There is reason for other NJ online poker sites to be optimistic

The Positives And Negatives For PokerStars’ New Jersey Championship of Online Poker

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PokerStars recently concluded its second annual New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP).

The festival was held from Sept. 30-Oct. 16, running in tandem with a live series at Resorts Atlantic City. The moniker borrows a few initials from the summer (SCOOP) and winter (WCOOP) series on the international dot-com client. This one is for New Jersey only, though.

The numbers might be a bit disappointing in a vacuum, but more or less on pace with current expectations.

The good news for PokerStars

The NJCOOP schedule featured 46 events with more than $1.2 million in guaranteed prize pools. It is, by far, the largest recurring online series in the state. All but seven events met their guarantee.

As a whole, the numbers were up a bit from last year’s inaugural NJCOOP. The combined guarantees were exceeded by a few hundred thousand dollars, and more than 8,500 total entries were tallied.

The turnout highlights some remarkable consistency for the platform. All four of PokerStars’ NJ series have featured approximately the same number of events and the same amount in guarantees. They’ve also shared a recurring $500 main event with a $200,000 prize pool.

A pair of Sunday Special events were big highlights for PokerStars. They were responsible for the two largest prize pools outside of the main. The $250 event on the first weekend awarded $86,909 in prize money, while the $350 version gave away $104,304 on the closing weekend.

Though a few events did miss their guarantees, the misses were mostly small. And only one non-hold’em event (the pot-limit Omaha High Roller) failed to get there.

The bad news for PokerStars

Most of the events that missed were on the upper end of the buy-in scale, so that may be the first takeaway.

  • Event #11: $300 Heads-up ($20,000) – 56 entries; needed 72
  • Event #28: $500 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller ($30,000) – 58 entries; needed 64
  • Event #29: $150+R [one re-buy, one add-on] ($20,000) – 136 entries; needed 146
  • Event #30: $1,000 High Roller ($80,000) – 84 entries; needed 85
  • Event #32: $25+R ($15,000) – 628 entries; needed 660
  • Event #41: $500 Main Event ($200,000) – 420 entries; needed 426
  • Event #44: $75 Sunday SuperSonic SE ($15,000) – 207 entries; needed 213

Both of the series’ high rollers were misses. The NLHE High Roller only missed by a single entry, while the PLO High Roller fell six short. The main event missed for the second straight year, too. It got close, though, needing just six more entries itself. That $300 heads-up overlay sticks out like a sore thumb, too.

Despite robust satellite efforts, the $100-200 buy-in range seems to be more in the wheelhouse for the current NJ poker economy.

It’s also worth noting that this event was held during a time in which NJ online poker sites‘ traffic is declining (although those numbers don’t capture NJCOOP.)

Although it is still the top dog when it comes to NJ online poker revenue, PokerStars’ figures have been down. WSOP NJ / 888 Poker NJ and the Borgata poker network showed slight year-on-year growth for September in New Jersey. But basically the three networks are just shuffling market share.

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Speaking of Borgata poker

Although overall traffic is not trending favorably, New Jersey players are spoiled for choices these days.

Hot on the heels of NJCOOP, the Garden State Super Series (GSSS) is under way now across Borgata’s family of online platforms (including PartyPoker NJ). The GSSS is smaller than NJCOOP, but it’s making a move to compete.

This fall’s series boasts $375,000 in combined guarantees, up from about $250,000 the last time around. There are 14 events on the schedule, so the average guarantee is slightly larger than NJCOOP’s.

That Borgata poker family has just grown by one, too. PlayMGM is now active, with the cleanest and most modern software in the state.

The Borgata brand is making moves both live and online. And WSOP/888 can look forward to player pooling with Nevada and Delaware. All that means PokerStars’ New Jersey throne is under threat for the first time.

- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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