An In Depth and Hands-On Review Of The New WSOP.com

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It can be said with confidence that legal US online poker is in a better place now than ever before, thanks primarily to the recently enacted liquidity pact between WSOP and 888 branded sites in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.

Cash game lobbies are far more active, games can be found with relative ease at almost any time, and tournament prize pools have skyrocketed. This positive traffic trend will only continue throughout the spring and summer, as the site’s $15 Million Summer and the presence of the live World Series of Poker will undoubtedly generate high player interest.

But strong liquidity is only one metric by which an online poker site should be judged, and unfortunately WSOP.com misses the mark in a variety of other areas. Ultimately, it’s these deficiencies that may drive players away once the initial hype fades.

The playing experience is certainly not all bad — far from it — but now that the traffic is flowing, it’s time for the operator to address its underlying issues.

In this review, which is based entirely on real-world experience (over 40 hours or playing time), we break down the new WSOP.com, point out its strengths and weaknesses, and provide letter grades across a variety of categories, with the intent of answering the question of whether or not this is the right site for players.

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Rank
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1

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2

$400 Bonus

  • Networked with NJ, NV, DE
  • Satellites to WSOP Main Event
  • BLAST poker lottery SNGs
  • PayPal, Visa accepted

Top line grades for WSOP.com

CategoryGrade
TrafficB+
Player incentivesB
SoftwareC-
CashieringB-
SupportC
OverallB-

Traffic

Not surprisingly, traffic is the most improved aspect of WSOP.com and 888 Poker. The increases have been more than additive, suggesting that new players and those who took a break are returning in hefty numbers.

Cash game traffic

The WSOP.com cash game lobby is buzzing like never before in the regulated US online poker space. Not only has there been a sharp increase in prime time liquidity, but the prime time window has been lengthened dramatically, from roughly 7 pm – 2 am EST.

The most popular game stakes remain 6-Max No Limit Hold’em $0.05 / $0.10 – $2.50 / $5. During peak hours, it’s not uncommon to see 300 players seated at these tables. Pot Limit Omaha has also gained widely in popularity, with roughly 10 tables running at prime time, and action nearly around the clock.

A smattering of Omaha Hi/Lo games may get off here and there, and there was at least one instance where we observed a Stud game.

According to our own internal observations, cash game traffic peaks at roughly 9 pm, with over 400 players seated at tables, and more on Sundays. Average traffic is in the low-to-mid 200s, which is a far cry from the roughly 90 – 100 player average we observed in New Jersey before the merger.

All right, so now that we’ve established that games do run, how tough are they? Unfortunately, the answer is very. As low as $0.25 / $0.50 NLHE the games are infested by multi-tabling regs. However, at those stakes there’s at least a chance of snaring a few fish. The odds dip at stakes $1 / $2 and above.

Without HUDs (they are banned) the edge multi-tabling regs once enjoyed over casual players has taken a hit, but not enough of one where we would actively encourage new players to grind stakes $0.25 / $0.50 and above.

PLO games are somewhat softer, but still trend tough. Winning at $1 / $2 and above will require a solid feel of the game. It’s not impossible for an average player to win, far from it, but we would implore them to practice good table selection practices, and maybe only play a table or two to bridge the gap.

Tournament traffic

WSOP/888 either raised the guarantees of or revamped most of its nightly and weekend majors, but there’s still work to be done.

At present there are just a smattering of $10,000+ GTDs, most of which see their minimum benchmarks shattered by 50% or more. For instance, last week’s $10,000 Weekly Sunday generated a $16,016 prize pool, while the $12,000 Weekly Sunday Deepstack saw 255 registered players create a nearly $30,000 prize pool.

Even the big $100,000 Sunday obliterated its guarantee, drawing 522 entries in creating a $156,600 prize pool.

Our advice to WSOP: Go aggressive. The market can currently support even larger guaranteed prize pools, and these bigger numbers should attract even more players to the MTT lobby.

During off-peak hours, tournaments run approximately every hour, taking a break entirely for a few hours in the morning. Guarantees for most dailies hover between $25 and $2,000, with at least a few high-four figure and five-figure tournaments at night.

Beyond the ultra-conservative guarantees, there is one other facet of WSOP’s tournament schedule that we take issue with. Many of the bigger tournaments don’t start until 8 pm EST. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the blinds creep up at a snail’s pace (likely to accommodate the excessively long 2-3 hour late registration periods). As such, majors don’t end until the wee hours of the morning.

While there is no magic bullet solution when dealing with a three-hour time gap between two major markets, it would be nice if majors concluded before 3 am EST. This goes for the weekly $100k as well, which features an absurd 4.5 hour late reg period, and despite a 6 pm EST start time, doesn’t end until nearly 4 am.

Contrary to popular belief, some poker players work for a living.

On a side note, those frustrated with the tough cash games will be pleased to know that tournament fields are much softer relative to the stakes, although still not exactly soft.

Tournament players are well advised to check out the Coast to Coast Classic MTT series, beginning May 11 and running through May 20. It will guarantee over $1 million.

Grade: B+

Player incentives

WSOP has added a considerable amount of player value to its offering, which will never be more evident than this summer.

Promotions

The main promotional vehicle that NJ players will notice are the influx of World Series of Poker satellites added to the lobby. Not only can players win their way into the Main Event, but there are myriad qualifiers for the $565 Colossus, $1k events, and the online bracelet events. Buy-ins for satellites start at just a $1 and run up to $320; there are even a few freerolls into smaller events.

In addition, NJ players will have access to the 25 Seat Scramble, which as the name implies will award a minimum 25 seats into the Main Event this July. Not to mention, The Colossal XXII will award at least 22 seats into the popular low buy-in event, and the Marquee 33 will see 33+ players win entry into the lowest buy-in online bracelet event, which has a guarantee of $500,000.

As far as other promotions, there are a few:

  • May Reload: 100% match up to $1,000 plus a $5 BLAST SNG tournament ticket and seven WSOP Gold Bracelet Freeroll tickets. Clears at 20% rakeback rate.
  • Sit & Go leaderboards: Pays out over $1,000 weekly to top SNG grinders.
  • POY Race 2018: Winner will take home $10,000, a WSOP.com PoY ring and receive VIP seating at the 2018 WSOP Main Event.

Overall, these promotions aren’t eye-popping, but do serve to complement what is a very impressive qualifier schedule. Suffice it to say, WSOP is leveraging its ties to the world’s largest live tournament brand quite effectively.

Loyalty

Here’s where WSOP.com went above and beyond. The old loyalty system was a train wreck, offering most players either zero or minimal rakeback. Reaching the highest annual tiers, which did offer significant rakeback, was pretty much an effort in futility.

The game has since changed, with WSOP.com rolling out a new loyalty scheme in tandem with shared liquidity. It’s worlds better.

Now, players are paid rakeback in accordance with the following schedule:

  • Player (Monthly) – 0-199 APP’s ($0-$99 in rake) = 0% rakeback
  • Bronze (Monthly) – 200-749 APP’s ($100-$324 in rake) = 8% rakeback
  • Silver (Monthly) – 750-1,499 APP’s ($325-$749 in rake) = 20% rakeback
  • Elite (Monthly) – 1,500-19,999 APP’s ($750-$9,999 in rake) = 25% rakeback
  • Champions Club (Annual) – 20,000+ APP’s ($10,000+ in rake) = 32% rakeback

Previously, players would have to pay $500 in monthly rake for just 5% rakeback. Now, they’ll receive 20% for the same amount of play, and be well on the way toward 25%.

Rakeback can be redeemed directly for cash, and cash only. There is no WSOP.com swag store, and no ability to purchase tournament tickets or poker/casino bonuses, which is somewhat unfortunate.

Another issue is that currently the My Rewards section of the software is broken, so players will probably have to call or email support to redeem their points, or at least that’s what we had to do.

Minor gripes aside, this is a massive improvement.

Grade: B

Software

When we got our first glimpse at the WSOP.com software all the way back in November 2013, our first impression was that it was antiquated.

Well, nearly five years have passed and the software looks and plays essentially the same. Given WSOP’s strong position in the US market and PokerStars looming presence, it absolutely baffles the mind that software provider 888 hasn’t drastically upgraded its US-facing online poker product.

Desktop

Playing on desktop is the preferable option, but that hardly means the experience is good.

After a relatively long geolocation process (15 – 30 seconds), players are “treated” to what looks like an interface created by a second year computer science student. Is it serviceable and intuitive? For the most part, yes. Does it look modern or possess any modern functionality? A resounding no.

WSOP adheres to a tabular format for its lobby, divided into three tiers. Players can easily find games via the tabs and limited sort and filtering functionality. It’s not revolutionary, but it works.

The cash game lobby shows a few pertinent statistics per table, including avg. pot size, % players to the flop, hands per hour, and the current wait list. Players can also view how many players are seated at a table, their screen names, and chip stacks. Tournament lobbies display a decent amount of info like average chip stack, entries and the blind structure. Again, it’s neither flashy nor intuitive but it’s serviceable.

The software’s real maladies become apparent upon taking a seat. The table options are severely limited, with players able to change their avatar, the color of the deck/table, toggle sound effects, and really not much else.

Choosing a preferred bet size is an absolute chore. At first it may seem strange that players are almost exclusively raising to 1/2, 3/4, or full pot — but you’ll soon figure out why.

There are no hand histories. Instead players can replay hands via a viewer. The viewer and its features aren’t too shabby, but once a player leaves the table or the game closes, the viewer hands go poof. There is also a game history option, although that seems rather worthless.

Other annoyances include:

  • The cashier is not integrated into the software
  • The My Rewards section is currently broken, making it impossible to redeem loyalty points from the site.
  • We didn’t see any obvious way to change our responsible gaming settings, although we’re quite certain one exists. Shouldn’t RG functionality be prominently displayed?

Mobile

If the desktop experience is pedestrian the mobile experience is one step above a horror show.

We really should preface what we have to say with a bit of a disclaimer, as WSOP.com can’t be blamed for its lackluster mobile product. Instead it’s a combination of the software provider (888) and possibly the slow regulatory approval process in New Jersey that’s at fault.

Regardless, playing on the WSOP.com dedicated Android or iOS app is a hair pulling experience, at best. The issues start right upon signing in. Lucky players will be logged in right away, but regardless of whether they’re hooked in via WiFi or 4G LTE, there’s a material chance that the app will throw a geolocation error. Unfortunately, these errors persist throughout a player’s time logged in. On several occasions we were tossed offline at a critical juncture in a tournament, costing us valuable chips.

The core interface is simple but works well enough. However, we couldn’t help notice that a variety of quality of life features available on desktop were absent on mobile. The tournament lobby is the best of the bunch, displaying enough pertinent info about each MTT to get by. In order to select a cash game or sit and go, however, players must use unresponsive sliders to choose their game. Players are given no ability to table select, which is bad enough, but often times the software will select a game with no players seated. Seems like there’s got to be a better way.

Playing on the mobile tables is a hit or miss experience. Sometimes, the software purred right along. Others, we experienced heavy lag and an odd bug where the table was stretched beyond the confines of our screen. This made proper bet sizing nearly impossible.

There is no advanced functionality built into the app, like multi-tabling or an integrated cashier.

BLAST Poker games have been added, so that’s great for players looking for a highly raked shove fest. Hashtag MoreRakeIsBetter. Jests aside, BLAST isn’t quite a blast (last pun, we promise) but can be good fun, especially if one hits the 10,000x multiplier, like these chaps.

Grade: C- 

Cashiering

The WSOP.com cashier offers a slightly below average number of ways to get money on and offline. The bright point is that PayPal is featured on the site, and we do recommend using it.

Other payment options include:

  • ACH Payments
  • Visa/MasterCard
  • Neteller
  • PayNearMe
  • Cash at the Caesars AC cage

The lack of pretty standard options like Online Banking Transfers and a prepaid card is a bit disconcerting, but not a game breaker. Our transactions were handled fairly smoothly, with funds available for use on the site within seconds.

Withdrawals were a bit of a different story. Our PayPal withdrawal request just sat unprocessed for a few days, compared to other sites that tend to process PayPal withdrawal requests within 24 hours.

Sometimes, WSOP will ask players to verify their ID or for additional banking information before processing a withdrawal. It’s cumbersome but fairly par for the course in the New Jersey market. More cumbersome are the six-digit tokens players will have to provide every time they request a withdrawal. Not too many other sites require this security step, but at least it does make one feel a bit safer.

Grade: B-

Customer service

WSOP provides players with a rather comprehensive, if somewhat dated, help section. There, they’ll find the answers to many common queries. But often times, players will need to speak to a real person.

This can be problematic. For one, the live chat functionality is only available from 3 pm – 11 pm EST. That’s an extremely tight window, especially considering prime time hours don’t end until about 2 – 3 am.

Phone service is available round the clock, thankfully. Agents were generally unenthusiastic, but adequately equipped to answer simple questions. Thing is, there was a feeling that in the words of Phil Hellmuth, they couldn’t even spell P-O-K-E-R. Any questions regarding the idiosyncrasies of the game were met initially with a deafening silence.

Another problem: It’s way more difficult than it should be to access support information. We found the live chat and phone info only through the cashier. Email support was found by navigating to the online help section, and then into a FAQ. Does it really need to be this complicated?

Grade: C

Overall

There’s little doubt that the traffic is going to be flowing on WSOP.com throughout the summer months. The continued rise will be as much a byproduct of the increase in poker tourism in Nevada as it is WSOP’s own effort to provide players with a value-rich and compelling online poker playing experience.

It’s the aftermath we worry about. Namely, when players vacate the Rio and the World Series of Poker specific promotions halt, what happens next?

Sure, liquidity will still be higher than it was prior to the NJ/NV/DE merge, but if WSOP (and really 888) does not address the underlying structural issues with its software, and the problems with customer service, then it could be a very tough fall.

Grade: B-

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Robert is a veteran writer and analyst for the gambling industry, with a particular focus on the emergent US online gambling market. An avid poker and gambling enthusiast, Robert offers unique perspectives from both the vantage point of the player and industry professional, and is fit to cover a broad spectrum of topics.

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