GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 5 - May 2008

45 as a “test drive” for players, and the af- filiate simply hopes the new players will like what they see, enjoy their time at the site and eventually make a deposit and become regular players. “They serve as an additional tool to pro- mote 32Red Poker,” O’Sullivan adds. “It is an excellent platform to show players the type of poker and rewards they would ex- pect from joining. Ultimately, we hope our freerolls not only increase the number of sign-ups, but also promote the brand and company philosophy.” But the return on freerolls can be limited. O’Sullivan estimates that just 5 percent to 10 percent of freeroll players end up converting into real-money depositors. Freerollsmonitor.com agrees, saying that the general estimate is around 5 percent, which begs the question: Are there ways to make freerolls more effective? “A freeroll player that makes a deposit usually makes a small deposit so to be really successful with freeroll players, you will have to be very patient,” says Nikolaj of Freerollsmonitor.com. “I have seen examples of players signing up [for a freeroll] and then making a deposit one year later. Some players will stick around, feel at home, maybe play some more freerolls and eventually they will make a deposit.” But some sites have grown tired of waiting for those players to make a deposit and, in turn, new strategies have evolved. “The original philosophy is not as effec- tive as it once was,” says O’Sullivan of 32Red. “The public freerolls with stag- gering amounts offered as prize money used to be an acceptable part of a long- term strategy. However, such freerolls may have only served to draw a number of players away from regular cash games to ‘hunting’ for freerolls.” To guard against “freeroll hunters” who simply troll the Internet for zero buy- in tournaments with little intention of making a deposit, affiliates have started to offer different varieties of freerolls. 32Red started hosting “cash back tour- naments,” which are still free with at- tractive prize pools, but for which play- ers must register and deposit to pay the buy-in before receiving a refund of the buy-in amount. “That way the player is much closer to being a real player and therefore signifi- cantly closer to begin earning commis- sion for affiliates,” O’Sullivan explains. In addition, “invitation only” freerolls al- low programs to target specific individuals who are more prone to deposit after play- ing a freeroll. Chipleader offers “depositor freerolls” in which only players who have deposited within a certain timeframe or a certain amount are eligible. Chipleader also targets players who have deposited previ- ously but have been inactive for a while. “There are many ways to convert play- ers,” Chipleader adds. “It’s just about be- ing creative and knowing your custom- ers’ needs and filling those needs.” Ultra-small buy-in tournaments have also been utilized more and more. In April, 888.com ran an “Almost Freeroll” promotion where players could buy-in for one cent. Winners of these tourna- ments won a $1,050 entry into the 888. com World Poker Crown, which boasted a $3 million grand prize. Using that same strategy, UltimateBet, in conjunction with Annie Duke, has designed a series of $1 Pro Bounty re-buy tournaments where players can win the total amount that a pro player bought in for, simply by knocking them out. “There is no doubt that [small-deposit tournaments are the general trend now- adays] and that’s understandable,” says Nikolaj. “The freerolls have the risk of getting a player to come in and never be seen again. If you have a low buy-in, it forces the player to deposit if they want to participate.” Nonetheless, “small-deposit” doesn’t have the same ring as “freeroll.” And for that reason alone, it appears freerolls – in some shape, form or fashion – are here to stay. “As the industry has changed with more and more competition, it has required the use of freerolls to be more and more cre- ative,” the Chipleader team adds. “We’ve had to develop new resources and uses for freerolls to keep the customer happy. “The industry is constantly changing and the abundance of competition will not allow for slacking.”

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