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Just as we enter February, we bring you the last segment of our year-end editorial series, ‘Top 5 Developments of 2022!’ And online poker was the industry’s top story for the fifth consecutive year.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring that people remained indoors through most of 2020, the rise in online traffic was both astounding as it was abnormal. The hangover rolled over to 2021, and poker brands went neck-to-neck in offering tournaments with never-before-seen guarantees and bigger-than-ever cash promotions.
Due to an invigorated vaccination drive, life gradually returned to normal towards the end of 2021, continuing well into 2022. As the year progressed, the player turnouts and operational figures pointed to the obvious – if online poker was booming over the past two years, the sector’s growth slowed down somewhat – reaching a plateau.
While the ‘guarantee game’ persisted with the poker platform’s rolling out increasingly bigger guaranteed tournaments, the turnouts weren’t the same as before. Moreover, a course correction was predicted since live poker tournaments also made a strong comeback.
Despite the drop in numbers, the online poker crowd kept growing, given the operators’ intense focus on marketing the game to the masses. Poker operators maintained the momentum in their tournament offerings, hosting at least two editions of their top flagship series. Several new MTT launches were made, and we saw even the up-and-coming brands eke out well-designed cash game promotions.
There was a significant expansion in revenue, and the companies reinvested their earnings in growth, also increasing their marketing and branding expenses. Big celebrity brand endorsements were another rocking trend in 2022, which saw the likes of Shahid Kapoor (PokerBaazi) and Jim Sarbh (MPL Poker) endorse online poker.
Bigger & Better: MTT Guarantees Go Through the Roof
PokerBaazi hosted the year’s biggest guaranteed tournament in the latter half of 2022. Throughout the year, PokerBaazi steadily upped its game, unleashing a trend-setting slew of tournaments. Celebrating its eighth anniversary, the online poker operator announced the ₹7 Crores GTD G.O.A.T, the biggest online poker tournament in India.
Between October 30 to November 6, the ₹11,000 entry buy-in, 8 Qualifier-long tournament registered 7,233 entries to hit a new record by generating a jaw-dropping ₹7.20 Crores in the prize pool! Rohit Kumar bagged the bragging rights of becoming the first-ever G.O.A.T champion and won a life-changing ₹94.69 Lakhs for his breakout run. A heads-up deal ensured Puneet Sachan a monstrous ₹68.73 Lakhs in second place.
In March, PokerBaazi reached the milestone of dealing 1 Billion hands on its platform. To celebrate the momentous achievement, the brand hosted the #BaaziBillions campaign. As a part of this, it ran the ₹5 Crore GTD #BB8 EndBoss from May 18 to 23.
The third installment of PokerBaazi’s EndBoss registered 4,948 entries across five starting flights. Jitendra Gadhwal became the second Indian to win a life-changing ₹1 Crore payday on a domestic platform. The record for the single-biggest score still belongs to Abhishek Maheshwari, the first ENDBOSS champion who won ₹1,00,15,911.
The quintessential Main Event of the India Online Poker Championship (IOPC), the IOPC The Crown, has always been one of the most coveted online tournaments in the country. The ₹11,000 buy-in magnum opus has gradually upped the stakes in guarantees from ₹3 to ₹3.50 Crores, with the last June edition hiking it up to ₹4 Crores.
Dubai-based reg Amit Gehani championed the ₹3.50 Crore GTD IOPC #114 – The Crown in February for ₹56.40 Lakhs, while Saurabh Rohila shipped the ₹4 Crore GTD IOPC #130 – The Crown in July for ₹53.78 Lakhs.
Old & New: Popular MTT Series Return While Brands Introduce New Offerings
2022 saw brands moving towards bigger and better editions of their flagship series while also introducing new series and tournaments.
As per the norm, the country’s richest poker festival, the India Online Poker Championship (IOPC), hosted two editions last year. While the January edition boasted ₹30 Crores in guaranteed prizes, the July edition sported an even bigger ₹33 Crores in prizes.
Spartan Poker brought back its Final Table Series (FTS) and The Millionaire Series while rolling out many debut series, including the India Turbo Masters (ITM), XXX Poker Series, and Legend Poker Series (LPS).
Spartan Poker hosted multiple Celebration Series in 2022, from the Winter Celebration Series (December 4 to January 1) to the Summer Celebration Series (April 29 to May 8), the Freedom Celebration Series (August 4 to 15) and Diwali Celebration Series (October 9 to 16).
Likewise, PokerBaazi offered a mix of the old and new, keeping played busy. It ran three editions of the Asian Poker Tour (APT) India Online throughout the year, while its immensely popular National Poker Series (NPS) returned for a second edition in March.
Show Me The Money: Bigger Cash Game Promotions
The cash game promotions run by online poker brands were equally packed with significant value and prizes. PokerBaazi hosted the ₹10 Crores GTD Cash Royale (March 25 to May 23) as part of its Baazi Billions campaign.
Spartan Poker’s promotional offerings were equally mouth-watering, some of its cash game promotions running alongside or before its flagship series to offer tickets to the tournaments.
PokerStars India, up-and-coming brands like MPL Poker, PokerDangal, and PokerHigh, ran a range of cash game promotions for players, offering bigger giveaways.
Climb Every Mountain: Brands Continued to Grow
Online poker brands have been repeating the benefits of the increased awareness of the game, which is reflected in the healthy revenues registered by them over the past two years, and the upward growth continued in 2022.
Looking at the revenue-profit statistics of Spartan Poker’s parent firm, Quadrific Media Pvt. Ltd., the company’s revenue from operations increased to ₹79.65 Crores in FY 2021-2022 vis.a.vis ₹69.07 Crores reported in FY 2020-21. The annual profit after tax (PAT) was ₹3.13 Crores in FY 2020-21 but slumped up ₹1.61 Crores in FY 2021-22 due to increasing operating and administrative expenses.
Baazi Networks Pvt Ltd. posted ₹44.51 Crores in revenue from operations in FY 2020-21, whereas, in FY 2021-22, the revenue improved to ₹82.88 Crores. The company reported consolidated profits (after tax) to the tune of ₹2.49 Crores in FY 2020-21 and ₹4.53 Crores in FY 2021-22.
According to the financial statement of Sachiko Gaming Pvt Ltd, the parent company of PokerStars India, the net profits in the FY ending March 31, 2021, was ₹1.17 Crores (after tax), which climbed to ₹2.15 Crores in FY 2021-2022.
Given that the companies have reinvested a lot of their profits in expanding the brand presence, offering more value to players, and infusing their marketing and branding budgets, the growth and revenue are on an uptick.
When The Stars Shine Down: Celebrity Endorsements Help Grow Online Poker
Celebrities have a way with the masses, and their fame goes a long way in brands promoting their products. Poker companies joined hands with celebrities to further market their brands to the masses and help them overcome their taboo views about poker.
Last year, Bollywood heartthrob Shahid Kapoor and critically acclaimed actor Jim Sarbh were among the big shots who associated themselves with poker companies. While PokerBaazi onboarded Kapoor in late June, Sarbh was roped in by MPL Poker in November.
A more detailed look at how celebrity endorsements have influenced the growth of poker in India was covered in the fifth installment of our ‘Top 5 Developments of 2022’ series. Read it here.
In a nutshell, the steady growth witnessed in 2022 has continued in 2023. PokerBaazi’s ₹5+ Crores GTD 1000X Series kicked off on the new year (January 1) and completed a successful run on January 8. Meanwhile, the 14th edition of the IOPC, promising ₹43+ Crores in guaranteed value, has been a resounding success.
So, there you have it, a wrap-up of the top poker developments of 2022.
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