Michael “Gags30” Gagliano Sees a Lot To Like – But Room For Improvement – In Party / Borgata NJCOP

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This April, the Party Poker NJ / Borgata network will host the inaugural New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOP).

While not the first – and certainly not the last – online tournament series to hit the New Jersey online poker market, NJCOP is notable for its size, ambition and interplay with the Borgata Spring Open and the WPT Championship.

Michael "Gags30" GaglianoSo how is the NJCOP being received from a player point of view? To answer that question, OPR spoke with professional poker player Michael “Gags30” Gagliano, a high-volume online tournament player in NJ.

Gagliano, who is a lead instructor at Premier Poker Coaching and produces videos for PocketFives Training, gave his thoughts on NJCOP to OPR via email.

You can contact Gagliano on Twitter at @Gags30poker.

OPR: How much of the NJCOP do you plan to play?

Gagliano: I play a lot of tournaments on the NJ sites, so will most likely be playing almost all of the NJCOP events. There are a few that conflict with some live tournaments that I will be playing, but if i’m out of the live tournament or done for the day then I’ll certainly reg whatever I can.

OPR: Do you think the schedule is ambitious enough?

Gagliano: If I had to give the schedule a grade I think it would get a B-.

There are some good guarantees on the events, but overall I just don’t think there are enough tournaments. For something that is called the “Championship of Online Poker” I would expect there to be a more complete schedule with different games, formats, etc.

I think only one event per day during the week is rather weak, especially given the fact that this one event is going to replace their one big nightly tournament, so as a player who plays every day I’m basically just playing the exact same schedule I always do, I’m just playing for a slightly larger prizepool, it just doesn’t feel as “special” as a championship series should.

Out of 15 events only 1 event is a game other than no limit holdem. I know NLHE is by far the most popular form of poker, and I’m fine with a majority of the tournaments being NLHE, but pot limit omaha and omaha8 are very popular formats of the game that have been running very consistently on party.nj, so I would like to see them better represented in the series.

Again, if there were more than 1 event each day during the week then they could have a PLO8 in the afternoon, and NLHE in the evening…then a NLHE heads up in the afternoon, and NLHE full ring in the evening..etc. You can cover many more types of games and game formats this way.

OPR: Will the main event have an overlay?

Gagliano: Absolutely not. A few weeks ago when Party.nj ran the $200 $100k guarantee everyone thought there was going to be an overlay and they had almost a $150,000 prize pool! So a main event with a large guarantee and weeks of satellites running I think will very easily crush the guarantee.

OPR: Was scheduling the NJCOP to overlap with the WPT championship a smart move?

Gagliano: I think it was. There are many players that are going to be in town for the WPT that are going to throw a few bucks online to try the NJ online sites. If you came into NJ to play a big live poker tournament you’re probably a tournament player and when deciding what sites to play on you’re clearly going to pick the site running a big tournament series with huge guarantees. They will lose a few players that are still deep in live tournaments, but I think the amount they gain from people coming into town will definitely out-weight those that can’t play because of their live play

OPR: What one event would you add to NJCOP?

Gagliano: I think in a major tournament series, again especially one that you’re calling a “Championship Series,” should have every major version of NLHE (full ring, 6max, rebuy, knockout, shootout, heads up), as well as have the other major games represented (PLO, PLO8, HORSE).

The schedule has done a good job with some of the formats of NLHE, but is noticeably missing a shootout and heads up event. As for different games, there is one PLO, I think there should be at least 1 more, there needs to be a PLO8, and a HORSE event.

If I’m only allowed to pick one event to add then I would definitely add the NLHE heads up. Heads up is a very raw and most true form of poker, just you vs your opponent battling it out for the win. There were many players that asked for a heads up event in the Party.nj suggestion thread so I think the popularity is definitely there and this could have been a very good event…hopefully next time.

I think the biggest issue I have is the monotony of buyin levels. If you want to play a tourney in this schedule you have price points of: $100, $200…oh and 1 $50 rebuy where the average player will spend $100. I think there needs to be more variation.

It’s more exciting playing a $150 during the week instead of the same old $100 that runs every single night, and makes the tourney series feel more special to the average player. Add some more lower rebuy events. Tournaments like a $30 rebuy can make for some huge prizepools while still allowing people with a limited bankroll to take a shot in these events. There are different buyin levels between $50, $100, and $200. How about a $75 freezout, or a $125 knockout? Adding in these buyin levels can help break up the schedule and add more excitement to the series.

Finally, the main event should have a larger buyin. Having it the same $200 buyin as your regular weekly tournament is just, again, boring. Even making it a $250 or $300 would not only make it more of an event, but it would help grow the prizepool and hit that big guarantee. I will note that the addition of the $500 high roller as a result of the feedback in the forums was a great call by Party. This will be a great tournament and will appeal to a lot of players that play in the higher stakes tournaments and cash games on Party/Borgata.

OPR: Will the NJCOP draw a new segment of customers to Party / Borgata?

Gagliano: Overall I think the NJCOP is a good idea and will certainly be beneficial to Party/Borgata and the traffic they get as a result. They already have the most players on their site, and I think this will further cement that. I know a few people coming into town for the WPT and they have already asked me about this series and how to deposit on Party, and have not mentioned any interest in other sites at all.

So I think it’s pretty clear: anyone who is looking to play just a few tournaments online in april is definitely going to pick Party/Borgata.

OPR: How did you feel about Party’s interaction with players in terms of incorporating player feedback when building the NJCOP schedule?

Gagliano: I definitely praise Party for posting the draft of the schedule and asking for feedback. That was a really good move by them, and hopefully we see an even bigger presence by them in the forums in the future. They seemed to listen to a few ideas (adding the high roller, adding 1 PLO event, adding a bounty event), but a lot of great ideas were still overlooked.

They seemed to more read everyone’s comments and then just picked 2 or 3 small things they could quickly fix/change, rather than opening a discussion about some of the bigger ideas people had.

I think this is the biggest problem with a lot of site’s forum communications in general: they aren’t actively engaging in discussions. They ask a question, wait X days for some responses, then post their resolution. Instead, actively talking to players in these threads about their ideas and why certain things would or would not work will not only be more effective, but it gives players a much better idea as to why their suggestions aren’t being followed.

It can be frustrating when a site asks for advice and you have a huge thread full of great ideas, and then they just don’t take any of them.

OPR: Any final thoughts on the NJCOP?

Gagliano: As a grinder, I’m very excited for the series because it means larger tournaments, and also gives me the chance to play a few different formats that don’t usually run during the week on party/borgata. I think many casual players will be drawn to the bigger guarantee events. Just like we saw the other week in the $100k, if you put a big buyin on a tournament, the players will come out to play it. I really think the weekend $200 events will be just massive in the NJCOP, and can’t wait to play them.

Hopefully Party learns from this series and improves it for next time. Party/borgata already has the player base, and with some improvements to their schedule they have the potential to be the best site for tournament poker in NJ.

Follow Gagliano on Twitter at @Gags30poker.

Image credit: PocketFives.com.

- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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