On Monday, the cash game table cap on WSOP NJ was reduced from its previous allotment of ten to six.
When challenged on Twitter to rationalize the reduction, WSOP Head of Online Poker Bill Rini offered the following responses:
— Bill Rini (@billrini) January 19, 2015
— Bill Rini (@billrini) January 19, 2015
It appears that the rollback is part of a continuing effort by WSOP to cater to its recreational players, with the justification being that the fewer opportunities casual players have to lose to pros, the longer they’ll remain liquid on the site, thereby balancing the poker ecology over the long run.
This isn’t the first time WSOP has implemented a community-dividing amendment to its New Jersey business model. In June, the site reduced the amount of rakeback awarded by its player loyalty program. Shortly thereafter, its promotional schedule was refocused, with most new promos offering nominal rewards for casual, yet regular, play.
In my estimation, both the latest and prior changes to WSOP’s online poker paradigm are based on a flawed logic, one which poses benefits to recreational players at the expense of the site’s regular grinders.
The site’s regulars echo these sentiments. I’ve combined their arguments against the table cap reduction with my own personal assessment of the change in the sections below.
At first glance, restricting the amount of play afforded to 1% of the site’s population by 40% appears to be a nominal sacrifice.
However, there are other factors worth considering:
I’m of the mind that the emphasis in underpopulated iPoker markets should be on increasing liquidity, not increasing restrictions. Ostracizing the few players that are both spreading awareness and starting new cash games on WSOP may prove a recipe for disaster.
The motivation behind a table cap is to discourage a practice called bumhunting, where strong players actively seek out games comprised of weaker players.
Yet generally speaking, the fewer tables a pro sits at, the higher their win rate per table.
In effect, by reducing the table cap, WSOP.com is stacking the odds against recreational players who opt to play at tables featuring former 10-tabling (and now six-tabling) pros.
This problem wouldn’t be so bad if recreational players had dozens upon dozens of tables at their preferred stake to choose from, but in a market as small as New Jersey’s, they simply don’t.
WSOP’s top two loyalty tiers, Super Elite and Seven Stars, require that players contribute $125,000 and $200,000, respectively, over a 12-month period.
With the new cash table cap in place, achieving these tiers (and the 25% – 35% rakeback that comes with them) becomes little more than a fantastical pipe dream.
To support this claim, I’ve spoken with top rakeback generator Matthew Land, who states that he regularly contributes $10,000 per month, but relies on playing 10-12 tables of 100-400 NL in order to do so.
Simple math dictates that this player could not achieve anything higher than WSOP’s lowest yearly tier (Elite), if he were restricted to six-tabling.
All of this is not to say that the community doesn’t promote business strategies that encourage recreational play.
But there appear to be better alternatives than cash table caps.
A few examples:
The aforementioned solutions encourage recreational players to try their hand online, without inhibiting the poker playing experience of the site’s regulars.
Previously, New Jersey players opted to play on WSOP.com as opposed to its sister site due to the higher liquidity on the former.
However, now that the two share liquidity at all stakes 50 NL and lower, it stands to reason that micro and small-stakes pros will abandon WSOP in favor of an site that offers equivalent traffic, a better rakeback program and more multi-tabling opportunities.
WSOP players that grind 100 NL and up also may feel compelled to split their efforts more evenly between WSOP and 888, especially now that the only way they’ll be able to play on more than six tables at once is by distributing their play across multiple sites.
It is therefore at least conceivable that 888 will become New Jersey’s front running iPoker operator in the near future.
Well, that is at least until PokerStars enters the equation.