What's the casino equivalent of online poker freerolls?

What's the casino equivalent of online poker freerolls?

Online freeroll poker is big business. Online gaming companies are clamouring to attract players and offering freeroll tournaments is one of their key weapons.

Freeroll poker exists in many forms. Sometimes it is an account to get started, sometime it is marketed as practice and often there may be costs further down the line. It’s used mainly by online gaming companies as a way of enticing new players, often by offering exclusive deals like these guys. It’s similar to how sports betting companies offer free bets when customers take up new accounts. A new customer for an online gaming company can be incredibly valuable, and even a moderate user can spend £3,000 or £5,000 per year; big players may spend £100,000 plus per year. So attracting these users is critical.

Many players settle on a favourite platform when playing online poker so giving new players a chance to play on their platform is important to gaming companies. It also gives the company a chance to upsell the player to a number of other games and offers they have on the platform. Online poker companies will often offer cash prizes in these freeroll tournaments and they see this as a marketing cost. The risk is that players who are playing for free are then harder to upsell onto paid games, but as long as the conversion rate is above a few percent (which it normally is) then the ROI is very good.

Freeroll poker is often used as a way of educating users on how to play poker, again so that they become more consistent users and ultimately try their hand in paid games. Pokerstars is one of a number of online gaming companies who offer free tutorials.

So for online companies freeroll has some pretty obvious benefits in terms of acquiring users and showcasing interfaces to potential new users. For these companies there is limited cost to setting up these free games; there is no real space to fill, room to heat, or dealers to pay. For land based casinos freeroll poker is a very different proposition.

Land based casinos are traditionally reticent to offer freeroll poker. The economics are obviously not as good as it costs them real time to put these events on as well as any prize money given out.  Not to mention the opportunity cost of how they could have used their resources in another way. It can also attract an undesirable crowd, possibly even denting their image and putting off high-rollers.

The advantages for casinos offering freeroll poker games are similar to online. They could attract converts to the game and whilst people are in the casino they might spend money in other areas, like the bar and restaurant.

However, in certain circumstances a land based casino may use a derivative of freeroll as a commercial tool. Here are two scenarios when they may use it:

Promotion: Maybe they are running a special promotional event like the opening of a new space or special anniversary for the Casino. This will reward customers and maybe even members and will give them a nice PR kick. This can also be used at certain times of year or if they have a new game that they want people to come and try.

Reward: Some casinos may reward their lucrative customers with occasional freeroll games as a thank you for their custom. This is often combined with an event for these members like a cabaret or band.

Overall, the tactic is far less prevalent in the world of land based casinos, the cost to run the events is much higher and the reputational risk is very real. A final point is that many players don’t like freeroll because players are incentivised to make more outlandish moves as they don’t stand to lose anything. Also, arguably the biggest thrill of playing poker is the real risk of losing your money and if you take away this fundamental component are we really still talking about the same game? Not really. It will likely continue as a way of attracting people to online casinos but won’t feature in the land based Casino world.

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