Online poker companies trying to circumvent U.S. legal minefields came up with the concept of subscription-based online clubs, which initially seemed to be the way to go and reported strong acceptance by Internet poker fans. The business model is centred on the proposition that there are no deposits and no buy-ins. Players instead sign up to the site and pay a $20 monthly fee, in exchange receiving "points" that can be used to buy into tournaments.
Whilst not among the first to launch, the Nasdaq-listed World Poker Tour Enterprises entered the field with its ClubWPT offering early last year, and this operation has just announced the award of its $2 millionth in prize money, generated from an wide range of tourneys and member subscriptions.
Surprisingly, in view of the extravagant claims made by some of the subscription poker sites, the survival record has been less than impressive. Sites like Fleet Street Games, Duplicate Poker and the quaintly-named Zosos have all crashed and burned in recent months yet ClubWPT has prevailed and presumably even prospered in a group which has taken some hard business knocks over the past year.
Its success is probably due to several elements: big-money tournaments, celebrity action, a high profile thanks to WPT's television and media deals, clever use of social networking on the Internet and games variety.
ClubWPT's 2009 initiative sees the advent this weekend of a television show on the Fox Sports network branded with the club's identity ClubWPT.com. The show's purpose is to steer players to the Club, where tournaments have no buy-in in terms of legal tender, but nevertheless generate real money or sponsored WSOP and WPT seat wins. Tournament prizes range from $10 to $20 000, for which players register with their points rather than real hard cash.