NJ iGaming Weekly: Party / Borgata’s Initial NJCOP Offering Meets with Resistance; Other NJ Sites Enter Transitory Phase

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The first week of March proved to be a transitory week on New Jersey’s iGaming front, marked by noteworthy announcements and the launch of several new promotions and depositing options.

And while little of significance occurred on the virtual felt, the success of last week’s widely successful Party / Borgata-hosted $100,000 guarantee has prompted the network to push the envelope even farther.

More on the success of Party’s first six-figure Sunday Major here.

The Garden State’s other sites have reacted to Party’s ambitious aims in tow, rolling out player-friendly new promos of their own.

But after spending significant time on each site this week, I feel compelled to raise the question: Should NJ’s gaming operators take a step back and fix whatever lingering server and geo-location issues remain first, and worry about broadening their audience through fancy promos and tournament series later?

Party / Borgata release draft version of NJ Championship of Online Poker

Far and away the biggest news this week is Party / Borgata’s post on the 2 + 2 forums detailing a rough version of its forthcoming NJ Championship of Online Poker (NJCOP).

As they did weeks prior to revamping the $50k guarantee, Party is requesting that players chime in with their thoughts regarding the NJCOP’s preliminary schedule, at least indicating that the site will be factoring in player opinions before releasing a more finalized version.

For right now, the NJCOP is slated to be a 10 event, mid-to-high buy-in tournament series set to kick off on April 19th and conclude on the 27th.

Unsurprisingly, Party’s most lucrative tournament series to date will coincide directly with the WPT World Championship Event, which also happens to be the Main Event of this year’s Borgata Spring Poker Open.

The festivities will commence with a $50,000 freeroll, followed shortly by the site’s second $100,000 guarantee. It will culminate in Party / Borgata’s largest stateside guarantee yet: a $200 buy-in, $200,000 guarantee event (Event #10) where the winner will be guaranteed a staggering $50,000 in cash.

Response to preliminary NJCOP schedule is middling at best

Reactions to the preliminary NJCOP draft have ranged from tepid to ice cold.

And while forum posters are almost universally thankful that the site posted the maiden version of the NJCOP on 2 + 2 first, it was scorned for its lack of ingenuity.

Among the most frequent issues players had were:

  •  The schedule: Generally speaking, players found the NLHE-focused schedule dull. Of the ten scheduled events, nine are of the No Limit Hold’em variety, with the other reserved as a Players Choice.
  • Buy-ins: Compounding matters further, buy-ins for most events are either $100 or $200 (with one $50 R/A exception). The dearth of low buy-in, high payout tournaments and in particular the lack of a high-roller tournament has been the subject of many a post on 2 + 2.
  • Ingenuity, what ingenuity? Most of the events either replicate a tournament that’s already part of Party’s weekly schedule or merely replace a scheduled tournament with one featuring an inflated guarantee.

From a personal standpoint, I would like to see Party incorporate more mid-stakes tournaments as part of their regular and special tournament schedules. And while several changes are en route, more work needs to be done before mid-stakes players will be truly satisfied.

I’m almost inclined to say that Party hates money.

By simply hosting a more varied tournament schedule and at least two NJCOP events on each day, it could easily compel more players from NYC and PA to make the trek to NJ for the series.

I have to guess that Party is banking on the fact that most of the serious MTT grinders will already be in New Jersey for the Borgata Open.

On a more positive note, Party is offering two 6-max tournaments as part of the NJCOP. But even still, it could do a much better job appealing to the wants of different player sects.

Other sites roll-out new promotional vehicles, depositing options

As mentioned earlier, March is proving a transitory month for most NJ poker sites, most of which either saw or are seeing their current promos come to a close.

Among the more noteworthy March promos are:

  • 888poker Mad MonthA March Madness themed promo in name only, Mad Month is essentially a series of freerolls culminating in the aptly numbered $88,888 Grand Final Tourney on April 4th. Also as part of the promo, 888 is now offering a NJ high $888 match deposit bonus.
  • WSOP Sit N Go LeaderboardsWSOP’s popular SNG leaderboards promo are back, this time giving away $40k to the site’s top SNG grinders.  The site also added three new mid stakes tournaments to its somewhat lackluster weekend schedule, and increased/added guarantees for many existing tournaments. Now if only it would do something about its weekday schedule.
  • Ultimate Poker $25 free playCompared to its recently concluded NO-verlay promotion, $25 in free money (most of which is in the form of U-dollars) doesn’t feel like much. But considering that players aren’t required to make a deposit to unlock the bonus, the promo could do wonders towards attracting new players. Sustaining them, that’s a different issue altogether.

Also of note, old-school poker players will be happy to know that the e-money service Neteller is making its grand return to the US iGaming scene.

Available as a depositing and withdrawal option on WSOP and 888, the reintroduction of Neteller should please the swarms of poker players still stifled by Visa and MasterCard’s wayward payment processing policies.

Geolocation issues still prevalent

Sometimes I take my stable Internet connect and general lack of geo-location issues for granted. However, there are those that after three months and change are still plagued by geo-targeting and other damning server issues.

So much so, that I’m beginning to wonder whether NJ’s iGaming sites should spend more of their resources fixing their underlying problems then trying to get a leg up on one another.

Over the past week, I did my best to experience geo-issues firsthand by first increasing my time playing online and then logging on from several different locations and computers.

And while I can’t attest to the exact extent of the problem until more data is retrieved, I’m happy to report on my own findings:

  •  I experienced the worst geo-location troubles on 888poker. While completely stable from my PC, I was logged off at regular 15 to 20 minute intervals while using my Macbook Pro. At the time, my laptop was detecting approximately 20 wireless signals. In a word, unacceptable.
  • Issues were less prevalent on WSOP, although after I would idle out due to inactivity I occasionally had difficulty logging back in. After closing the software and re-logging, I would be correctly recognized as being in the state of New Jersey.
  • PartyPoker is plagued by laggy, glitchy software – that much I had already known. But until the other day, I hadn’t been knocked off due to a geo-targeting hiccup. Still, it was only one time and not during a critical sequence.
  • While its software is definitely lacking, resembling more of an alpha test version than a launch roll-out, I did not get kicked off Ultimate Poker once. That being said, since the software isn’t yet available for Mac, the scope of my testing was rather limited.

Overall, it’s clear that NJ’s online poker operators still have a long way to go before they can rightfully claim to offer a seamless, user-friendly poker playing experience.

- 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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