You are here

How Bovada Became The Runaway #1 For US Players

The who what when where why and how of how Bovada became the biggest and best of the US friendly Poker Sites


How Bovada Became the Biggest & Best US Poker Site

Editor's Note: Bovada sold it's poker assets to Ignition Poker in late 2016.

Welcome to a new feature here on titled "What, Where, Why, and How", where we will take you behind the scenes, strip away the perceptions, and use our unique statistical tracking, industry knowledge, and experience to illustrate the pros and cons associated with what's available for US players in the online poker marketplace. In this edition, we profile Bovada Poker - the US-facing portion of the Bodog Network(Editor's Note: Bodog Poker Network has been rebranded Pai Wang Luo Poker Network, or PWL for short) - and analyze how they've become the runaway #1 option available for the vast majority of US online poker players.

First up, a brief summary of Bovada Poker for those who may not be familiar with this online poker site.

Bovada Poker Details (tale of the tape)

*2-7 day average of reported Bovada payouts via check & cash transfer over the previous four months
(see our Monthly Cashout Report for full details and additional payout method timeframes)

The Bodog Network has been in operation for nearly 20 years. Implementing anonymous table ID's with the creation of Bovada in 2011 has put them in a rare class of poker rooms open to US players. While some have said that it takes time to get used to, it's led their cash games and multi-table tournament fields to become softer, laden with more casual players. This has created a growing amount of opportunities for more advanced players, while keeping casual types happy with the vast array of games and tournament options.

What makes Bovada tick, and what is the reason for their success?

To put it simply, they've been willing to take risks to grow based off of the success of their promotions, player traffic, and tournament schedule. Back when started tracking Bovada's overlays and tournament results in August of 2013, they ran seven to eight tournaments with guarantees of $5,000 and higher during the standard Monday through Friday work week. Eleven such tournaments ran on Saturdays, while Sunday saw 19 such MTT's being offered to players. That schedule remained largely unaffected throughout the rest of the year, as Bovada allowed the tournaments to continue their steady growth. In the second work week August of 2013, around 10,000 players took part in $5,000 GTD and higher tournaments - that number increased to near 17,000 by the end of the calendar year.

In late January of this year, the decision was made to make some adjustments to several tournament guarantees based off of their increasing player fields. The result was even more players took part, and the steady increase continued at an even better rate than before. So much so that in under two months from their last adjustment, guarantees have been increased twice in select tournaments. This has led to more players, bigger prize pools, and lots of money to be won by more people.

Led by Bodog's strong presence overseas and Bovada's continued popularity among US players, they've consistently been #1 among US-facing options in cash game traffic, and among the top 10 against all online poker rooms | networks. According to Pokerscout, in data collected over the past six months, Bodog averages roughly between 1,300 and 1,500 players per day, with peak points nearing 3,000 players. Those numbers put them among the top rooms in the world, and the clear cut #1 among US-available places to play.

Where did Bovada go right, where others have gone so wrong?

In a lot of ways, the Bodog Network has been able to remain strong based on a commitment to being at or near the top. Basically, with great power comes great responsibility. Wanting to gain market share and becoming the top dog are laudable goals for companies venturing into the online gaming world. But few have achieved these aims and have been able to shoulder the load like Bodog.

Several companies - some more notable than others - have made it a mission to bring in more players by offering big tournament guarantees and huge player deposit bonuses. All well and good as long as you facilitate the traffic that comes from promotions and advertising. But most have failed when reaching out for the big crowds; the most high profile of which for US players would be Lock Poker, who opened the floodgates in 2012 after breaking from the Merge Network. They "acquired" the Cake Network and branded themselves as the place to be for US players, and when players came en masse and eventually began making withdrawal requests, the weight was too much for Lock to bear. Lock's processors initially struggled (at best) to meet the demand of the players. Eventually, the room left the network they helped to create and moved off on their own, and reported payouts have all but ceased. And of course, there's the questionable management practices, a lack of any detectable safeguards in place to protect player deposits, and many a scandal that brought Lock to the brink of collapse.

Up to date report on Bovada poker payouts

Bodog has built their company and operation over many years, making steady adjustments as the online gaming climate has cooled and heated in its course. Payouts have been a primary focus, and maintaining efficiency has brought turnaround times from request to receipt inside of a calendar week in most cases. That average - we began tracking payouts among all US-facing poker rooms in May of 2013 - has remained fairly constant and the players have obviously noticed. There will always be an instance or two on the periphery that deviates from this norm. But as you can see in our tracking, particularly from November 2013 through February of this year as illustrated above, Bodog has proven an ability and dedication to maintaining a standard of excellence in attending to their customers. It's not rocket science - a happy, satisfied customer is a return customer, and one who will likely tell their friends about their experience.

Why has Bovada in particular been able to rise above the US-facing poker sites competition?

It helps to have a strong network. Bodog transferred US players onto a new apparatus named Bovada in 2011, and while Bodog has continued to grow, so has Bovada. But it's about more than just stats, numbers, and payout timeframes. The online poker climate, to the layman, is not something easily understood without some minimal explanation. When you ask those who frequent taverns and restaurants that host free poker leagues, or the casual fan analyzing a pro's three-bet while watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN, the conversation usually drifts to Pokerstars and their play chip "home games", or the latest poker app on Facebook.

The one place most everyone has heard about, however, is Bovada. People know the name. The layman may not know how to create an account, or access a cash game on the software. But name recognition is one of the most basic principles of effective marketing. It's one area the other US-facing operators have had difficulty finding a balance with. While some companies are quite pleased in their position in the marketplace - not everyone desires the spotlight, of course - where they could stand to take a tip or two from Bovada is how to create an awareness about your brand and differentiate yourself from the pack.

One of our own content staffers actually heard a radio ad for Bovada around Super Bowl time on his way to the market some weeks ago. He was surprised, as he hadn't heard an advertisement for anything relating to online gaming in his area before. So while the stats tell one side of the story, the approach a company takes tells another. And Bovada has made it a point to get its brand known.

How has the 'anonymous table ID' feature affected Bovada's games?

When the Bodog Network decided to make table ID's anonymous by giving players random "Player #" monikers, the reaction among the online poker community was lukewarm at best. Some professional players and regular grinders felt it was a move against them, making it more difficult or impossible for them to use most types of tracking software to note the differences between fish and sharks. Others thought it was a way to eliminate the practice of "bum hunting", in which a player will seek to play against inferior opponents and avoid playing against those with similar skills. Bodog went a step further, elminating their traditional rakeback program and replacing it with a points-based rewards system to earn entries into tournaments, both online and in person - another move seen by some as appealing to casual players over those who spend countless hours contributing rake on a daily basis.


Effectively, these changes signaled a new business model and approach. Where before there was a traditional poker room, was now a place where casual players looking to play the game they love can do so without fear of being signaled out for being less skilled. Over the years since the new direction began, the player base has grown significantly - so much so that Bovada can offer tournaments on any day of the week with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line. This attracts the casual types looking to make a home run score, and the professional player looking to take down big wins to add to their bankrolls.

It has made the cash games much softer overall, and while regulars may not be able to scout players as easily as before, you still have the ability to take notes and use tracking software - Holdem Indicator to assist your game. In any event, some three years after the switch to random seat numbers instead of usernames at the tables, it's hard to argue with the success that Bovada has enjoyed.

-- Staff

Professional Rakeback is an online poker affiliate and player advocate offering services to players across highly reputable USA and Rest-Of-World (ROW) poker rooms. We also offer in-depth reports and information to the online poker community in general, including our leading Monthly Online Poker Cashout and Withdrawal Reports, our Overlay and MTT Reports, our player to player Trading Value (Vig) Reports, and our weekly MTT Value | Overlay Report. If you wish to know more, feel free to contact us directly via the options available at this link.