NJ iGaming Weekly: Online Poker Weaves its Way into the Wonderful World of Sports

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With their welcome week promos rapidly coming to a close, New Jersey’s iGaming sites found themselves in desperate need of a new promotional device.

And it looks like they found one in the area’s professional sporting franchises.

The biggest news of the week is of course PartyPoker’s unprecedented partnership with the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers, and the potential ramifications such a deal has on the regulated iGaming landscape as a whole.

Not to be outdone, NJ’s other iGaming sites have followed suit by launching sports themed promos of their own.

Well, all but one. Although I imagine WSOP’s newly-implemented leaderboards and upcoming tournament schedule are keeping its hands full.

We take a close look at these promotions and their initial impact on poker traffic in this iteration of NJ iGaming Weekly.

PartyPoker pens historic sponsorship deal

Last Wednesday, PartyPoker became the official online partner of hockey’s New Jersey Devils and basketball’s own Philadelphia 76ers.

The first stateside deal of its kind, Party’s alignment with two nationally recognized professional sports brands opens up a slew of potential marketing and promotional opportunities – the first of which manifested Monday in the form of PartyPoker’s Dream Team Series.

A series of sub-qualifiers, qualifiers and tournaments that award top finishers regular, court side and VIP seats to Devils and Sixers home games, the Dream Seat Series (DSS) will be a mainstay of PartyPoker’s NJ poker platform from now through what I’m assuming is March 31st, as the April 31st end-date listed in the promo’s T&C doesn’t exist.

Other exclusive prizes include the opportunity to travel on the road with one of the aforementioned teams, as well as entry to concert events held at the Prudential Center.

How to qualify for a Dream Seat

New registrants will receive two tickets to a DSS qualifier of their choosing, with those finishing in the top 30 winning entry into a DSS tournament.

Players can also obtain direct entry into a DSS tournament by making a deposit of $20 or more using the promo codes “DEVILS,” “SIXERS” or “PRUDENTIAL.”

Members of PartyPoker’s top two loyalties tiers, Gold and Palladium, will be awarded two free DSS tickets each month for the duration of the promo.

Players can also win their way into the Dream Seat Tournament by anteing up a dollar and finishing in the top 10 of a twice daily qualifier.

In order to win game tickets, runners must finish in the top nine of any DSS tournament. The higher the finish, the better the tickets. Places 10 through 20 will receive consolation prizes in the form of team merchandise.

The first DSS Basketball Night Tournament took place on January 13th at 8 pm, running approximately two hours and drawing 74 runners. It is expected that the number of entrants will increase as PartyPoker continues to spread iGaming awareness.

Do note that despite sharing liquidity and tournament schedules with BorgataPoker.com , DSS qualifiers and tournaments can only be found on NJ.PartyPoker.com.

Other sports related poker promos

As mentioned earlier, PartyPoker isn’t the only site to roll out a sports centered promotion.

Listed below is a snapshot of what other NJ sites have in store for January:

  • 888 Super Tailgate – Beginning January 12th, 888 will host a series of four promotional tournaments. For little-to-no entry fees, players will compete for the chance to win cash and 50 Yard Lounge prize packages. Situated in the heart of Manhattan, The 50 Yard Lounge will serve as the “premier destination for hospitality during the biggest football week of the year in NYC.” In other words, it’s a big pre-Super Bowl party.
  • Big Game Freeroll – The Borgata’s answer to PartyPoker’s Dream Seat Series, the Big Game Freeroll, will award two lucky winners with Super Bowl tickets. Qualifiers will run every two hours from 12 pm – 12 am now until January 25th. And the Main Events will be held this Sunday and next at 6:00 pm, a mere ninety minutes before the 50k Guarantee gets underway.
  • 1,000 Winners to UFC – As the name implies, Ultimate Poker will reward 1,000 lucky fans tickets to the next UFC, which conveniently enough is being held at the Prudential Center. Players can win direct entry by placing first in either a nightly freeroll or the $5,000 Nightly. Alternatively, first-time depositors, and those who either win a raked hand on Sunday or participate in the $20,000 Sunday Guarantee will also be eligible via random drawing.

It comes as very little surprise that at least some of NJ’s online gaming providers are taking advantage of Super Bowl XLVIII’s prime location.

And given Ultimate Gaming’s affiliation with the UFC, a tie-in promotion seemed inevitable.

Noticeably absent from the sports promo mania is WSOP.com, which is instead relying on the strength of its two $250k freerolls that will serve as bookends to the forthcoming WSOP Online Championships.

Traffic: Cash-game peaks up, averages down

For all the hoopla surrounding PartyPoker’s newly-minted partnership, cash-game traffic is down across the board.

According to PokerScout:

  • Party Borgata (NJ): 629 peak (260 24-hour average) – Down a small percentage from last week
  • WSOP.com: 450 (160 average) – Averages are down approximately 6% since last week.
  • All American (888): 224 peak (100 average) – Experienced 10% drop-off, likely due to the conclusion of its Winter Sale promo.
  • Ultimate Poker: 41 peak (16 average) – Marks a 20% drop-off in average cash-game traffic.

Not a single Sunday Major failed to meet its guarantee, although Party Borgata, WSOP.com and 888poker all came relatively close.

I wish the same could be said about Ultimate Poker, which has resorted to sending out emails reminding players of the incredible value to be had by playing in its $20,000 Sundays.

Ultimate’s desperation tactic apparently worked, as this week’s $20,000 Sundays “only” missed the mark by $11,000 – a nearly $2,000 improvement over last week.

Although it could be a combination of factors, I’m chalking up this week’s minor cash-game volume fall-off to last week’s noteworthy gains, significantly nicer weather and a dearth of cash-game incentives.

I’ll conclude with this message to NJ’s online poker providers: Promotional tournament freerolls are a fantastic way to draw players to your sites, but loyal cash-game players are your bread-and-butter. Don’t forget about them.

- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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