Online Poker Report

Analysis: PokerStars.es As a Predictive Model for PokerStars New Jersey

PokerStars Spain NJ
This article may be outdated. Get the latest news on New Jersey here.

There’s a common misconception among poker players I’ve spoken with that PokerStars’ New Jersey poker room will in many ways parallel its .com site.

Granted, in terms of overall product quality, I would imagine that PokerStars NJ won’t trail too far behind its multi-jurisdictional counterpart. Especially if Stars opts to introduce its newly-minted PokerStars 7 software in the Garden State.

But in my estimation, that’s about where the similarities will end and the differences begin.

PokerStars.com serves the greater part of the free world. The number of grinders playing concurrently on the site often eclipses the population of New Jersey’s smaller counties. In short: It would not be prudent to use PokerStars.com as a measuring stick for its NJ poker room.

Instead, let’s look to a country where PokerStars holds a “ring fenced” gaming license, Spain, as a predictive model of what players can expect from Stars NJ and how Stars’ presence will influence the state’s online poker market.

In Spain, PokerStars dominates the market

According to numbers tabulated by PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, PokerStars is far and away Spain’s market share leader.

Cash game market share percentages in Spain are as follows:

  • PokerStars Spain: 71.3%
  • 888poker Spain: 20.4%
  • iPoker Spain: 3.5%
  • PartyPoker Spain: 3.3%

Compare this to the current situation in New Jersey:

A few interesting points worth noting

Once PokerStars enters New Jersey, the makeup of its industry with regards to licensed operators will closely resemble that of Spain.

Based on this alone, it’s reasonable to assume that PokerStars will dominate NJ’s iPoker landscape.

However, in Spain PokerStars’ circumstances for entry were vastly different. Namely, it was awarded a license to operate at approximately the same time as 888, Ladbrokes and bwin.party.

By entering New Jersey’s market nearly a year after it first launched, PokerStars may suffer an adjustment period that the state’s other online poker rooms have already labored through.

Then again, PokerStars is coming into the market acutely aware of the difficulties that have plagued NJ’s other sites, and is likely aptly prepared to handle them.

Also of note – in Spain only one other network has managed to sustain a reasonable market share: 888.

Presuming 888 and WSOP eventually share liquidity, it’s conceivable that either 888 or Party / Borgata will enter into a war for NJ’s second spot, with one emerging victorious and the other resigned to scavenging for crumbs.

Due to the foothold Party and 888 have already secured in the market, I don’t think the market share distribution will be quite as skewed in NJ as it is in Spain.

But I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like this in a year’s time:

  • PokerStars NJ: 62%
  • 888/WSOP: 28%
  • Borgata / PartyPoker NJ: 10%

For the purposes of this illustration, 888/WSOP and PartyPoker NJ / Borgata are interchangeable, although I do think the partnership of WSOP and 888 would usurp Party.

Using PokerStars.es to predict NJ cash-game volume

In a previous piece I reasoned that NJ cash-game liquidity will grow to approximately 750 to 800, or about 2.4 times greater than it is now, by January 2015.

A study of PokerStars’ performance in Spain throws a wrench, albeit a questionable one, in that argument:

  • Spain has a population of 47.1 million people, and a current 7-day average of 1,438 cash-game players, or about .003 percent of the population.
  • The current situation in New Jersey is proportionally similar. Assuming a population reach of 10.5 million – which equates to New Jersey’s population of 8.8 million plus a fractional amount of the population of NYC and Philadelphia – and an average of 330 cash-game players, about .0031 percent of the available population plays on New Jersey poker sites.

Based on these figures alone, one would presume that PokerStars’ presence will not have a discernible effect on cash-game liquidity in New Jersey.

But then I noticed that during peak hours, nearly 50,000 players – a staggering .1 percent of the Spain’s population – were logged onto PokerStars.es.

In New Jersey, it’s fair to conclude that during prime time there are approximately 2,500 players logged on across the market’s three major networks. That equates to only .024 of its population reach – or one quarter the total in Spain.

So why the discrepancy? Two theories come to mind:

  1. PokerStars is known primarily as a tournament player’s poker room, especially in nations where the market isn’t large enough to sustain a thriving Zoom (fast-fold) poker community. Last time I checked, only a couple hundred players were mixing it up on the Zoom tables, yet many of its tournaments were drawing upwards of one to two thousand runners.
  2. Presumably due to the high tax rates PokerStars.es is required to pay, the poker room charges a significantly higher cash-game rake for No-Limit and Pot-Limit games than its .com counterpart. At equivalent stakes, even small market sites like WSOP NJ charge a lower VIG than PokerStars.es.

This leads me to believe that tournament volume will be the main beneficiary of PokerStars NJ’s entry into the marketplace, if only because:

  • PokerStars tournament schedules are the most well thought out in the business.
  • Zoom Poker will not be overly popular due to NJ’s small market size.
  • Tax rates will prevent PokerStars from being able to offer a rake on par with its .com site.
  • Grinders from Philly and NYC should be more willing to travel across state lines to play in a PokerStars-run tournament than one hosted by the state’s other iPoker networks. Here’s why.

Granted, I still believe cash-game liquidity in NJ will rise significantly by January 2015 – it just might have more trouble eclipsing the 800 barrier than I originally thought.

If PokerStars.es is any indicator, NJ welcome bonuses should be generous

On PokerStars.es, new players receive a 100% match bonus up to 500 euros (approximately $660.00). That’s actually better than what the .com site is currently offering ($600).

This is likely due to PokerStars’ desire to grow its Spain market, whereas most players living in nations where PokerStars.com has operated for years already have an account.

Given this, I would expect PokerStars to roll out a generous welcome package, somewhere in the area of $600 to $1,000 plus $10 to $20 in free play during its early days in NJ’s market, before eventually settling back to a more standard $400 to $500 match bonus.

Intangibles

Based on an examination of PokerStars.es, I’m under the impression that PokerStars NJ will roll out special tournament series on a somewhat consistent basis.

Compare this to the situation now, where tournament junkets are lucky to see one prestigious series per quarter.

In terms of other promotions, I wouldn’t expect much after the initial rollout period. PokerStars.es thrives not necessarily on needing to launch the promotional equivalent of fire sales, much like 888 does in New Jersey, but instead it relies on building long term loyalty through its poker product, stellar VIP rewards program, carefully constructed tournament schedule, and exemplary customer service.

While the occasional player performance-driven promo is always nice, PokerStars NJ will hardly have to have it.

Robert DellaFave
- 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.
Privacy Policy