Soft Launch Begins

PokerStars NJ Soft Launch: A First Look At The Software

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[geoip2 region=NJarea][i15-table tableid=29874][/geoip2]

PokerStars NJ is now accessible for download and real-money play in New Jersey. The site entered a soft launch testing period starting at approximately March 16 at 4:00 pm, and is slated for a full launch at midnight on March 21.

Here are some notes, observations, and analysis from my play on during the soft launch period.

PokerStars NJ based off international client

The PokerStars NJ platform is based off the PokerStars 7 software, which is the latest version offered internationally.

Although only in a limited launch phase, server response has been generally lightning fast, vastly outperforming existing NJ operators.

Login and payment processing requests are processed instantaneously, and geo-location issues have been practically nonexistent.

That being said, the network is prone to occasional hangups, but that’s to be expected during a testing phase. Any and all issues should be ironed out by the time PokerStars NJ officially launches on Monday.

As for the interface itself, it is nearly as feature rich as its global counterpart, sporting a wide array of customization, quick accessibility features, filters and views.

Available game offerings at PokerStars NJ

Currently, players can engage in cash games, a vast array of sit & gos formats, the widely popular Spin & Go’s, and multi-table tournaments.

Cash games

PokerStars NJ offers a far more diversified cash game lobby than any existing NJ operator, with alternative formats:

  • Stud
  • Badugi
  • 2-7 Triple Draw
  • 8-game

… all making an appearance besides more traditional formats such as NL Hold’em and PL Omaha.

Cash Game Lobby

There is a Zoom (fast-fold) lobby on display, but it is currently unoccupied. Other NJ sites have tried to run fast-fold games, but due to the market’s severe liquidity restraints, they have never gotten off on a consistent basis.

PokerStars NJ MTTs

Tournament buy-ins range from $1 – $30, with Progressive KO’s, 3-Stack and Time Bomb formats all currently accessible. Worth noting, is that anyone with a registered account (real-money or not) can sign up for the $25,000 We Are in New Jersey freeroll – slated to take place on March 27 at 5 pm.

PokerStars NJ Spin n’ Go

As for Spin & Go’s at PokerStars New Jersey:

  • There are four stakes available: $1, $2, $5 and $10.
  • The rake is 7 percent across the board. That’s a bit higher than what players will find internationally, but about on par with PokerStars’ other ring-fenced operations.
  • The top multiplier is 1,200x. 

How can I deposit at PokerStars NJ?

Players who gave up on NJ regulated online poker during its nascent days, when payment processing options were limited at best, will be pleased to know that PokerStars NJ is launching with a swath of depositing and withdrawal options.

Deposit options

Currently available depositing options include:

  • Instant eChecks
  • MasterCard
  • 7-Eleven PayNearMe
  • PokerStars Instant Online Banking
  • Neteller
  • Cash at the Resorts Casino cage

Other options to come

PokerStars Play+ Card and Visa are also listed, but aren’t yet available.

According to PokerStars Dylan on Two Plus Two, PayPal will not be an option at launch, but is expected to be offered shortly thereafter.

Also worth noting, is that deposit caps are rather low at this time, ranging from $500 – $640 per transaction for most methods.

Cashing out at PokerStars NJ

From what it appears, cash out methods are currently limited to the deposit methods a player used, as well as Resorts cash at the cage.

eCheck deposits cannot be cashed out until at least one eCheck deposit clears. This process can take up to 10 days.

Real-money registration a bit confounding

In order to register a real-money account, I had to first attempt to sit at a real-money table. Upon attempting to sit, I was notified by the software that I must first flesh out my account details before making a deposit.

Most likely, this is a kink that will be worked out prior to launch. Those using the quick account creation feature may have a more fluid experience.

Once at the registration screen, creating a real-money account is a streamlined process, with account verification processing in less than a second.

Only last four of SS required

Players wary about giving out pertinent details such as their SSN will be pleased to know that PokerStars NJ only requires the last four digits of the number.

In addition, players will also have to provide their full name and verified address before making a first deposit – that’s par for the course on a regulated NJ site.

Two welcome bonuses to rule them all

At launch, there will be a choice of not one, but two, welcome packages.

The first is clearly tailored toward more recreational players. Those who deposit $20 or more  will receive $40 in free cash to use at the tables, a $10 Spin & Go ticket and a ticket to a $5,000 Depositor Freeroll, slated for the last Sunday of every month.

This offer expires on May 15, 2016.

The second offer is more geared toward grinders. PokerStars NJ is offering a 100% match bonus on all deposits up to $600.

Welcome Bonus

As far as the clearing rate, players will unlock $10 cash for every 100 VPPs accumulated. Assuming 5 VPPs per every dollar generated in rake and tournament fees, that equates to a very generous 50 percent cashback deal.

Also worth noting is that players do not have to claim the entire $600 on their first deposit. Instead, the bonus can be spread out across as many as three deposits.

There is no apparent expiration date on this offer.

I don’t see a promo / bonus code field when I deposit

Currently, PokerStars NJ does not appear to be accepting promotional codes from the cashier, a known bug. A PokerStars rep on TwoPlusTwo confirmed that all players will receive the welcome bonus regardless of whether a code is used:

There’s a confirmed issue with the deposit code field. It’s at the top of the list of issues being looked into.

Apologies for the inconvenience. As mentioned, we will honour the deposit offers for players who were unable to take advantage of them due to this issue.

What impact will PokerStars NJ have on the market?

Smart money is that PokerStars will jumpstart NJ online poker revenue, at least for a time. Media hype surrounding the event, as well as lucrative promotional offers and the presence of a highly functional poker client should attract players to the virtual felt in droves.

Not to mention, existing operators have already shown a willingness to up their game now that PokerStars has entered the fray.

That doesn’t necessarily mean cash game liquidity will reach its former heights of early 2014, as one of the main draws of PokerStars is its net depositing player friendly formats, particularly Spin & Go’s.

What it does mean is that all eyes will be on NJ online poker, including legislators from other states who are heavily weighing the pros and cons of regulated iGaming.

That being said, any huge impact PokerStars NJ may have on the market will likely be somewhat short lived, as NJ’s population restrictions will only allow for the market to sustain substantial liquidity gains for so long.

A 20-25 percent overall revenue increase feels about right over the long haul.

- 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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