Party / Borgata Up Their Game With GSSS 2 Schedule
Online Poker Report

Garden State Super Series II: Party / Borgata Seeks to Win Back NJ Online Poker Players

Bouquet of roses
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After two plus weeks of collecting player feedback, Party Poker NJ and BorgataPoker.com have released the official schedule for the second edition of the Garden State Super Series.

As was the case for the network’s two previous online series, the GSSS II (January 11 – 25) will coincide with a live WPT event at the Borgata.

Read the full schedule here.

The GSSS’ maiden voyage was marred by a server blackout that caused the cancellation of the Main Event. A smooth-sailing follow-up could go a long way towards restoring New Jersey player confidence in the brand.

So, how did Party / Borgata do?

GSSS II borrows heavily from inaugural version…

The GSSS II bears a strong resemblance to September’s predecessor (which itself borrowed heavily from popular ROW tournament series such as the PokerStarshosted WCOOP):

  • The GSSS II will be spread over 23 events, with each event featuring three buy-in tiers (low, medium and high), for a total of 69 tournaments. September’s series featured 20 events in the same three-tier format.
  • Like last time, non-holdem variants such as PLO, O8, Fixed Limit and 7-Stud will be represented.
  • Tournament starting times will be staggered every half hour, beginning at 6:00 pm on weekdays and 4:00 pm on weekends.
  • The total allocated prize pool across all events will surpass the $1 mm barrier.

…but offers a few noteworthy changes

As it’s done in the past, Party / Borgata requested draft schedule feedback from posters on its dedicated Two Plus Two forum.

Only this time around, the majority of player suggestions are reflected in the finalized schedule.

A few examples:

  • The GSSS II will reflect recent amendments to the network’s tournament payout structure. Higher buy-in tournaments will see fewer players cashing for larger amounts, while tournaments $20 and under will pay 18-20% of the field. This addresses the most publicized concern among regulars.
  • Alternative format events will be more spread out, with only two non-Hold’em events taking place at the same time (Event #7 & #8).
  • Several new tournament variants have been introduced, including a hotly anticipated Heads-Up format (Event #15), a Super Bounty (Event #17) and a Speed Down (Event #21), which to my knowledge features blind levels that gradually shorten in length.
  • The remaining GSSS II event formats are more evenly balanced, with a variety of 6-Max, Deepstack and Rebuy tournaments, as well as traditional freezeouts, making their way into the schedule.

Other changes may garner mixed reactions:

  • The guarantee for the Main Event (Event #22 Mid) has been reduced from $200,000 to $150,000, with only $30,000 going to the winner (down from $50,000).
  • Also, the Main Event will take place towards the very end of the festivities, as opposed to in September, when the Main was held at the series’ mid-point.
  • The number of guaranteed seats awarded via mega satellites appears to have been drastically reduced (however, regular qualifiers into select GSSS II events have already begun – five weeks ahead of the series kickoff).

Overall: Progress by Party NJ / Borgata, but questions linger

While the GSSS II is clearly Party / Borgata’s most well-conceived tournament series to date, the scheduling is a bit hit or miss.

The GSSS II is set to kick off two days (Sunday, January 11) before the Borgata Winter Poker Open gets underway.

All fine and good, but considering how regularly Party / Borgata replaces its flagship Sunday Major ($50k GTD) with a six figure guarantee, a $75,000 guaranteed prize pool feels like a bit of a let down.

Better is the placement of the Main Event, which coincides directly with Day 1a of the WPT Winter Poker Open Championship ($3,500 buy-in, $3 million GTD).

Normally I’d argue against this type of apparent scheduling conflict. But consider two things:

  1. There’s enough high buy-in ($500 – $1,000) online tournaments on the GSSS schedule to warrant the attention of out-of-state pros.
  2. If history is any indicator, the majority of Winter Open Championship runners will register for Day 1b (Monday, January 26). For them, Sunday will be a complete off day from the live tournament tables.

It’s disappointing to see the highest guarantee dropped by 25%, especially now that the New Jersey market is in the midst of a moderate resurgence.

Finally, the two hour gap between Saturday’s events is a bit oft-putting. The network’s apparent reluctance to encourage multi-tabling continues to befuddle me.

But ultimately, any minor gripes I may have are more than offset by kudos for the improvements made and overall strength of the schedule.

The potential impact of GSSS II on Party / Borgata traffic

According to data gathered on PokerFuse Pro and PokerScout, average cash game traffic on Party / Borgata is hovering right around 160.

That’s the highest it’s been since early May, and represents a 18% month-over-month gain.

Some of these gains can be attributed to seasonal factors, but that doesn’t account for why the network is outpacing its closest rival WSOP.com, despite the latter’s stronger December promotional schedule.

It’s conceivable, even likely, that the widespread approval of Party’s revamped nightly tournament schedule and reconfigured payout model are the driving forces behind the liquidity gains. If so, the stage is set for the GSSS II to become the most successful tournament series in New Jersey to date.

The GSSS is also an opportunity for the network to counter any lingering doubts that its NJ software cannot handle increased server loads.

On the flip side, any software-driven disturbance will cause irrecoverable damage to the Party Poker NJ / Borgata brand, and paves the way for the prospective union of WSOP.com and us.888poker.com to claim the title of market share leader.

In short: the fate of the GSSS II hinges on the network’s ability to run a smooth series.

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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.