Bounty Builder Series coming to PokerStars USA sites

PokerStars Announces First-Ever Bounty Builder Series For New Jersey, Pennsylvania

This article may be outdated. Get the latest news on New Jersey here.

PokerStars announced today that its sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania will close out February with concurrent Bounty Builder Series. Both series will consist entirely of progressive knockout (PKO) events and run for 10 days, Feb. 20 to March 1.

It’s an aggressive start to 2020 for PokerStars.

The scheduling leaves less than a month between the beginning of Bounty Builder and the end of the recently concluded Winter Series. The two states’ Spring Championships of Online Poker are also coming up in the not-too-distant future.

Two series at once for PokerStars USA

Bounty Builder will be the third tournament series for PokerStars PA. Last year’s Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) copied the schedule for New Jersey’s NJCOOP almost exactly, but the two Winter Series events were quite different.

PokerStars has gone back to the former strategy for Bounty Builder Series, as the schedules are identical in terms of event structures and buy-ins across both states. The only difference between the two is that guarantees are higher for PA due to the state’s larger population and the site’s higher traffic.

The ratio between guarantees varies from event to event, but the total comes out to 67% more in PA — $500,000 compared to $300,000 in NJ.

There will be 32 events in each state, with buy-ins ranging from $10 to $500. Most days on the schedule have either two or three events, but the two Sundays have more.

  • Most of the usual Sunday majors on Feb. 23 will be replaced by special PKO editions.
  • The Main Event on March 1 has a $300 buy-in with a $75,000 guarantee in NJ, $100,000 in PA.
  • The Mini Main Event carries a $50 buy-in and guarantees of $12,000 and $25,000, respectively.

The full schedule for both series is posted at the bottom of this article.

A ‘progressive’ format for poker tournaments

Since their introduction, PKO tournaments have steadily grown in popularity in European and international markets. They have, however, been a bit slower to catch on in the US.

The first appearances of the format in a major PokerStars series were a trio of events in the 2013 World Championship of Online Poker. The following year, it launched the $1,000 Thursday Thrill as a PKO counterpart to the Super Tuesday.

Partypoker was slower to adopt the format than PokerStars but pushed it more aggressively.

In 2018, party stopped charging rake on the bounty portion of PKO buy-ins and became the first major site to create an entire festival dedicated to the format. The KO Series proved popular enough that PokerStars followed suit with Bounty Builder Series later the same year.

PKO slower to take off in the US

In the US, the format has been slower to catch on. PokerStars is still the only operator to offer such tournaments, while WSOP/888 and partypoker NJ both offer only traditional static bounties.

PACOOP and NJCOOP each had only four PKO events on their 50 tournament schedules or 8% of events. By contrast, the 2019 WCOOP had 19 out of 73 (26%). The format is even more popular on PokerStars’ southern European network, where nearly 40% of last year’s SECOOP schedule consisted of PKOs.

Lack of familiarity with the US audience is probably the main thing holding the format back, and bringing Bounty Builder Series to New Jersey and Pennsylvania may be PokerStars’ attempt to remedy that.

Small field sizes could also be a factor, however. Much of the format’s appeal is due to the huge bounties that develop in the later stages of a tournament. The bigger the field, the larger those bounties can get and the more they impact the game’s strategy.

PokerStars seeking balance in Pennsylvania

Only a few months have passed since PokerStars PA launched in November. Before that, PokerStars NJ was the company’s only US-facing site.

Pennsylvania’s cash-game traffic is much higher than New Jersey’s, but the difference in tournament attendance hasn’t been quite as large. PokerStars is still trying to figure out the right approach to setting guarantees for the two markets.

It initially set the PACOOP guarantees to match NJCOOP’s, which some criticized as too conservative. When the first few events cleared that low bar easily, it proceeded to raise many of the remaining guarantees in the series.

PokerStars went much bigger for Winter Series Pennsylvania, with $675,000 in total guarantees compared to $300,000 in New Jersey. The result of that, however, was that New Jersey made all its guarantees while Pennsylvania ran into a few overlays.

PokerStars has therefore scaled back a bit for Bounty Builder Series with a more moderate difference in guarantees between the two states.

It’s also the first time that PokerStars has run its series simultaneously in both states.

PACOOP ran after NJCOOP had finished by necessity since PokerStars wasn’t yet live in PA during NJCOOP. For Winter Series, PokerStars elected to do the same thing by choice, with Winter Series beginning in Pennsylvania just as it concluded in New Jersey.

Running the two Bounty Builder Series concurrently may be an experiment to see if that strategy produces better turnouts.

May flowers for US online poker?

That experimentation is probably going to have an impact on what spring will bring for Pennsylvania.

The New Jersey Spring Championship of Online Poker (NJSCOOP) traditionally runs during the first two weeks of May. We can probably assume there will be a PASCOOP around the same time, whether concurrent with or just after NJSCOOP.

NJSCOOP had $1 million in combined guarantees last year, and will probably be similar this year. PASCOOP’s will likely be higher, though how much higher probably depends on how Bounty Builder Series performs.

If it manages to avoid overlays, PokerStars may go with a similar ratio for PASCOOP, which would probably mean $1.5 million. That would make it the biggest tournament series in the history of the regulated US market.

PokerStars Bounty Builder Series — 2020 schedule

#DateTimeBuy-inGameEventNJ GuaranteePA Guarantee
1Feb. 207:00 PM$100NLHBounty Builder Series Kick-Off$12,000$20,000
2Feb. 208:00 PM$20NLHMini Kick-Off$3,500$5,000
3Feb. 218:00 PM$30NLHBounty Builder $30$5,000$8,000
4Feb. 219:00 PM$75NLHTurbo$5,000$8,000
5Feb. 225:00 PM$100NLHDeepStack$10,000$20,000
6Feb. 228:00 PM$30NLH4-Max$5,000$5,000
7Feb. 2210:00 PM$50NLHHyper-Turbo$3,000$5,000
8Feb. 232:00 PM$150NLHMarathon$10,000$20,000
9Feb. 234:00 PM$50NLHWarm-Up - Bounty Builder Edition$5,000$10,000
10Feb. 235:00 PM$10NLHStorm - Bounty Builder Edition$4,000$5,000
11Feb. 236:00 PM$200NLHSunday Special - Bounty Builder Edition$30,000$50,000
12Feb. 236:30 PM$25NLHMini Special$6,000$10,000
13Feb. 237:00 PM$500NLHSunday High Roller - Bounty Builder Edition$10,000$15,000
14Feb. 2310:00 PM$75NLHSuperSonic - Bounty Builder Edition$4,000$5,000
15Feb. 247:00 PM$50NLHBounty Builder $50$8,000$15,000
16Feb. 248:00 PM$100PLOPL Omaha$5,000$8,000
17Feb. 257:00 PM$75NLHBounty Builder $75$7,500$10,000
18Feb. 258:00 PM$750NLHHigh Roller$20,000$35,000
19Feb. 267:00 PM$50NLH6-Max$4,000$5,000
20Feb. 268:00 PM$100NLO8NL Omaha Hi/Lo$4,000$8,000
21Feb. 277:00 PM$250NLHThursday Thrill SE$15,000$25,000
22Feb. 278:00 PM$30NLHMini Thrill$5,000$12,000
23Feb. 288:00 PM$50NLH6-Max, Turbo$3,500$5,000
24Feb. 289:00 PM$100NLHHyper-Turbo$5,000$8,000
25Feb. 296:00 PM$100NLH25% KO$7,500$10,000
26Feb. 298:00 PM$50NLHTurbo$3,500$5,000
27Feb. 299:00 PM$10NLH8-Max, Turbo$2,000$3,000
28Mar. 14:00 PM$30NLHWarm-Up$3,000$10,000
29Mar. 15:00 PM$300NLHMain Event$65,000$100,000
30Mar. 16:00 PM$50NLHMini Main Event$12,000$25,000
31Mar. 18:00 PM$100NLHBounty Builder $100$10,000$20,000
32Mar. 110:00 PM$75NLHSeries Wrap-Up$7,500$10,000
- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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