Party/Borgata's GSSS III Is One For The Record Books

Third Time’s The Charm: GSSS III Most Successful Online Tournament Series In New Jersey To Date

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It took three attempts, but Party/Borgata finally managed to host a Garden State Super Series in New Jersey that will be remembered more as a triumph than an unmitigated disaster.

The network’s strategic decision to reduce the number of tournaments and guaranteed cash for the GSSS III proved to be a sagacious one, resulting in more events meeting, and in some cases shattering, their minimum benchmarks.

Yet, to some extent, the Series also exposed some of the vulnerabilities of the NJ online poker landscape.

Highlights of the GSSS III

Considering the downtrodden state of the NJ online poker market, turnouts for most GSSS III events exceeded expectations. Yet, the Series’ narrow scope, and relative inability to fill seats for alternative format events, speaks volumes as to how niche the market has become.

The good

  • Of the Series’ 43 events, only seven posted overlays. Most overlays were small enough that the event still generated a profit for the operator.
  • The two biggest events on the schedule (Event #20 – $100,000 GTD NLHE and Event #39 – $150,000 GTD NLHE) both exceeded their guarantees, albeit by very slim margins.
  • The biggest buy-in event (Event #40 – $1,060 buy-in, $75,000 GTD NLHE) surprised by creating a prize pool of $89,000.
  • Nineteen events saw turnouts of 200 players or more. Six events attracted more than 300 players.
  • Several events, including the concluding event (Event #43 – $10,000 GTD NLHE Turbo) beat out their guarantees by 100 percent or more.

The not so good

  • Interest in non-NLHE events was fairly low. Only two out of five Omaha events hit the mark, despite not a single one offering more than a $10,000 guarantee.
  • The sole Fixed Limit Hold’em and 7-Stud events did hit their conservative guarantees, yet only registered 55 and 64 entries, respectively.
  • Recreational players were not well-represented, as only 6 out of 43 events (14 percent) boasted buy-ins of less than $55, and none under $20.

Now that the GSSS has abandoned its three-tiered buy-in system, budget players no longer have a Party/Borgata-hosted tournament series to look forward to, as the network’s only other major MTT event (the NJCOP) caters primarily to mid-to-high stakes players.

On some level, the network’s decision to all but ostracize low-stakes MTT players makes sense. Average player value on Party/Borgata is exceedingly higher than on rival WSOP/888, suggesting that Party/Borgata players preference higher stakes cash games and bigger buy-in MTT events.

So why not roll out the red carpet for them?

Simply stated, catering exclusively to high stakes/volume players will eventually spell the ruination of the network’s already fragile online poker ecology.

The pro-friendly structure of the GSSS III is also seemingly at odds with other changes PartyPoker is toying with; namely, the recent retooling of its loyalty program in favor of casual players, and the imminent software overhaul that will render HUDs redundant.

Who needs cross-promotion?

Interestingly, the latest iteration of the Garden State Super Series was the first to not overlap with a major Open event at the Borgata.

To my understanding, the logic behind cross-promoting live and online tournament series is that the higher prevalence of out-of-state players, and overall heightened interest in poker, will result in increased turnouts for online events.

Turns out the opposite may be true. Both the GSSS I and II featured a rather high frequency of overlays. The GSSS III did not.

Granted, part of this discrepancy is accounted for by the reduction in the number of events, but it also may be that players situated at the Borgata may be too taken with live events and casino nightlife to be bothered to sit in their rooms and grind out online tournaments with less than stellar guarantees.

By contrast, both in and out-of-state players may feel more compelled to participate in GSSS events when it’s the best available option.

GSSS III has minimal impact on cash game liquidity

One facet all three Series have in common is their relative inability to drive cash game traffic upward.

According to Poker Industry Pro via, liquidity on Party/Borgata only rose 4 percent from the time the GSSS III began to the time the final hand was dealt on October 25.

That’s just 2 percent better than the growth WSOP/888 experienced over an equivalent time frame.

- 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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