WSOP/888 Has Held Cash Game Market Share Lead In NJ For Nearly A Month

PokerStars Goes On The Hunt For Market Share Lead In New Jersey, But Effort Falls Short

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Despite a recent promotional push centered on cash game play, PokerStars has failed to wrestle away the market share lead from WSOP/888 in New Jersey.

If anything, the latest figures show that WSOP/888 is widening its lead in the ring game department — a lead that the network has now held for the better part of a month.

And while there’s still reason to believe PokerStars will eventually regain its former position, it’s becoming more difficult to envision a scenario where the operator opens up anything resembling a dominating lead.

CardHunt returns to less than spectacular results

On August 1, PokerStars went live with its CardHunt promotion. This is the second time the promotion, which has also appeared on PokerStars’ dot-com and regional sites, is being run in NJ.

The inaugural run of the promotion in June resulted in a mammoth upfront liquidity spike, followed by an almost equally dramatic falloff.

Yet, despite the mid-promotional swoon, PokerStars maintained a firm grip on the market share lead throughout CardHunt’s duration (May 31 – June 19), and for two weeks after.

The tide turned in early July, when increased WSOP brand awareness, a well-timed reload bonus on WSOP NJ, and supplemental promotions on 888 worked together to propel WSOP/888 into a virtual tie with Stars.

After trading jabs for about a week, WSOP/888 eventually opened up a material lead.

And although PokerStars began gaining ground in late July, it appears that CardHunt will fail to push PokerStars over the top, as since the promotion began, liquidity has been flat.

7-day average cash game tallies gathered from Poker Industry Pro via illustrate recent trends:

NJ cash game traffic August

Since WSOP went live with its $1,000 Summer Reload on July 1, liquidity is up an otherworldly 45.6 percent.

On the flip side, traffic on PokerStars has dipped 7.6 percent over an equivalent time frame, which is more or less in line with seasonal trends.

Explaining the divide

The changing of the guard in NJ is more a direct result of what WSOP/888 is doing right as opposed to what PokerStars is getting  wrong.

That’s not to say CardHunt is not without its share of problems:

  • 70 percent of the time players will receive a reward of $2 or less, which feels pretty poor given the nature of the daily challenge (win poker hands using 25 specified hole cards).
  • CardHunt is not driving quality traffic. In order to meet the requirements, players are congregating at the low stakes Zoom (fast-fold) tables. Once the challenge is met, players tend to leave.
  • The odds of a top prize ($3,000) hitting are low enough (0.04 percent) that most players disregard it as even a possibility.

That being said, at $6.17, the daily promotional value of CardHunt is on the high side. But to NJ players, it just doesn’t seems like the juice is worth the squeeze.

Turning to, big reload bonuses are reliable promotions that both increase the average cash balance of players and more importantly, encourage players to grind it out at least until they clear the bonus.

At a 20 percent rakeback rate, and a $1,000 monetary cap, this can take a while — which is probably why WSOP NJ has been able to sustain its recent liquidity gains.

Combine this with the running of the Main Event earlier this month, and the solid Weekend Warriors promotion on 888, and it becomes clear why the network’s stock has been rising.

On August 1, WSOP NJ pushed the envelope even further, via the launch of Late Night Happy Hours promotion that will see players earn double loyalty points during the prime time hours of 9 pm – 1 am.

Suffice it to say, this is an aggressive promotion. And while loyalty point exchange rates on WSOP are low relative to the market, the double APPs do apply to a player’s loyalty tier.

Thus, not only will players receive twice the upfront rakeback, but they’ll have a better opportunity of improving their standard rakeback rate, equating to stronger rewards over at least the next couple of months.

PokerStars has been running a Cash Game Happy Hours of its own (July 18 – August 7), but the impact has been negligible, likely due to the fact that the promo only runs two hours a day, one of which is off-peak (5 – 6 pm).

Can WSOP/888 sustain its lead?

That’s the $1 million question, and the answer really depends on how much promotional spend each operator dedicates to cash game players.

The return of Twitch streaming phenom and PokerStars ambassador Jason Somerville to the NJ market, combined with live Series hangover should push the momentum slightly in favor of PokerStars

But as long as WSOP/888 continues to offer more value, it’s tough to see PokerStars doing anything better than breaking even with the network, at least where cash games are concerned.

- 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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