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The two sites will remain, to some extent, independent of one another, as they will only share players at specific tables.
VIP programs and other promotions will remain by and large separate.
On the cash game side of the lobby, 888 and WSOP will be pooling players at the following games:
These stakes make up a significant amount of the action on each site in terms of total seats.
As for tournaments, the story is a bit different.
Sit and go tournaments with buy-ins up to $5 will be shared between the two sites, continuing the low buy-in pooling approach.
But on the multi-table tournament side, cooperation will skew toward the higher side of the buy-in spectrum:
It will be interesting to see if the guarantees are scaled up once the impact of cooperation becomes clearer.
Why aren’t they sharing players across all tables?
The reason is likely one of duplicate players. The tables that will remain separate probably have high duplicate player rates.
I asked Head of Online Poker at WSOP.com Bill Rini about the potential for duplicate players, to which he responded, “In reviewing data with 888 we both felt that there was more than enough uniqueness between our player bases that this was a win all around.”
Even though the two sites will not share liquidity across all games, they will be sharing players in the most populous games.
PokerScout.com currently lists the three sites as having average cash game traffic of:
If WSOP.com and 888 end up sharing 75% of their player base, with 60% of those players being unique, WSOP.com would see an increase to their average player count of about 50-60 players.
However, this liquidity bump will likely lead to some amount of partypoker / Borgata players switching sites as well, or at the very least adding WSOP.com to their playing rotation.
It will be interesting to see how PokerScout.com handles the partial pooling of players in their statistics.
With the pooling, WSOP.com should also be able to increase the guaranteed prize pool of their weekly guaranteed tournament and close the significant gap in tournament players that exists between themselves and their only rival at the moment, Party/Borgata.
Currently partypoker is able to offer a $50k Guarantee for their Sunday Major, while WSOP.com’s is just half that amount at $25k.
888 New Jersey currently offers a $10k Guaranteed Sunday tournament.
It should be noted, NJ.PartyPoker.com and BorgataPoker.com have operated on the same network and pool their players across all games since the two sites launched in November of 2013.
WSOP.com and 888 were expected to share players at some point, considering they already announced shared liquidity in Nevada on the All American Poker Network – the same network also exists in New Jersey.
However, up until now there was a potential downside to pooling their players as it may have opened the door for another operator to gain market share.
After the closures of Ultimate Poker and Betfair there is no longer a third operator to worry about, and the potential drawbacks of liquidity sharing no longer exists as the market is down to two operators – for now.
This dynamic may have delayed the pooling of WSOP.com and 888 players, as the sites saw more value in being #2 and #3 in the market and fighting a single competitor, rather than being #1 and fighting two other operators.
A third competitor may have emerged because many serious players will have multiple sites open due to the market’s lack of liquidity which made it impossible for a New Jersey online poker room to offer enough games at a preferred stakes for a competent multi-tabler.
Therefore, these players were likely trying to start games at all of New Jersey’s sites.
While the New Jersey market is struggling to support three operators, in small markets such as New Jersey, serious online poker players need multiple sites in order to get enough games started.
If their only options were Borgata/partypoker and WSOP.com/888, instead of partypoker/Borgata, 888, and WSOP.com, they would have been more likely to add Ultimate Poker.
The same is true in tournaments.
By remaining separate 888 and WSOP.com were able to offer separate Sunday tournaments, allowing players to participate in the partypoker/Borgata $50k Guarantee, WSOP.com’s $25k Guarantee and 888’s $10k Guarantee.
By keeping 888’s tournament going they reduced the appeal of Ultimate Poker’s tournament which was hampered by the site’s shoddy software – something players may have overlooked if there were only two other tournaments.
Yet another reason Caesars and 888 may be combining their player pools might have to do with the anticipated addition of PokerStars.
PokerStars is expected to be a formidable competitor if and when they launch in New Jersey, and WSOP.com and 888 may need every player they can get in order to avoid being churned out in PokerStars sizable wake.
The more players the site can boast at both cash game tables and tournaments, the better equipped they will be to hold off PokerStars.
Against PokerStars the sum may be greater than the parts.