After GSSS, What’s The Path Forward for Party / Borgata?

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On September 14th, New Jersey’s nascent online poker industry suffered through one of its most ill-timed and unfortunate incidents, as Party / Borgata experienced an egregious technical malfunction during the Main Event of its inaugural Garden State Super Series.

Since, the Garden State’s leading network has failed to recapture the mediocrity (pun intended) that allowed it to at least flirt with the idea of meeting its tournament guarantees on a somewhat regular basis.

Which raises the question: Have NJ players finally had enough with the flawed network, or is there still hope for it to remain relevant in a post-PokerStars NJ world?

GSSS resolution proves a short-term success…

As part of the resolution to the GSSS snafu, Party / Borgata added $50,000 in prize money spread out over the following Sunday’s six GSSS events. The augmented value clearly drew the attention of the Garden State’s poker community, evidenced by impressive turnout figures across the board.

Highlighting the joyous day was GSSS #19 High – $75,000 GTD + $20,000 added, which attracted 509 runners en route to generating a prize pool of $114,165.

The series’ culminating event, a $500 buy-in, $50,000 guarantee + $10,000 added also performed admirably, outperforming its minimum benchmark by over $13,500.

…it also exhibits untapped potential of the NJ market

Last Sunday’s success proves two things:

  1. Added value is king. This much is obvious.
  2. The potential size of the NJ market is bigger than we might think.

The latter point merits elaboration.

Although some of the participants in last week’s events cashed in their satellite tickets from the previous week to gain entry, the Borgata Poker Open had already concluded, meaning that the composition of New Jersey’s poker landscape was roughly on par with what it was on a normal Sunday.

This means that on any given weekend it’s at least conceivable for multiple tournaments to draw upwards of 300 – 400 players.

In practice, these numbers are a tad idealistic, as Party / Borgata won’t be offering added value on a weekly basis. But I’d argue that should the network – or any other NJ-based iPoker network – prove willing to substantially enhance their poker product and become more proactive in listening to player feedback, achieving the lower end of the aforementioned range is well within reach.

So far Party / Borgata has taken the first step, but it’s only one of many.

Party / Borgata rolls out new tournament schedule

Last month, I pointed out five areas in which New Jersey’s poker sites could improve their tournament offerings. Coming in at number four on my list of grievances was Party / Borgata’s confounding nightly schedule.

The network has addressed the schedule via a sweeping update which saw four new guaranteed tournaments added and adjustments made to three existing nightly forays.

Among the more notable changes:

  • One of the network’s two $50 buy-in, $5,000 GTD nightly tournaments was changed to a Double Chance (1x rebuy).
  • The $10 buy-in, $1,000 GTD Triple Chance saw a turbo format added.
  • Two $1,000 GTD MTT’s were added to the schedule, one a $10 rebuy and the other a $20 freezeout.

View the totality of Party / Borgata’s daily tournament schedule overhaul here.

In addition, a swath of alternate format tournaments, primarily of the PLO, PLO8 and 7-Stud varieties, were added to the schedule, although Party / Borgata was not brazen enough to attach guarantees to them without first conducting a proper field test.

Overall, the alterations to the schedule come across as necessary, conservative and in a few cases odd. For instance, does the network really expect players to sign up for a non-guaranteed $200 buy-in turbo that goes off at 11:00 PM? That’s wishful thinking at its most optimistic.

Still, any change is better than no change at all.

Player loyalty at all time low

Despite Party / Borgata’s best efforts, the network has yet to regain the full loyalty of its regular tournament grinders, many of whom seemingly require more than a modest scheduling overhaul and one time apologetic gesture to actively support the site.

Case in point: Since rolling out last Monday, few of the network’s new tournaments have succeeded in meeting their guarantees.

And old hats like Sunday’s $50,000 GTD have been coming up short for weeks. A nearly $6,000 overlay would have been unheard of back in March, now it’s par for the course.

Sadly, the GSSS had little of the expected impact on the network’s cash game figures. According to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout, 7 day averages on PartyPoker NJ are at 141 – exactly the same as they were on September 9th.

Compounding matters further, during the series, average 7 day volume never once eclipsed the 150 barrier. Compare that to what happened in Nevada this past June, when the live Series and’s cross-promotional efforts facilitated a 50% ring game volume gain.

But Party / Borgata isn’t WSOP, and despite its popularity, the Borgata Open does not possess the same allure as the WSOP.

Closing remarks

The willingness of players to grant Party / Borgata a second chance is dependent on how the network reacts over the course of the long haul.

Throwing tens of thousands of dollars at players and retooling its daily tournament schedule were nice first steps, but in order to do anything more than tread water the network needs to exhibit an enhanced commitment to the Garden State’s poker community.

A few areas the network may want to address:

  1. Provide greater transparency. It’s not enough to only address the community when something goes awry.
  2. Address common player complaints. Players have been requesting fundamental software features such as cash game wait lists for months. The network has all but ignored these pleas.
  3. Offer patch notes. The community wants to know what they’re agreeing to each time there is an update to the network’s software or terms.
  4. Fix the bugs. Party / Borgata’s poker product is for all intents and purposes still in beta testing. Change that.
  5. Never allow this to happen again. Regardless of how many improvements Party / Borgata makes to its service, one more ill-timed server crash and the network might as well wave the white flag.

So yes, I have little doubt that under ideal circumstances Party could not only recover from September 14th’s unfortunate events, but be a better, more popular network for it.

Whether they’ll do so, or merely remain content to play second or third fiddle to PokerStars NJ is the question.

Easy road vs. the difficult road: It’s time to make a decision.

- 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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