Party / Borgata Revised Tournament Schedule a Small Victory For NJ Online Poker Players

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Party / Borgata has addressed one of the more criticized aspects of its New Jersey operation: its nightly tournament schedule.

A full outlining of the changes, including links to the revised MTT schedule, can be found here.

The state’s market share leader must be applauded for its continued effort to incorporate user feedback into its updates. But the latest refocusing effort comes off as equal parts beneficial and confounding, and not the all-inclusive overhaul NJ’s poker grinders were hoping for.

But overall, the update is still a net win for the nascent industry.

Highlights of Party / Borgata tournament schedule update

The scheduling update, which went into effect on Monday December 1, breaks down into four major talking points, each of which is detailed and commented upon below.

1) $10,000 GTD start time moved to 6 pm

Party / Borgata has shifted the starting time of its flagship daily Major from 7 pm to 6 pm.

Although the move may appeal to players who felt alienated by the tournament’s long run time, there are significant drawbacks to kicking off the nightly schedule with the highest buy-in Major.

Namely, 9 to 5 workers will miss out on opportunities to satellite their way into the tournament. That, and there is an increased dependency on late registration.

The latter point was on full display Monday, when the tournament was cancelled due to low early registration tallies.

Compounding matters further, the guarantees leading up to the $10k are all exceedingly modest ($150 – $250), and do little to serve as a suitable warm-up to what is, by and large, a major event.

2) Addition of new Majors

Two Majors have been added to the schedule:

  • The Daily $1,000 Guaranteed Super Bounty is a $19 + $1 tournament that will run at 7 pm daily. The guarantee will be doubled to $2,000 on Sundays.
  • Slow Grind is a $45 + $5 tourney featuring deep stacks and an intentionally slow structure. It runs at 12 pm daily, although only the Sunday version features a modest guarantee ($1,500).

The inclusion of a tournament targeted primarily towards midday grinders is a worthy addition, but why not append a smallish guarantee to the weekday iterations?

As is, Party already spreads too many non-guaranteed tournaments, most of which do a better job of cluttering the tournament lobby than attracting genuine attention.

Moving on, the inclusion of a Super Bounty is by far the best alteration to the daily schedule, one that promotes a fun “kill or be killed” atmosphere and balances cash liquidity.

Affixing a $2,000 guarantee to the Sunday version was a clever move, and exhibits the network’s occasional willingness to gamble on higher buy-in-to-guarantee ratios.

3) More balanced payout structures

From now forward, tournaments featuring a buy-in of $20 or less will pay 18-20% of the field, while those touting a $50 or higher price tag will pay a more traditional 13-15%.

In my estimation, this is the single most beneficial update to the tournament schedule; one that appeals to the sensibilities of professional and recreational players alike.

Whereas casual players are more concerned with remaining liquid than outright winning, the pros generally favor more top heavy payout structures.

Party / Borgata’s adapted payout model addresses both demographics, and for this, the network should be applauded.

However, the wording of the new model unintentionally highlights one of the most crippling flaws of the network’s tournament schedule: the utter dearth of $25 to $40 MTTs.

4) Fewer tournaments, larger prize pools

One of the update’s most highly-vaunted bullet points is also its most befuddling: The number of daily tournaments have been reduced to make way for a more streamlined, prize pool intensive schedule.

There are several issues with this paradigm:

  • Party / Borgata has this ill-conceived conception that the NJ market is too niche to support myriad guaranteed tournaments, when in fact, the average regular preferences sites where multi-tabling is facilitated, not discouraged, by the schedule.
  • On weekdays from midnight to 6 pm, there are exactly 10 guaranteed tournaments, none of which run between the hours of 1 am and 10 am. That breaks down to an average of one tournament per every 1.8 hours.
  • Where are the enhanced prize pools? Most of the network’s tournaments maintain the same 100:1 guaranteed prize pool to buy-in ratio (or less) that they did pre-update, Sunday’s Super Bounty and $50k GTD being the notable exceptions.

While I agree that the consolidation of the network’s many satellites is a positive, Party / Borgata was well advised to take a polar opposite approach to its tournament schedule – one that saw it sprinkle a variety of $5 and $10 buy-in, guaranteed tournaments throughout the afternoon and as part of the nightly second chance schedule.

As is, the new schedule comes across as sparse and too reliant on a half-dozen or so tournaments to drive volume.

Read my recently-updated reviews of Party Poker NJ here and Borgata here.

What about the $5,000 guarantee?

In a word, Party butchered the structure/timing of its nightly $50 buy-in, $5,000 GTD.

For the site’s second biggest daily Major to feature five minute blinds and an average run time of less than 2.5 hours is an absurdity.

Many suggestions on how to mend the tournament have been proposed on various community forums, with the general consensus being it would best be served by an earlier start time and 10 minute blinds – with which I concur.

Perhaps the $5k can act as the warm-up to the nightly $10k, instead of the other way around.

In either case, a change is necessary, evidenced by Monday’s $1,175 overlay.

Update is a stuttered step in right direction

For all of its conservatism, the new Party / Borgata tournament schedule is stronger than the old.

The amendments to the tournament payout model are commendable, as are the addition of two new tournament formats.

Most of all, the network’s continued willingness to institute player feedback, however slow, is an always welcome fixture in a burgeoning market.

- 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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