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On Tuesday, the World Poker Tour and BetMGM Poker announced that this year’s Borgata Poker Open will take place online. It will be available only to players in New Jersey, through the Partypoker US Network.
The Borgata Online Open Main Event will have a buy-in of $3,500 ($3,200 + $300 tournament fee) and run from Sep 19-21. It will feature a $1 million guarantee, which is quite ambitious for NJ online poker, even at that buy-in. There will be side events as well, beginning Sep 12 and also concluding on Sep 21. However, no details about these are available at this time.
It’s the second online Main Tour event in the US. The previous one was called the WPT Online Poker Open and took place last December at the same price point.
BetMGM Vice President of Gaming, Matthew Sunderland, said:
“BetMGM has found a great partner in WPT and are excited to work together again to bring another online Main Tour event to New Jersey. Our last Main Tour event together was a huge success, and we look forward to offering players in New Jersey a piece of the $1 million prize pool.”
WPT has had many more online events for international players over the years. For those, it partners directly with Partypoker. The latter’s parent company, Entain, formed BetMGM as a joint venture with MGM Resorts International, which owns the Borgata as part of its US retail casino empire.
Many live poker events have been moving online due to COVID. That was especially true last year, during the shutdown of live casinos. Even now that poker rooms have reopened, however, not everyone is eager to attend crowded tournaments in person.
Already this season, one US live stop – the Bestbet Scramble in Jacksonville – has been postponed due to a resurgence of the disease.
The Borgata has the biggest poker room in New Jersey, and was the first to resume dealing hands after the state’s lengthy shutdown. The first cash games got underway in October, with protective measures in place.
New Jersey has since lifted the requirement for plastic barriers at the tables. Even so, the casino hasn’t run any tournaments since last summer’s ECPT Borgata Summer Poker Open had to be cancelled.
Entain seems to have chosen to push BetMGM as its US brand, leaving Partypoker by the wayside. Though the latter still exists in New Jersey, it is BetMGM Poker which has expanded into Michigan and Pennsylvania. It also launched Borgata Poker in Pennsylvania, due to the popularity of the retail casino as a live poker destination for players in the eastern part of the state, Philadelphia being only about an hour’s drive from Atlantic City.
BetMGM Poker and the other skins hold the third place position in New Jersey in terms of revenue most months. PokerStars is in second place there, but dominates in Michigan and Pennsylvania. WSOP.com is the market leader in New Jersey, but has been slower to expand into other states, having only just launched in Pennsylvania, and lacking a presence in Michigan to date.
WSOP’s biggest advantage is that it’s currently the only multi-state poker network. That should change soon, however, as the Wire Act battle is at an end. We expect that first Michigan and later Pennsylvania will join the traffic-sharing compact that currently exists between Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
That said, WSOP also benefits tremendously from its fame as a live tournament brand. By strengthening its connection with WPT, BetMGM Poker can hope to reap a similar advantage. Mixing some online stops for US players into the main tour will help in that regard. Attendance for those online events will increase once traffic sharing with other states is possible, too.
Even without a schedule available for side events, we can guess at what it will look like. Since expanding into new states, BetMGM Poker has been hosting the occasional special tournament series, straightforwardly titled Online Series.
As it turns out, a New Jersey installment of that series is currently underway, having begun on Aug 8. It will wrap up this weekend, with a $535 buy-in, $50,000 guaranteed Main Event on Sunday, Aug 15.
In the early days of New Jersey online poker, the Partypoker US Network had a series called the Garden State Super Series. However, once PokerStars arrived on the scene, and WSOP began sharing traffic with Nevada and Delaware, Partypoker found its traffic slipping. The company pulled the plug on the series in 2018.
Michigan and Pennsylvania have given BetMGM the chance to start over on the tournament front. Its strategy with Online Series seems to be to focus strongly on the mid-stakes. PokerStars and WSOP tend to run big series with a wide range of buy-ins. However, BetMGM keeps its schedules tight, with 10 or so events, most of which are priced at $109 or $215. There’s typically one lower-stakes event ($20) per schedule, and one high roller priced at $535 or $1060.
December’s WPT Online Poker Open was similar, but even shorter. It had only five side events on the schedule, two priced at $25, two at $215, and one at $535.
Those were all packed into the span of four days, however. With this September’s series running over the course of nine days, we can expect it to look more like another edition of Online Series, with at least one event per day, probably most in that $109 to $215 range.