Poker affiliation: what’s the right deal for you?
Today’s online gambling industry is worth more than $60bn (£48bn/€55bn) globally, and it is expected to continue to grow for the next decade. Many factors have contributed to the sector’s expansion, with affiliates playing a crucial role over the years.
Historically, online casinos and poker sites have been closely connected to affiliates, which took on the marketing role of attracting new players. Poker affiliates are usually paid by CPA, revenue share or a hybrid of these two models.
This article will explore the CPA vs. revenue share debate for poker affiliates in 2023. Whether you’re an established business or someone just looking to dip their toes into the restless waters of online poker affiliation, this article should offer some clarity.
Advantages and challenges of CPA deals
Online poker is a small fraction of the overall gambling industry. Compared to casinos and sports betting, the number of operators and players is relatively small.
With this in mind, poker sites are usually more open to, and generous with, their CPA offers. Especially if you target higher-value countries and promote, let’s say, UK poker sites, you can expect to receive between $100 and $200 for qualifying players, but the deal comes with a few caveats.
For a player to qualify, they’ll usually need to generate a certain amount of rake. Poker operators have learned from years of experience, and today, that bar can be set fairly high.
It’s not enough for a player to deposit $20 and play several tournaments. They’ll be required to rake $20, $30, or even $50 before triggering your CPA, and most players won’t be able to hit that goalpost on their first deposit.
To put it into perspective, if an online tournament charges a 10% rake, a player would have to play 10 $20 tournaments before they clear the CPA, and that’s not likely to happen with most recreational players.
So, while you did your job as an affiliate by sending a real depositing player to a poker site, you have nothing to show for it.
Indeed, the operator isn’t getting a tremendous amount of value from this player, either, but the only way you’ll get your commission is if this player comes back, deposits again, and plays some more. Eventually, some will reach the magic number and you’ll get paid, but most players will never trigger the CPA – and you need to know this in advance.
Revenue share is hard in 2023
If we were back in 2010, there would be no debate. Revenue share would always trump CPAs in the long run. It was the period when everybody and their dog wanted to play online poker, and many people took the game seriously, looking to build a career in it.
In 2023, this is no longer the case. Most serious players already have accounts with all main operators, and a large percentage of newcomers are recreational players who won’t spend a lot of time at the tables.
While hitting those CPA requirements may be hard, generating meaningful money from hobby players via revenue share models is even more difficult.
This is especially true today when most operators use “contributed” rake calculations that are often quite complicated and usually not very fair to affiliates. After all the deductions, you might struggle to get a decent amount even from your active players.
A typical revenue share deal will give you 30-50% of a player’s net rake, but those who have been around for a while know that net rake is very different from gross rake. Every room has its own model of doing things, but none of them are particularly affiliate-friendly.
Mixing the two up is perhaps the best solution
Finally, you can try for the best of both worlds and look for deals with a CPA and revenue share, known as a hybrid option. While these may not always be publicly advertised, you can usually get custom offers from poker rooms if you have something of interest to them.
In this scenario, you might get something in the vicinity of $50 for a qualifying player and then 20-30% of their future rake. The threshold for qualification may also be lower as the operator isn’t paying as much money beforehand.
The clear advantage of this is that you get some money for a player and keep the cash flow for your business while still maintaining a percentage of the future value of every referred player. The downside is that if you end up signing a serious player who’ll play a lot and potentially on higher stakes, you’ll leave money on the table in the long run.
Given the current status of the online poker market, these types of deals are probably your best bet. Pure CPAs may feel more lucrative, but there are a fairly limited number of quality poker sites. It’s not like online casinos, where you have hundreds of potential brands to work with, and new ones are launched daily, which significantly changes the affiliation part of the business.
Revenue share options offer more long-term value, but keeping the business going without any cash flow can be tricky, which will happen if your referrals are largely recreational players.
Hybrid deals seem the fairest for all parties and help keep you in the business. These may not be easy to get if you’re completely new and still making connections, in which case you can start with pure CPAs, with the aim of transitioning to hybrid deals once you’ve established a good rapport with the operators.