PokerStars' Arrival In New Jersey Brings With It An Abundance Of New Tournament Options

How Do The Biggest Tournaments On PokerStars NJ Stack Up Against The Competition?

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Known internationally for hosting the most eclectic mix of cash games and the biggest tournament prize pools, PokerStars took a more subdued approach to its launch in the New Jersey online poker market.

In particular, its tournament guarantees tended toward the conservative side, with many majors boasting guarantees that were at best, on par with competitors WSOP/888 and Party/Borgata.

However, after a positive initial response and a slew of player feedback, PokerStars took the initiative, and today it offers a schedule that is comprehensive and more aggressive, but still not grossly disproportionate relative to NJ standards.

The Sunday majors

PokerStars has matched Party/Borgata with a $50,000 weekly guarantee – the market’s biggest.

Although both tournaments offer an extended reentry period, Stars’ Sunday Special is slightly more aggressive, as the buy-in is just $186+14 versus $200+15 for Party/Borgata’s Sunday $50k.

WSOP/888 is on the outside looking in, hosting a smallish $185+15 buy-in, $30,000 guarantee.

At present, all three majors are struggling to meet their minimum benchmarks, with the Sunday Special the only one just slipping by.

The poor showings are likely a byproduct of:

  • Players being spread too thin across sites.
  • The seasonal wind down that tends to ravage online poker liquidity beginning in March.

Expect these troubles to be compounded as the hype surrounding PokerStars’ launch in New Jersey fades further, and summer approaches.

Turning to secondary Sunday majors, all three sites/networks offer a $10,000 guarantee, although in this instance, PokerStars is by far the aggressor.

The Sunday Warm-Up is a $45+4.5 buy-in freezeout, requiring 220 runners to make the grade, whereas the Daily $10k on Party/Borgata is an unlimited reentry tournament with a $100+9 buy-in (100 runners to meet guarantee).

WSOP/888’s $10k Weekly Sunday, while a freezeout, possesses a heftier $91+9 price tag than the Warm-Up, and thus, requires far fewer entrants (110).

PokerStars NJ’s blend of alternate and second chance majors is wide-ranging.

Other Sunday majors as follows:

  • $500 buy-in Sunday High Roller, $15,000 guarantee
  • $10 buy-in Sunday Storm, $5,000 guarantee
  • $75 buy-in Sunday SuperSonic (hyper-turbo), $7,500 guarantee
  • Other daily majors

Comparatively, WSOP/888 supports just a select few alt events. Party/Borgata pushes the envelop a bit further, but its schedule is notably less comprehensive than that of PokerStars NJ.

The daily majors

Each site/network runs with at least two bigger daily majors and a host of secondary offerings.


The Nightly Stars is a $91.80+8.20, unlimited reentry MTT with a $10,000 guaranteed prize pool, that just squeaks by its guarantee – average prize pools range from $10k – $11k.

There are also four “Big” majors, with buy-ins ranging from $5 – $50, and prize pools running the gamut from $500 – $2,000.

Four turbo options have found a home in the tournament lobby. Like the Big’s, the four “Hot” MTTs also possess $5 – $50 buy-ins and guarantees up to $2,000.

In addition, Stars has rolled out four Progressive KO’s ($5 – $200 buy-ins) and three daily Change-Ups ($5 – $20 buy-in, $500 – $1,000 gtd., alt formats).

From what it appears, just about all of these tournaments – and compared to other New Jersey sites, it’s a lot – beat out their guarantees, although they are somewhat reliant on extended reentry periods to do so.

Unfortunately, outside of the Nightly Stars, individual major guarantees do little to entice – a likely consequence of rolling out so many tournaments.


Like Stars NJ, WSOP/888 also supports a nightly $10k, however, the network opted for a significantly smaller initial buy-in of $27.30+2.7 – offset by the inclusion of rebuys and add-ons.

The MTT has not been faring particularly well since Stars entered the mix, failing to reach its guarantee on multiple occasions – I’d go as far to say that smallish overlays are the new norm.

The $9.10+.90 buy-in, $5,000 guarantee (R&A) still manages to hold its own, and is bigger than any secondary daily major on either PokerStars or Party/Borgata.

WSOP/888 wins brownie points for hosting $100 buy-in, $2,000 – $2,500 gtd. high-roller events, a $1,500 guaranteed deep stack and a few other smaller majors.

Granted, its daily MTT offering is neither the most comprehensive or varied, but on average, the guarantees relative to the buy-in amounts are on the higher side.


Party/Borgata had been constantly improving and updating its MTT schedule, but lately, it’s undergone something of a downgrade.

While the network still offers a nightly $10,000 guarantee, it is now a reentry with a tremendously long late registration period (over 2.5 hours).

The network used to support a $5,000 guaranteed, but now the second biggest tournaments of the night is a $55 buy-in, $3,000 guaranteed second chance.

Once a week, the site hosts a $535 buy-in, $15,000 guaranteed Mega Tuesday event, but otherwise, most of the smaller majors are just that – small – with guarantees running from $500 – $1,000.

That said, there’s an abundance of majors, almost as many as there are on Stars, and both PLO and the bounty format are fairly represented.

So win wins?

In terms of comprehensiveness, Stars wins without question, followed only moderately closely by Party/Borgata and distantly by WSOP/888.

That said, the competition for the most aggressive operator is a bit closer, with Stars just edging out Party/Borgata for the best value on Sundays, but WSOP/888 arguably hosting the most aggressive dailies.

Really, the winner here is the average New Jersey grinder, who has more tournament options to choose from (not to mention more value via overlays) now than in the nearly two and a half year history of NJ regulated online poker.

- 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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