Ultimate Poker NJ Launches Outside the Box NO-verlay Promotion. Will it Work?

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Over the next month poker players at Ultimate Poker NJ will be doing the unthinkable; rooting for UP’s tournament to reach their guaranteed prize-pool marks, thanks to a new, extremely clever promotion UP has dubbed NO-verlay.

How NO-verlay works

NO-verlay is pretty simple: From February 9th through March 9th anytime one of Ultimate Poker’s nightly or weekend special guaranteed tournaments eclipses its guarantee every player in the tournament gets their initial buy-in back.

The only fine print attached to the promotion: rebuys and add-ons are excluded, and all refunds are paid in U-Dollars.

Ultimate Poker NJ has very little to lose

UP has decent traffic in Nevada (where they are only one of two sites and had the benefit of being the only site for a full six months) but in New Jersey their presence is less-impressive, as average traffic at the site can pretty much fit into an egg carton according to www.pokerscout.com’s numbers.

On the bright side, at least they’re not Betfair, whose online poker room is similar to Sasquatch; some people swear it hosts poker games but nobody has actually seen one in action.

UP essentially has nothing to lose, and a promotion like NO-verlay may be just what the doctor ordered to cure their traffic ailments.

Considering UP’s guaranteed tournaments are currently producing 50% overlays, even if the last week or two of the NO-verlay promotion is disastrous for the site and they have to refund tons of buy-ins, in the long-run it will probably cost them nothing, as their choice is either do something to boost traffic or continue handing out 50% overlays for the foreseeable future.

Another extremely clever aspect of the promotion is that refunds are paid in U-Dollars, which have to be used in other UP tournaments.

With U-Dollars being the refund currency, even if UP gets hammered the losses will be mitigated, as all of the refunded money remains on the site and will run through the rake at least one more time before withdrawal.

It’s outside the box

So far the New Jersey online poker market has produced a number of innovations: there was partypoker’s historic deal with the NJ Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers; 888’s 80% rakeback offer; and now UP is adding to their growing list of novel ideas with the NO-verlay promotion.

In addition to being an interesting, player-friendly promotion, and essentially flipping the script on what player would normally root for (a tournament to not come anywhere near its guarantee) it also acts as a humblebrag of sorts, with the promotion serving the secondary purpose spreading the word that UP NJ tournaments have big overlays.

Why it will appeal to casual poker players

One of my favorite aspects of this promotion was that it took a single paragraph to explain in the press release I received, and the language was simple and clear, and needed no further explanation.

Although I find the name a bit too cute for my liking; casual poker players will likely find UP’s NO-verlay promotion to be a model of simplicity in an online poker world where even a first-time deposit bonus is complicated:

Sign up for our 100% match bonus of your first deposit up to a maximum of $500. The bonus is released in $10 increments after you accrue 1,000 VIP Points. VIP Points are earned at a rate of two per $1 in rake you contribute. We use the contributed rakeback method which is the percentage of money in the pot that came directly from you…

Why it will appeal to grinders

NO-verlay guarantees an overlay.

Grinders can now enter the UP guaranteed tournaments with a small overlay being the worst case scenario, and a full 100% freeroll being the best case scenario.

One would believe that this would make up for the site’s subpar software and any other issues players have with UP.

It probably won’t attract non-poker players

I certainly like this promotion and think it will help give UP’s traffic numbers a nice bump, at least for the life of the promotion, but I don’t see this promotion creating new online poker players for several reasons:

  • It is short-lived, lasting only a month, and only applies to specific tournaments at the site. This is not a promotion for people who just want to play on a whim.
  • Non-poker players simply don’t know what an overlay is and despite its simplistic nature, it might fly right over their heads.
  • The tournaments that NO-verlay really affects are higher buy-in events –the Sunday $20k guaranteed features a $100 buy-in and the nightly $5k guaranteeds are $50 buy-in tournaments. There are several smaller buy-in NO-verlay events but these are not the types of tournaments that cause players to join a poker site.

The month long NO-verlay promotion isn’t going to make Ultimate Poker competitive with partypoker and WSOP.com, or even 888, but it could drag them out of the abyss and into New Jersey relevancy.

Poker could use more outside the box thinking

Personally I think this type of outside the box thinking is great for online poker and poker in general.

Even if some of these ideas fall flat on their face, it’s at the very least showing that there is life and creativity within these companies. That the status quo is not going to be accepted as the only way to do business in the burgeoning US market.

Truth be told, the online poker industry could use less followers and more leaders willing to take chances and innovate.

UP is certainly trying to be one of these leaders. The site has been pushing the envelope since they launched in Nevada, but has experienced mixed results.

As I explained in this column just a few weeks ago, innovation can often be very hit or miss, and the poker world is a very unforgiving place, and thus far UP has had more misses than hits, a track record NO-verlay could remedy.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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