NJ iGaming Weekly: Party / Borgata Hosts Second $100k Guarantee; 888 Poker Rolls Out Player Friendly Software Patch

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Last week I dedicated a significant portion of my weekly segment to 888poker, in particular its fledgling cash-game volume.

Being of the mind that 888’s New Jersey poker site would have to do something momentous to reach or exceed the heights it enjoyed back in January, I suggested that anything short of a full VIP Rewards roll-out would result in a continued drop-off.

To my pleasant surprise, 888 is in the process of proving me wrong.

Over the course of the past week, the suddenly resurgent site has managed to recover some of its lost volume – not via a generous rakeback promo or ambitious marketing blitz – but by improving the functionality of its software.

These improvements, along with an analysis of Party Poker NJ’s mostly successful $100k guarantee, will occupy the majority of this week’s NJ iGaming Weekly segment.

What’s new at 888poker.com?

If there was one lesson to be learned this week, it’s this: The long term success of a poker site hinges on its ability to deliver an exemplary poker playing experience to its patrons.

888poker has taken the first steps towards doing just that.

Last week, I received several emails from regulars on the site regarding a new software patch that virtually eliminated existing disconnect issues, particularly on Macs.

On one account, a player had logged nine consecutive hours on the site, not once experiencing a geolocation error. Compare this to weeks prior, when Mac users were lucky to stay online for more than 15 minutes at a clip.

I myself experienced a bevy of issues with the site, all of which have seemingly been eradicated by the latest patch.

In addition, players on the Two Plus Two Internet poker forums have confirmed that tables on 888 and WSOP.com can now be detected by the popular poker tracking and analysis software Holdem Manager 2.


Other factors, like the upcoming $88,888 promotional freeroll, could have also played a factor in 888’s reversal of fortunes.

888’s cash-game volume bounces back after five week downswing

The last time cash-game traffic on 888 posted a win, over a foot of snow adorned I-95.

Seven day averages and week-over-week change as follows:

  • Party Poker NJ: 207 (2.5 percent loss)
  • WSOP.com: 149 (~1 percent gain)
  • AAPN (888poker.com): 106 (9 percent gain)
  • Ultimate Poker NJ: 10 (17 percent loss)

Two observations:

  1. How much longer will it be before cash-game volume completely dries up on Ultimate Poker? Despite boasting one of the best customer service departments and promotional schedules in all of regulated online poker, the US-based operation is proving unable to retain its customers. This is likely due to its substandard poker software as compared to other NJ iGaming operators.
  2. Global cash-game volume is down an alarming 10 percent over the past three weeks. In comparison, traffic on NJ’s sites has remained relatively stable. This bodes well for when online poker enters its next upswing.

The second point also insinuates that 888’s sudden revival is a result of its efforts and is not a fluke.

Data provided by PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout.

Turnout figures for second Party / Borgata-hosted 100k guarantee pale in comparison

For the second time this month, Party / Borgata hosted a $100k guarantee. Similar to its record-breaking predecessor, Sunday’s six-figure foray featured the same buy-in, starting time, and blind structure.

That’s about where the similarities end and the differences begin, as this week’s $100k failed to reach the heights set by its forerunner in early March.

However, that’s not to say the March 30th iteration of the $100k should be deemed a failure. If anything, given the array of circumstances favoring the first $100k guarantee, Party / Borgata should feel satisfied with the 544 runner turnout and nearly $101,000 prize pool.

Allow me to elaborate.

  • The first $100k guarantee was announced on the heels of Party’s successful restructuring of the $50k guarantee. That week, the tournament experienced an approximately 40 percent increase in player turnouts. Subsequently, hype was at an all-time high.
  • There was a novelty factor to the first $100k that didn’t exist this time around.
  • The payout structure may have turned some players off, as 118 out of the 544 entrants received a portion of the prize pool. With so many places paid (21.7 percent), the ninth place finisher only won seven buy-ins – hardly worth the price of admission.
  • Players were given three weeks notice last time around, and more opportunities to qualify for the tournament via low buy-in satellites. Conversely, this week’s offering flew under the radar. To my knowledge only one reputable source reported on the event.

The last point raises the question: Did Party / Borgata run an understated marketing campaign for Sunday’s $100k on purpose?

Thinking about it further, I believe this is quite possibly the case.

There is a growing subsection of the community calling for Party to replace the $50k with the $100k entirely. Last week could have served as a field trial for the site to determine if that were a viable option.

Given the turnout, it appears that the answer is tending towards “yes.”

 NJ poker sites vs unregulated US-facing sites

Next time, we’ll deviate from the standard formula. Instead of the usual format, we’ll be conducting a side-by-side comparison of New Jersey’s poker sites versus popular unregulated sites such as Bovada.

In doing so, I’ll hope to answer some of the questions pertaining to why players from the Garden State are still attracted to these less secure, more problematic online poker providers.

- 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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