least three to four hours at a time, with lots of slower times during play. Some poker players have even been known to spend literally half the day playing against others online.

The software has been developed to capitalize on the "captured attention" of players, enabling online gaming sites to market directly to the players over an extended period of time. An interactive feature that allows players to compete against one another accomplishes this.

While players are competing against one another, a Web-based panel is shown in the same screen as the game. Online gambling sites can promote their latest odds or game offers in this section. The promotion page can also be linked to a full Web site where a player can gamble while action is slow at the virtual poker table.

"We've produced a product that has the ability of having a thousand eyes on it simultaneously, let's say," Napolitano explained. "But that is continual traffic coming through, but being retained for a long period of time. We believe that it gives a marketer a longer amount of time to convince that player to buy the product--whatever the product may be."

The new software can be an invaluable tool for luring new players for a number of reasons. For example, letting players play "free" is a great incentive.

"'Free' is the highest successful word for marketing," said Kathy Makgill, vice president of business development for PokerPages.

She added that real-money sites would find that offering free-play poker to novice players gives these "newbies" an opportunity to gain confidence before venturing into the real money arena.

"Tournament play is the social aspect that people enjoy so that 'me-against-the-machine' games don't provide," she said, adding, "It stokes the competitive nature, too."

Added up, Makgill thinks that this could be a real win-win relationship for both the free-play software company and any Net betting companies that license the software.

PokerPages tournament software was developed in-house. The portal site was launched in March 2000 and quickly attracted a large player-base.

The site boasted more than 108,000 unique visitors during the month of September 2001 and also has signed up 15,400 readers for its bimonthly newsletter.

Lassoing Pay-Players with Free-Play Poker is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan