PartyPoker NJ marks the return of PartyPoker to the United States online gambling market after an absence of some seven years following the passage of the UIGEA.
The room is licensed and regulated by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and offers both poker and casino games to players located within the state of New Jersey.
Review updated November 20, 2015.
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Long gone are the glory days when Party/Borgata regularly averaged 200 or more cash game players. For most of 2015, between 110-130 has been the norm.
However, of late, cash game traffic has picked up, and if this positive trend continues it seems plausible that the network will average at least 160 cash game players come January.
The network’s cash game lobby isn’t exactly bustling with activity, nor is the game selection anything to write home about. On a typical weeknight during prime time hours, players can expect to find somewhere around 40-45 concurrent ring games running, most of them 6-Max NLHE games.
Stakes run the gamut from $.01/$.02 to $10/$20, with the most common stakes being $.10/$.25 and $.25/$.50. One good thing about Party/Borgata is that higher stakes games ($1/$2 and up) get off with a much higher frequency than they do on WSOP/888. The bad news is that most mid-to-high stakes seats are filled by regulars.
Omaha games, which used to comprise a significant portion of network liquidity, now only run infrequently. Despite being listed in the lobby, Fixed Limit and 7-Stud games no longer run, or at least not to my knowledge.
Special series aside, most weekday majors attract between 30 and 150 players. Major guarantees start at $500 and run all the way up to $50,000, although only one regularly scheduled tournament has a guarantee larger than $10,000.
It’s worth noting that the network’s two biggest daily majors, a $5k and a $10k guarantee, do reach their minimum benchmarks far more frequently than they did a few months back, but that’s mainly because they are now re-entry tournaments.
When Party/Borgata does host a one-off series (which typically happens about four times a year), turnout numbers skyrocket. To wit, the Main Event of the GSSS III ($150,000 guaranteed NLHE) saw 764 unique entries, and created a prize pool of $152,800. A significant number of other GSSS events brought together between 200-300 unique players.
Daytime and midnight shift grinders will be particularly disappointed by Party/Borgata’s MTT schedule, as the biggest guarantee during off-peak hours is a paltry $500.
Worthwhile sit & go’s too can be difficult to find unless you’re specifically logged in between the hours of 4 pm and 1 am. During peak hours, expect to find roughly 25 concurrent 6-Max SNGs running, and maybe a half-dozen hyper turbo heads-up games.
Grade: (last review grade in parenthesis) C (C)
Party/Borgata have really scaled back its promotional spend in the past year.
Borgata offers three recurrent promos, “The Grind,” a “Tournament Leaderboard” and a $600 first deposit bonus, all of which encourage high-volume play. The skin also hosts a Pick the Pros Online Challenge, but it has absolutely nothing to do with poker.
That’s more than PartyPoker can say, as outside of a $1,000 first deposit match bonus, the promotional page is a barren wasteland of inactivity.
During a time when most networks have begun crafting promotions that reward casual players, Party/Borgata has done nothing of the sort. A paradigm shift is in order, and soon, as the value of the average casual player is higher in a smaller market than it is elsewhere.
Speaking of which, give PartyPoker credit for making one casual player-friendly change, and that’s to its VIP rewards program. Now, achieving second-tier (Silver) status only requires $25 paid per month in rake and entry fees (as opposed to $125 previously). To offset the cost, higher tier point requirements have gone up, with the sole quarterly tier (Palladium Elite) eliminated altogether.
Rakeback rates have also improved, although in this instance casual players were left mostly out in the cold. Gold and Palladium members can exchange points for cash at a 20% rate, or for tournament tickets at as high as a respectable 30.6% rate.
The best Silver members will receive is approximately 14%; Bronze exchange rates are under 7%. Sorry, casual players.
On a side, I found it odd that Bronze and Palladium members receive the same exchange rate for some tournament tickets, and not for others.
Grade: Party C- (B+), Borgata C+ (B)
Party/Borgata’s online poker client has evolved more in the past several months than the 18 months prior.
Granted, that’s not saying much, as the software was arguably in a worse state at the one year marker than it was at launch, but give the operator credit for at least trying to implement a few player “wish list” features.
The most immediately recognizable change is the long sought addition of cash game wait lists. A new “My Waitlist” icon has been placed in the cash game lobby, although it can be a bit difficult to find if you’re not actively looking for it. (Hint: it’s in the bottom right hand corner.)
Now, players can set up their wait list preferences and be notified by the software when a seat is available.
Worth noting is that players cannot request to be placed on the wait list for a specified table, which is presumably a measure against a practice known as “bumhunting.” In my estimation, this is a smart approach that will resonate with casual players.
It is assumed that eventually wait list functionality will be updated so that players will be randomly seated when a seat of their preference opens up, and that players will not be able to see the names of their opponents until after the first hand is dealt – as these are measures currently being implemented on PartyPoker’s dot-com site.
Moving on, the Points Store has also received a fresh coat of paint, and is now much easier to navigate. Furthermore, the Tournament tickets lobby has been cleaned up.
Unfortunately, that’s about where the major front-end improvements end. The good news is that it looks like Party/Borgata has implemented significant upgrades on the server side.
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the magnitude and frequency of the upgrades, I did notice that the prevalence of reported geolocation and player connectivity errors on the operator’s dedicated Two Plus Two forum is down.
Additionally, the last two major tournament series the operator has hosted (the NJCOP II and the GSSS III) ran relatively smoothly. Compare this to prior iterations of the GSSS, which were plagued by widespread disconnects and cancellations.
Response times, both at startup and while seated at the table, are nominally improved.
On the mobile front, Party/Borgata offers a solid product that boasts much of the functionality of its desktop application. My biggest complaint is that the game filters are a bit unwieldy and default to odd settings.
Party’s software won’t get my stamp of approval until it addresses the numerous software glitches and small bugs that inundate the site, but at least now I have faith that PokerStars won’t always be the only strong online poker product in NJ.
Grade: C+ (C-)
I may be in the minority, but I feel as though Party Representative Colette is doing a commendable job recognizing and answering player inquiries.
Just a few months ago, the best response a player could hope to squeeze out of her seemed to be “Thank you for your inquiry. Will send feedback to the proper team.” These days, she’s actually coming back with real answers.
Her response(s) regarding GSSS III tournament ticket policies is a firm example.
Granted, her responses might not always be entirely right, but at least a conversation is taking place.
As for the network’s support team, well they haven’t gotten any worse. Live chat and email response times are still on the longer side, and representatives have a tendency to provide ambiguous, or even worse, factually incorrect answers.
I’ve yet to have a customer service interaction where the agent didn’t step away to check for or verify an answer, and that’s just reflects poorly on the operator.
My advice to Party/Borgata: a little training will go a long way.
Grade: C- (D)
Party/Borgata has taken a rather sedentary approach to its NJ online poker product.
A lazy approach might work for a little while in a booming market, but NJ online poker has been in a near habitual state of decline for nearly two years.
Something has to give, or this year’s seasonal trend line will more closely resemble a hill than a mountain.
What that something is, that’s for the operator to determine, although marketing to and rewarding casual players is as good as start as any.
In either case, it’s imperative that Party/Borgata go on more of an offensive, if only so it’s not completely forgotten when PokerStars launches in the Garden State.
Grade: C (C)
American players who recall the software from the last time they were able to access it will be in for something of a surprise, as the software recently received a complete overhaul.
In terms of the different ways to access the room, players can choose from:
PartyPoker has partnered with Borgata to offer online poker and online casino games in New Jersey.
As a result, The Borgata utilizes the PartyPoker platform to offer online poker and feeds players into a pool shared with PartyPoker. Players who sign up at BorgataPoker.com will see the same games and opponents as players at PartyPoker, although the promotions offered by each site do differ.
Currently PartyPoker NJ offers cash games, sit & gos and multi-table tournament play. Games variants include No Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha and Limit 7-Stud.
Stakes on PartyPoker NJ generally range from $0.02/$0.04 all the way up to $10/$20.
What you get
Party Poker’s New Jersey recently revamped online poker bonus is on par with the biggest in the state, and is also one of the easiest to clear.
The effective value of the bonus is equivalent to a 50% cashback deal, which makes this one of the better bonuses in all of online poker, not just New Jersey.
The bonus never expires, which is a nice benefit, especially for those who take full advantage of the offer by making an initial deposit of $1,000 or more.
Perhaps the only drawback of Party’s bonus is that it’s only released in four equal increments. That means if you deposit $1,000 you will have to contribute $500 in rake before receiving a $250 increment. But with its fast clear rate it shouldn’t take very long to have all $1,000 of your bonus money sitting in your poker account.
What you get
For low limit and casual players Party Poker’s VIP Program is pretty competitive with its New Jersey rivals but still near the bottom. However, as you climb the VIP ladder Party Poker’s rewards program starts to drift even further to the bottom of the pack and by a much wider margin.
Of course, there are other rewards offered in VIP Programs, from freeroll entries to special promotions, but the bread and butter of any VIP scheme is the amount of convertible cash it offers players, and Party Poker’s VIP scheme does not offer a straight conversion.
Because there isn’t a cash redemption option at Party Poker, players will have to select from one of two options to convert their Party Poker Points into a usable poker currency in New Jersey:
While neither option is terrific, if you’re a tournament (S&G or MTT player) and feel you can reach Palladium Elite status you can earn 20% cashback by sticking to purchasing tournament tickets.
In addition to their VIP Program, Party Poker New Jersey is also offering players the chance to earn rewards by accomplishing “Missions,” similar to the extra rewards players receive on social media and mobile games.
Currently there are 16 mission rewards players can earn (some simple, and some not so simple) with the total guaranteed prize-pool of all tournament freerolls plus cash giveaways amounting to over $3,400.
*Promotions are exclusive to BorgataPoker.com, unless otherwise noted.
At eight deposit methods, Party offers a more varied palette of ways to load funds than any other NJ poker room.
Deposit methods include:
With the more recent inclusion of 7-Eleven PayNearMe, Party offers what is arguably the most diversified palette of depositing options among NJ online poker operators.
In addition, PartyPoker NJ is the only NJ poker room where you’ll be permitted to deposit via the e-wallet Skrill. Other viable alternatives for players who have had their Visa or MasterCard transactions declined include Neteller and Party’s pre-paid option – both of which will require you to first create an account.
Party is no slouch when it comes to withdrawal options either, once again offering more alternatives (six) than anyone in the state.
Party does not require its patrons to verify their identification before requesting a withdrawal, nor does it require players to pay withdrawal fees.
The site only accepts players located in New Jersey.
You do not have to be a resident of New Jersey to play – you simply have to be located within the state’s borders in order to play poker and casino games at PartyPoker NJ.
No. You will only be playing against other players located in New Jersey who are logged on to the PartyPoker NJ network.
The international PartyPoker site will be a completely separate player pool, and will likely remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Yes and no. The two sites share the same software and the same player pool, but have different promotions and bonuses. You also need a separate account for each site – your PartyPoker login won’t work at Borgata and vice-versa.
The easiest way to think of it is as two doors into the same poker room.
No. You should be able to make an account from anywhere in the United States.
However, you will not be able to wager real-money on games, or make deposits unless PartyPoker’s geo-location software can verify that you are located within the state of New Jersey. Withdrawals, on the other hand, can be made from anywhere in the nation.
June 2015 review
The PartyPoker NJ network is comprised of nj.partypoker.com and BorgataPoker.com. Both skins utilize PartyPoker’s updated poker platform and share liquidity across all game formats, with only their promotional schedules varying from one another.
Traffic on Party/Borgata trended up throughout most of February, but by March, the network was mired in a torrential downswing. It only managed to recover a crumb of its lost traffic in April. This slight upward trend has continued into May.
Although the network can no longer boast the most cash game players, it still claims the majority of the state’s mid-to-high stakes grinders. This is partially a byproduct of WSOP/888 only sharing liquidity across low stakes cash games, but also a testament to the high concentration of professional and semi-professional players on the site.
On weekday nights, players can expect to find 40 – 50 concurrent ring games running, the majority of which are 6-max NLHE games. Stakes run the gamut from $.01/$.02, with the highest prevalence occurring at $.50/$1 and $1/$2. There are usually at least a few $2/$4 and higher games running, and at least a smattering of full ring and Omaha games.
Sit & Gos were the sole game format that survived the seasonal downtrend unscathed, largely due to the reintroduction of the Sit & Go 6-Max Leaderboards and cutbacks to WSOP’s version of the same.
That’s not to say the format is thriving, but the number of concurrent games running at peak hours now (20-25) is only slightly less than it was in March, when overall player liquidity was much higher.
Tournament liquidity is a different story. The site’s biggest weekday Major, a $10,000 GTD is frequently falling short of its guarantee, and due to its minimum player requirement and early starting time (which was finally amended the week of 5/17), has been cancelled on multiple occasions.
The nightly $5k GTD is also failing to reach its minimum benchmark from time to time. Both tournaments require slightly more than 100 entrants to exceed the guarantee.
It gets worse. Sunday’s $50k GTD – the one high buy-in tournament that appeared to have no trouble beating its guarantee – has posted overlays of $420, $8,190 and $1,715 the past three weeks. Although the middle instance can be attributed to Mother’s Day, there is still cause for concern.
Downright alarming is the fact that the recently concluded NJCOP II saw 77% of its 35 events feature an overlay, with the $150,000 Main Event coming up $28k short. Granted, the schedule was on the ambitious side, but I’m guessing Party/Borgata will be reluctant to eat another loss of this magnitude anytime soon.
Still, partial credit must be given to Party/Borgata for running a smooth series (it hasn’t happened in a while), and allowances must be afforded, as the spring and early-summer are typically the worst times for online poker.
Grade: (last review grade in parenthesis) C (C+)
For the first time in a while, both PartyPoker and Borgata have put together appealing promotional packages; Party for cash game players and Borgata for those who preference MTTs.
First up, Party.
In each of the past three months, the skin has offered some sort of bonus to cash game players, be it in the form of a cash award for consistent play or increased loyalty point earnings.
These aren’t just gimmicky novelty promos either. Promos like Triple Point Tuesday & Thursday Happy Hour have some real value – enough to push rakeback conversion rates up to 30% during those two days of the week.
Borgata’s Tournament Leaderboard promotion is no slouch either. While I might have liked to see players receive more control over their prize, there’s little denying the value in a leaderboard promo that gives away nearly $8,000 per month in cash and prizes to the top tournament performers.
There’s also the Sit & Go 6-Max Leaderboard promotion, which the two rooms run in parallel. This semi-recurrent promo is awarding $10,000 in tournament dollars in May, spread out across two buy-in tiers and four weeks.
Whether or not the network will decide to keep the SNG promotion going into June and beyond is unknown, as it’s difficult to envision it generating enough new traffic to justify the cost. So my advice is to capitalize on it while you still can.
Other noteworthy promos:
As mentioned previously, tournament volume has been way down of late, with online poker’s seasonal cycle the most likely culprit. That’s bad news for the network, and fantastic news for overlay hunters.
Granted, it also means that for the time being tournament prize pools will be capped, but that’s a small prize to pay.
Much improved all around.
Grade: Party B+ (C+), Borgata B (C)
I wonder if Party representative Colette feels a twinge of emotional despair every time she has to type out something like: “Thanks for your feedback and sorry for the delay. Your concerns have been forwarded to the appropriate team for review,” because it happens at a shameful clip (there’s three instances in this 2+2 thread alone).
Which wouldn’t be so bad if there was reason to believe change was on the horizon, but the overwhelmingly majority of top player concerns remain unaddressed.
To name a few:
That being said, the network did listen to players regarding a time change to the nightly $10k and $5k guarantees. Also, the NJCOP II went off without a hitch, and there appears to be fewer connectivity issues, so it’s at least plausible that some server and other behind the scenes upgrades were implemented.
There have been improvements in the payment processing arena as well, as 7-Eleven Pay Near Me was recently added as a “no fee” depositing option.
Furthermore, the previously limited mobile poker app is now one step short of excellent, and has moved ahead of WSOP / 888’s mobile offering for NJ’s top spot.
Now if only the desktop client underwent half the number of quality of life upgrades.
Grade: C- (D-)
2+2 and PocketFives Party Rep Colette does an admirable job sifting out critical threads and responding to pressing concerns in a timely fashion.
Problem is, most of the information she provides isn’t very useful. And while it’s hardly her fault that most forwarded concerns are (seemingly) brushed under the rug, one gets the feeling that her poker IQ isn’t very high.
As for the customer service team, they were an abomination on Day One, and they’re an abomination today.
Support can be contacted by one of three means: email, live chat or telephone. Whatever the contact vehicle, the result is the same – excruciatingly long wait times and more questions than answers.
Email response times average anywhere between 24 hours and 10 days, and even simple inquiries are often misunderstood or left unanswered.
Live chat isn’t much better. The live chat interface is horribly antiquated, actual wait times are commonly 10 times longer than what is stated in the queue, and the representatives don’t have offhand knowledge of current promotions, let alone more in-depth aspects of the operation’s everyday business. Misspelling and poor grammar choices are the norm.
Phone support is the least of three evils, if only because you can sometimes have your inquiry escalated to someone who knows what’s going on.
Maybe it’s just naivete on my part, but isn’t one of the benefits of state regulation supposed to be that it creates jobs? And if that’s the case, doesn’t it set a poor precedent by hiring customer service agents that reside in Bulgaria instead of the Garden State?
Grade: D (D+)
I’m curious to see how Party / Borgata will respond to the seasonal downtrend of 2015.
In H2 2014, the network only recovered a portion of its lost traffic. A stronger rebound will be necessary if the network hopes to withstand the PokerStars juggernaut.
This of course is assuming that Amaya does not acquire the poker arm of bwin.party’s business. Should that be the case, it might not be too long before Party pulls out of NJ’s online poker market to concentrate on its top performing casino offering.
But back to the present:
From a relativistic standpoint, there aren’t too many negative things to say. The software is better, the representation is improved and there is increased value to be had by playing on the site.
However, outside of the promotions and maybe the mobile product, there isn’t a single aspect of the operation that is much improved. And that’s a problem when you’re conceded the cash game market share lead.
In short, players won’t be satisfied until the changes come at a faster pace, and until they feel that support/management understands, empathizes with and wants to help them.
Grade: C (C-)
February 2015 review of Party / Borgata
Party/Borgata losing its first place status to WSOP/888 is more a consequence of the latter agreeing to share partial liquidity than any other one factor.
Regardless, it’s difficult to ignore that WSOP/888’s cash game lobby is suddenly more active than Party’s.
A few statistics:
After a sizable traffic surge in mid-November, cash game liquidity on Party/Borgata has continued to trend upwards, albeit at a much slower pace.
During peak weekday hours, players can expect to find anywhere between 50 – 60 ring games running, of which approximately 90% are of the NLHE variety. Stakes run the gamut between $.01/$.02 and $10/$25, with a micro-to-low vs. mid-to-high stakes player ratio of approximately 2:1.
Compared to NJ’s other regulated sites, Party/Borgata hosts a higher frequency of high stakes and heads-up cash games.
Despite only just reintroducing a Sit and Go Leader Board, Party/Borgata’s SNG traffic is on the upswing.
These days it isn’t uncommon to find 20 – 30 concurrent SNGs running, especially during prime time and on weekends. That’s still a far cry from the 50+ the network was running during peak hours last winter, but a 30 – 40% improvement over two months ago.
As for MTTs, Party’s revamped tournament schedule hasn’t exactly precipitated a surge in tournament traffic. Generally speaking, the nightly $10,000 and $5,000 GTDs either just barely scrape by their guarantees, or miss the mark altogether.
That being said, the network’s smaller guarantees draw stronger turnouts, although it would be nice to see more than a handful of low buy-in guaranteed tournaments running during off-peak hours.
Party/Borgata recently hosted its second $1,000,000 Garden State Super Series. Despite widespread player connectivity issues (more on that later), the 69 event tournament extravaganza fared reasonably well, with 11 out of the scheduled 23 high buy-in events meeting their aggressive guarantees, and most others coming within 10% of hitting the mark.
In particular, the alternatively themed Deepstack (Event #20) and Speed Down (Event #21) formats proved massive hits, in some instances smashing their guarantees by more than 40%.
Yet, during what is typically the strongest month of the calendar year for online poker, I expected more.
Grade: (last review grade in parenthesis) C+ (C+)
Last time around, I commented on how Party has shifted its promotional focus away from poker in favor of casino. That still remains the case, only now, the Borgata’s promotions appear to be transitioning away from poker as well.
This comes as a great surprise, as the majority of poker players on the Party NJ network preference playing on Borgata. One imagines that the site would want to do something to retain its recreational player base.
Instead, the Borgata’s poker promotional page is a near barren wasteland, consisting of one recurrent rakeback promo and an Ultimate Entertainment Package promo that benefits exactly four players per month.
I did manage to muster up a few highlights of the network’s promotional scheme:
With regards to tournament value, the network’s MTTs feature rather frequent overlays. However, the overlay amounts are typically small (10% or less of the guaranteed prize pools).
Going further, overlays are less abundant than they were in say October, when the industry was tanking. But with the projected entry of PokerStars in March and the seasonal downtrend that comes with warmer weather, I suspect that they’ll be more numerous than ever come spring.
My advice: hold on to those tournament tickets for now.
Grade: Party C+ (C), Borgata C (B)
Although a upgrade designed to address the issue was deployed in mid-December, it appears to have done little to satiate the community, some of whom are proclaiming that the problems are worse than ever. A second upgrade was planned for January 5, then January 12, but has since not been issued.
Matters came to a head on January 25, when during the GSSS II Main Events, an high proportion of participants either experienced connectivity issues or the aforementioned MFC errors.
As you may recall, the network experienced similar troubles last September, when an unmitigated disaster forced the cancellation of the GSSS Main Event and its surrounding tournaments.
Although all three GSSS II Mains managed to find the finish line, the latest disaster is arguably even more impactful, as it placed certain players at an unfair advantage relative to the field.
Therefore, I cannot recommend utilizing Party/Borgata’s software under the following circumstances:
Beyond the mentioned issues, Party/Borgata’s software is riddled with miscellaneous bugs, many of which have persisted for one year or more. Broken links, strange pop-ups, lag, and a tediously slow startup process are only a few of the problems that must be addressed before Party/Borgata’s software can be deemed anywhere near complete.
What players are left with is a sub-Beta version of a poker platform that has no business on the main stage.
The only reason I refrained from issuing the software a failing grade is because the network finally released a much needed update to its iOS and Android compatible mobile applications, and from what I’ve seen thus far, the upgrade does address most player wants, including the addition of tournament functionality.
But what took so long?
Grade: D- (D)
I sympathize with Party/Borgata’s customer service agents to the degree that they are forced to deal with a wide variety of tricky issues.
However, there is no good excuse for taking a week or more to answer an email inquiry, especially when the information contained within the reply often has little material value.
Additionally, the network’s resolutions to its own careless oversights are community-dividing, at best.
Take a recent example:
According to the network’s tournament dollar policy, players that win more than one entry into the same tournament will have their extra entries swapped for tournament dollars (T$).
This statement was reiterated on emails sent to GSSS II satellite winners. However, the network apparently had no intention of honoring it’s word.
Instead, shortly after the series concluded, Party sent an email stating that unused GSSS II tickets were converted to limited-time use tournament tickets of equivalent value.
Assuming that all tickets were converted, and not just duplicates, this serves as an adequate, albeit cheap, apology to players whose GSSS experience was hampered by technological problems. However, it doesn’t negate the fact that the network did not clarify its stance regarding special event tickets before and during the GSSS.
Worse yet, are that players experiencing frequent disconnects and crashes are still often being told that the problem is on their end, or at best, are offered a seemingly arbitrary and nominal refund for their troubles.
Admittedly, I give the network a modicum of credit for offering players some recourse, but this type of quick-fix solution isn’t going to cut it forever.
Grade: D+ (D-)
Party/Borgata has the potential to be NJ’s, and possibly the United States’, premier online poker operation. But for whatever reason, be it communication breakdowns, budgetary restrictions or because Party allocates its A+ team to its ROW operation, the network’s efforts have fallen way short.
Which is too bad, because with regards to value, traffic and payment processing Party/Borgata is performing reasonably well. But its frequent technical failings and wishy-washy approach to problem solving are impossible to ignore.
Unfortunately for Party/Borgata, exemplary customer service and a stable platform are the cornerstones of any successful online poker operation. It has neither.
Grade: C- (C)
November 2015 review of PartyPokerNJ
First the good news:
That being said, Party / Borgata has sustained measurable losses across all game formats, particularly in the area of multi-table tournaments.
In the past 16 weeks, the network has dropped 11.9% of its cash game traffic, bringing its 7-day averages down to a paltry 126. Notably, a significant portion of these losses were incurred during the past two weeks.
During peak weekday hours, players can expect to find anywhere between 40 – 50 ring games running, the vast majority of which are NLHE 6-Max games with stakes ranging from $.01 / $.02 – $5 / $10. PLO cash games run with less frequency than they do on WSOP.com, and O8, Fixed Limit and 7-Stud games are virtually nonexistent.
Compare this to last winter, when it wasn’t exceedingly uncommon to find 100 concurrent cash games running.
Sit & Go volume has also taken a material hit, shedding somewhere in the vicinity of 25% since July.
Granted, the latest liquidity losses probably have something to do with the absence of a November Sit & Go promotion, but even still, to go from an an average of 50 Sit & Goes during peak hours last January to approximately 15 now, despite the introduction of lower entry fees and more formats, speaks volumes as to how unappealing the network’s offerings have become.
The situation on the tournament front is equally dire. Party’s flagship Sunday Major – a $50,000 Guarantee, which is occasionally replaced by a $100k, often features an overlay of 10% of more.
Nightly tournaments fare better, in part because there are so few worth playing. Case in point: between 8:30 pm and 10 pm, the network fails to spread a single featured tournament.
Supposedly, the cancelled Daily Double Change, $5,000 GTD that ran at 9:00 pm will soon be replaced by another foray, but there has been no word on when that will happen, outside of “as soon as possible,” which given Party’s dubious track record with regards to timeliness, doesn’t mean anything.
Grade: C+ (B-) (last review grade in parenthesis)
Based on its current promotional schedule, it at least appears that nj.partypoker.com has shifted its marketing focus away from online poker, instead targeting casino patrons.
Outside of a neutral welcome and registration bonus, Party offers little in the way of incentives for poker players. Even its various spot bonuses require casino, not poker, play to unlock.
Compare this to the situation over at BorgataPoker.com, where the site has settled into a habitual rhythm of offering exclusive freerolls and increased rakeback opportunities.
From a strategic standpoint, the network’s approach makes sense, as BorgataPoker.com has always been the preferred choice of the Garden State’s poker community. But that doesn’t negate the fact that unless you’re a new player or simply have to have New Jersey Devils tickets, there is little good reason to preference nj.partypoker.com over Borgata Poker.
Not that Borgata’s promotions are anything other than mediocre, but I’ll take mediocrity over nothing.
A few notes on rakeback:
On a somewhat brighter note, the industry’s falling traffic margins have had a noticeably positive effect on MTT value.
Back in February, tournament overlays on Party / Borgata were nonexistent. By June, they were sporadic. And now they’re utterly abundant – not quite Ultimate Poker (R.I.P) ala March abundant, but certainty enough that players with a keen eye for value have taken notice.
Should volume continue to plummet, it’s conceivable that the network will reduce the guarantees of one or more of its flagship tournaments.
Thus, my advice to tournament grinders seeking value: Cash in those tournament tickets now.
Grade: Party C (B), Borgata B (B-)
In preparation for September’s $1,000,000 Guaranteed Garden State Super Series, Party / Borgata rolled out a feature rich software update that addressed several key deficiencies and added a swatch of user-friendly in-game features.
It wasn’t a huge step, but it was a step, and for a moment I almost believed that the network was determined to delivering a poker product that could compete with a stripped down version of PokerStars, or at least a second tier iPoker skin.
But just for a moment.
Shortly after the patch was deployed, a server crash caused the cancellation of the Series’ Main Event.
Suffice it to say, confidence in the network’s ability to handle any sort of significant server load was lost.
Compounding matters, is that since the crash – the cause of which was apparently dealt with in swift fashion – there have been an alarmingly high number of reports of disconnects and geo-location failures.
Smaller issues such as slow loading times, friends list and notification bugs, and broken links have yet to be addressed in any capacity. Not to mention, the community, including myself, have been asking Party / Borgata to institute cash game wait lists for the better part of six months, to no avail.
And the iOS and Android versions of Party / Borgata’s software still aren’t MTT ready.
If online poker in New Jersey launched say, three months ago, I could find room in my heart to overlook the fact that the network’s software comes across more as a late-stage Beta product than a polished release version.
But not after a year.
I simply expect more from a company that’s been in the iGaming business for eons, and still operates a top 10 ROW poker room.
Grade: D (C)
Within one day of the GSSS server crash, Group Poker Director for bwin.party Jeffrey Haas offered a thorough explanation of what happened, why it happened and what steps would be taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again, going so far as to add $50,000 in prize money to the following weekend’s events.
It was a serviceable solution to an impossible problem, and for that Haas must be commended.
Otherwise, Party / Borgata’s customer service department is as miserable as its ever been.
Throughout my stint as MTGSUSA PocketFives Player Panel moderator, I asked the panel to report on their dealings with customer service.
They unanimously confirmed that getting a satisfactory answer out of a CS agent was an effort in futility.
Not only do the network’s representatives have little understanding of the game (one panelist mentioned that he had to explain to an agent what a “big blind” was), but they’re often unaware of recent policy changes.
Here’s a recent example:
But at least I received an answer.
From those I’ve spoken to, email queries are rarely addressed. And Party’s representative on the Two Plus Two forums might as well have vanished into thin air, not that he/she offers anything beyond a simple acknowledgement and a “we’re looking into it,” anyhow.
I am sincerely tempted to allocate a grade of N/A for this section, as I’m not entirely convinced that Party / Borgata didn’t hire a prank call team to stand in for its customer service department.
Poor all around.
Grade: D- (D-)
Sans a few enhancements to the way the network handles money transactions and to its software, Party / Borgata failed to make the kind of headway one would expect after a year in a new market.
In some ways, it regressed.
Which wouldn’t be so bad if it had rolled out a strong platform and offered the same kind of customer service it did in the pre-UIGEA days. But, in a word, it didn’t.
What we’re left with is a poker room in dire need of at least 2-3 more software updates, and a network that seriously needs to reexamine the way it communicates with its player base.
Should positive steps not be taken soon, I don’t think the network has much of a future in a post-PokerStars New Jersey.
Grade: C (C+)Read Robert's July review of PartyPokerNJ
Relative to other sites, Party / Borgata has sustained above average losses.
According to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, the state’s most heavily trafficked network currently controls approximately 41 percent of all cash-game volume – 2.6 percent less than it did in late-April.
In the past 10 weeks, traffic at NJ PartyPoker is down 21 percent, although the majority of those losses were incurred in early-to-mid May. Since, the network has slowly bled customers at a steady weekly clip.
Players should expect to find anywhere from 40 – 70 ring games running during peak weeknight hours, mostly of the NLHE 6-Max variety, although some low stakes PLO and O8 can usually be found. Stakes range from $0.01 / $0.02 up through $3 / $6 and occasionally $5 / $10.
Twelve weeks ago, when the network was still flourishing, I counted upwards of 110 – 120 tables running concurrently on a Monday night.
Despite a much lower VIG, better payout structure and additional formats (Double or Nothing, Hyper-Turbos, Coin Flip), SNG volume has taken a huge hit, down somewhere in the area of 50 percent since April.
The inclusion of Sit & Go leaderboards may help to revitalize interest, but for now, don’t expect to find more than 20 SNGs to be running at once.
Tournament turnouts have also plummeted, with the week’s biggest Major – the Sunday $50k – rarely fulfilling its minimum benchmark. The Daily $10k, $5k and $2k Re-buy haven’t fared much better, with turnouts usually in the area of 90 – 120 runners.
In lieu of this, it’s unlikely that we’ll see another $100k Guaranteed for at least the duration of the summer.
Yet, like its SNGs, Party / Borgata’s MTT schedule is stronger than it was three months ago.
At the time of this writing, the combination of Party and Borgata holds the slimmest of leads over WSOP.com. And unlike in Nevada, where WSOP’s traffic surge is justified, I have to believe that in New Jersey, players just prefer what WSOP has to offer.
Grade (last review grade in parenthesis): B- (B)
For the longest time, I was thoroughly unimpressed with NJ PartyPoker’s array of pedestrian promotions.
That all changed a few days ago.
The most welcome change is the ten-fold increase of its new player bonus. Players who make their first deposit on Party are now entitled to a 100% match bonus up to $1,000.
Augmenting the appeal of the promotion is the fact that the bonus clears at a 50% rakeback rate.
These two facets of the promotion (which apparently is not just a limited time offer) alone automatically vault Party’s new player bonus from bottom feeder to top dog.
The sole drawback of the deposit bonus is that it clears in only four increments, meaning that players attempting to unlock the full $1,000 will have to earn 1,000 loyalty points before they receive a dime. But considering that the bonus never expires, the delay should only impact the most casual players.
Also of note, both Party and Borgata have added Sit & Go Leaderboards. From now until August 10, SNG grinders on both sites will be playing for their share of an additional $2,000 in cash per week.
Most of the network’s other promotions are yawn-worthy, with perhaps the sole exception being Borgata’s The Grind – and even that only awards the most committed players with anything resembling serious cashback.
Speaking of, when it comes to rakeback, both Party and Borgata player loyalty programs are severely lacking. At best, top tier players on Borgata can convert their accumulated points into a 15 percent cashback bonus or a paltry 5.3 percent direct conversion.
The situation on Party is even worse, as Palladium Elite (the site’s top tier) members are only entitled to a 10 percent cashback bonus. That’s atrocious.
However, given the sudden commonality of overlays and the restructuring of the network’s SNG fees, there is significantly more value to be had playing non-cash formats on Party / Borgata than just a few weeks prior.
Big improvement overall.
Grade: Party B (C), Borgata B- (C+)
Give Party NJ points for finally allowing players to view individual ring game tables, and for granting them the ability to view pertinent table stats. Take away those same points for not adding what is seemingly a trivial feature – wait lists.
The addition of SNGs to Party’s Android powered mobile app is also a pleasant, albeit long overdue upgrade.
But the fact remains that for the most part, Party’s client favors glitz over functionality, and that’s a problem.
Loading times are still in the 15 second range, strong authentication codes can take upwards of five minutes to hit my inbox (if they hit at all), half of the client’s promotional links are broken and I still have to hold my breath every time I jump from one menu tab to another.
But it looks great!
Furthermore, the notifications tab is still a mess, often times informing me that an achievement was met “Moments Ago” when in fact it happened in January.
Software and geo-location crashes are fewer and farther between, but still tend to occur during the most inopportune times.
Overall, Party’s client can be likened to a painting of the 19th century impressionism style – looks great from a distance, but upon closer examination, it’s ugliness is revealed.
Grade: C (C-)
Before delving into how deficient and detached Party’s customer service continues to be, let’s focus on the positives:
I have two major problems with Party’s customer service team:
Furthermore, software upgrades are often implemented without corresponding patch notes, leaving players high and dry as to what was actually improved.
And worst of all, the network takes an exceedingly cold, “sorry, we can’t help you” attitude towards any issue where they believe they’re not at fault. One needn’t look further than the recent $50k Guaranteed debacle to see that.
Other player concerns are addressed via makeshift solutions that impede players willingness to continue using the site.
In short, I’m of the mind that Party’s wayward communication and poor solutions are the primary reason why it continues to lose customers.
Based on the merits of the few things they’ve done right, I’ll award them a passing grade, but only by the slimmest of margins.
Grade: D- (F)
Compared to late-April, NJ Party Poker has done just enough to move up a half-letter grade.
Its software and customer service are still a far cry from what they were in the pre-UIGEA days, but its aggressive promotional schedule and improved cash-game lobby are worthy of praise, as is its partial recognition of player requests.
Grade: C+ (C)[- Hide]
Cash-game traffic on Party Poker NJ is down nearly 30 percent over the past six weeks, with the average number of players online during peak hours down from approximately 1500 last month to 1100 – 1300 in April.
Players can expect to find anywhere from 80 – 90 cash game tables running on weeknights, most of the NLHE variety. Stakes range from $.01 / $.02 to $25 / $50 with the majority of active tables featuring blinds in the $.50 / $1 to $2 / $4 area.
As a mode of comparison, six weeks ago it wasn’t uncommon to find over 100 concurrent cash games running. But the last time I’ve seen Party NJ reached the century mark was minutes before it awarded the grand prize for its 30,000,000th hand promo.
Sit & Go volume is also down, with an average of 30 low-to-mid stakes 6-max games running at peak hours, as compared to over 50 two months prior.
For the most part, Party’s daily tournaments meet or exceed their guarantees, but overall, entry numbers into the network’s biggest weekly event – the $50k guarantee – is trending downward.
On two occasions, Party NJ replaced its $50k with a $100k. The site’s first venture into the land of six-figures was widely successful, drawing a record-breaking 768 runners. The second, not so much.
There are a multitude of speculative reasons as to why Party / Borgata stomached such significant traffic losses, but suffice to say, the network’s biggest issues can be at least partially attributed to laziness. More on this later.
Despite all this, Party / Borgata still boasts the highest traffic and market share of any NJ-based poker site, and that’s still worth something.
Grade (last review grade in parenthesis): B (A-)
In terms of final table payouts, Party / Borgata boasts the largest weekly prizes, with at least one player walking away with a $10,000 payday each week. That being said, their tournament payout structures are still flatter than what most regulars would like to see.
Party’s high player volume functions as a double-edged sword. The network rarely fails to meet the guarantees for its daily tournaments. That’s normally a good thing, but considering that almost every other NJ site is forced to lay money out of their own pockets, it lessens the overall value to be had by playing in a Party NJ tournament.
That wouldn’t be so bad if Party / Borgata did anything to differentiate itself from the pack in terms of player kickbacks. But for the most part, the network’s promotions are unimaginative in nature.
Borgata offers a $600 first-time deposit match bonus, which is leaps and bounds better than Party’s own paltry $100 new player bonus. Most of the network’s other promotions come off as contrived and underwhelming.
Both Party and Borgata should be recognized for their recent efforts to bridge the gap between themselves and the Borgata’s brick and mortar casino via cross-promotional tournaments. And the upcoming NJCOP should provide a much-needed boost to network traffic, if not the entire state’s iGaming market.
Yet, it’s difficult to look past the network’s high rake/entry fees, and low rakeback bonus structure (15 percent at highest tier on Borgata, 10 on Party), and assert with confidence that the network offers good player value. It doesn’t.
And the introduction of new features that only affect hardcore players, such as Party’s Paladium Lounge, does little to rectify the underlying issue.
Grade: Party C (B-), Borgata: C+ (B)
The worthiness of a gaming site should be determined by its ability to provide a exemplary playing experience, not its looks.
There’s no denying that Party Poker NJ and its sister site are both modernistic and sexy, but beneath the surface lies the ugly truth – Party’s software is a riddle of bugs and non-optimized code.
It’s utterly confounding how, despite markedly lower traffic, the software continues to suffer from a variety of crippling issues. Just to name a few:
Oh and lest I forget, Party’s mobile application is a bare-bones hack job, hardly worthy of serious consideration.
Like most, I initially marveled at Party’s redesign. But now that its underlying ugliness has been unveiled, I marvel no more.
Grade: C- (B-)
If I were to apply the age old adage “if you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything at all” to Party NJ’s customer service team, this section would be devoid of words.
Slow, uninformed, and curt, the team’s most glaring flaw is its lack of empathy. Player concerns are often brushed aside, even those worthy of being addressed.
For instance, several individuals in my inner poker circle called in to inquire as to why their match bonuses expired. After waiting an exorbitant amount of time to be connected to an operator, they were abruptly informed that the bonus expires after a mere two weeks.
Generally speaking, I’m a staunch advocate of reading the fine print, especially when it comes to poker promotions. But Party’s reps should at least have the common courtesy not to direct blame toward its customers, which is exactly what happened. “You should have known better” is not an appropriate response.
Even worse, the network’s representatives possess little knowledge of poker. One would think that a working knowledge of the game would be a prerequisite for serving as an agent for an online poker site.
Factor in the hour-long wait times and frequent issue escalations, and it becomes clear that Party’s customer service is hardly worthy of a passing grade.
Grade: F (D-)
There’s a reason why Party Poker was once the number one poker network in the United States, and it had little to do with its special events. Should the network continue to ignore the underlying issues with its software, tournament schedule and customer service team, I would expect traffic numbers to fall off into the abyss.
As the most recognizable poker brand and brick and mortar casino in NJ, the Borgata, in accordance with its online poker partner bwin.party, needs to set the standard to which all other poker sites aspire, and fast.
Grade: C (B-)[- Hide]
Promotions vary between the two partners, but not so much that the sites would benefit from being viewed as two separate entities.
Fans of PokerStars will be disappointed to know that tournament and cash game turnouts on PartyPoker pale in comparison to their pre-Black Friday counterparts. Given New Jersey’s relatively small population compared with the majority of the free world, that’s to be expected.
That being said, Party still brings in a decent number of poker enthusiasts, and regularly fulfills its relatively lofty guarantees.
Cash games run 24/7, which can’t be said about most other NJ-based sites, and Sit and Go’s fill up on a somewhat reliable basis.
Here’s how the numbers break down during peak weekday hours:
Sunday’s turnouts tend to be somewhat better. On its busiest day, I’ve seen nearly 7,000 players online, but those days have seemingly passed.
And thanks to recent changes to its Sunday 50k Guarantee, expect the week’s largest tournament prize pool to regularly eclipse $60,000.
On a side note, on March 2nd the site ran its first $100k Guarantee. Read more about it here.
One point of contention is that Party’s nightly tournament schedule is largely uneven. Most tournaments feature $1-$10 buy-ins, occasionally $20. The next jump up is to $100. What about the mid-stakes players?
At least the issue is being partially rectified, evident by Party’s Daily Majors page.
Players can expect nearly all of PartyPoker’s guarantees to be met, including those for its higher buy-in tournaments. Overlays are nearly nowhere to be found, SNG fees are on the high side and cash game rakes are not quite offensive.
What that ultimately suggests is that Party boasts bigger prize pools than its competitors, but less value.
In keeping with its casual friendly motif, Party pays out an astounding 20%, or more, of its tournament fields. That’s good news for players satisfied with a min-cash, but terrible for players who rely on their big scores to be, well, big.
That being said, the bar for quality has been set fairly low, especially at the smaller stakes. Players who limp every hand, 10x raises pre-flop – that sort of thing is more common than what I would normally expect.
Then again, some of the same guys that play in my weekly home game did mention that they recently created an online poker account. Names will be held in private.
Party’s promotions are rather lackluster. New depositors are entitled to a measly $100 match bonus, and the newly launched Dream Seat Series is a mere novelty promo.
Perhaps the best thing going for Party right now is its clever Remission Bonus promo, which grants special bonuses to those finally receiving remittance from FTP. Think of it as Party’s way of saying “Regulated poker is good.”
PartyPoker’s sleek, newly redesigned interface looks significantly better than it functions. Latency issues plague the client, graphics sometimes fail to populate correctly and icons often need to be clicked multiple times before a page loads properly.
As far as disconnects due to geolocation issues, they’re noticeably down. Certain players still experience problems, but they’re far less prevalent then they were just a couple of months back.
Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be granted to Party’s customer service department, which is abysmal. It’s bad enough that it takes upwards of an hour to reach someone, but when you finally do, the representative will often tell you how you’re the one causing the issue.
After my first phone session with Party’s representatives I was nearly convinced that someone was playing a cruel joke on me. After my second, I promptly called the state’s DMV and Unemployment offices, thanking them for the “short” wait times.
Live chat isn’t much better, nor are the answers to common questions offered by Party’s representative on its Two Plus Two forum.
But at least when I requested a cash-out by check, it arrived in a very timely fashion. I would have requested an instant e-check, but apparently that’s not allowed unless you already made a deposit via the same method.
Party / Borgata are still the go-to sites for players seeking bigger paydays. They’re also far more aesthetically pleasing than any other NJ-based poker site. And SNGs, MTT and cash games can be found with relative ease. Yet its laggy software, poor customer service and pedestrian promotions could be contributing to its steadily declining numbers.[- Hide]
Launching in New Jersey a mere two months after rolling out a major software update, PartyPoker took a huge risk by incorporating a slew of social media and casual-friendly features into its formerly traditional software package.
Largely untested in a “go-live” setting, Party’s revamped software is not without its misgivings but ultimately works, and is in large part the reason behind why its captured approximately 50% of NJ’s iGaming market share. That, and brand recognition of course.
Incorporating a friend’s list, news feed and user achievements into its online poker offering, PartyPoker feels more like a juxtaposition between a video game, Facebook and a casual poker app than it does a real-money poker site. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just worth noting.
PartyPoker’s news feed informs you when one of the player’s on your friends list performs a notable feat. For instance, if Player X earns a user achievement , you’ll receive a notification. If he wins a huge pot, the system will tell you just how many big blinds he won. Even if said player enters a tournament, you’ll be the first to know.
As a result, notifications pile up at such a staggering pace that anyone with more than a few friends will probably not bother keeping up with them.
Yet despite all of its social-friendly features, noticeably absent from PartyPoker is the one thing poker players want most: an easy way to see where there friends are playing.
Say my buddy is at the final table of the 50k Guarantee. Outside of scouring my notifications tab, I would have no way of knowing unless he notified me via another means. Even then, I’d have to go to the tournament lobby, search for his name, and click on it to watch him donk off all his chips. It’s hardly an intuitive process.
PartyPoker’s missions act as a sort of supplemental player incentive program. By perusing to the site’s “Achievements” tab, players can select from a variety of objective-based assignments. Completing missions, which usually entails meeting three aims, rewards players with entries into freerolls or other special events.
Overall, missions are a novel idea, but the objectives are too easy and the rewards uninspired. There’s only so many $1,000 Giveaway tickets you can win before the allure wears off.
That said, promotional missions are a delight. Featuring harder, time-sensitive objectives and more prestigious rewards, Party’s WPT mission and Borgata’s Mega Missions are tailored more towards the serious poker player, but pose benefits to casuals as well.
For instance, this month players who accumulate a specified number of iRewards points on BorgataPoker.com will be rewarded with tournament tickets and cash bonuses. Broken down into 17 tiers, casuals should have no problem reaching Tier 1 or 2. However, reaching the top tier will be a monumental task for even the most serious grinder.
While Borgata’s promotional mission isn’t the most inventive promotion currently being offered, it rewards players with what they value most: rakeback.
And at the end of the day, missions will be judged not by their objectives, but their rewards.
Overall, PartyPoker’s new user interface is a refreshing change of pace. Due to its highly visual nature and well-designed main menu, browsing the site is never a chore. Overall, Party’s site just feels more comprehensive and unified than any of its competitors.
With that said, both NJ.PartyPoker.com and BorgataPoker.com have more than their fair share of software and functionality issues – some minor, others glaring:
Other issues include:
Issues aside, the marriage of the Borgata and bwin.party has proven largely successful. It’s the only site that gets off Sit & Gos on a regular basis, its Sunday majors are well-structured (even if they should start earlier) and its software, while not perfect, is probably the most stable of any NJ iGaming site. Party also offers more legitimate depositing methods than most, including Skrill.
For more on NJ.PartyPoker.com, check out its dedicated forum on Two Plus Two.[- Hide]