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The World Series of Poker kicks off this week, at an unusual time of year. As poker players begin their pilgrimage to Las Vegas, one of the year’s biggest events in US online poker has just wrapped up.
For the first time ever, three versions of the PokerStars Championship of Online Poker ran concurrently in New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania. If it could, PokerStars would make its World Championship (WCOOP) available to everyone, everywhere. However, local regulations in some jurisdictions, including the US, force it to split it up.
As things stand, there are seven such annual championships:
In the past, PokerStars has tended to run series in those three states one after the other. This time, it ran them all at once, starting on Sep. 10 and wrapping up this Monday, Sep. 27.
The WSOP is probably one major factor in that decision. Staggering the series would either have meant starting much earlier than usual, or forcing players to choose between the PokerStars series or the live series in Las Vegas.
However, the series were also very similar in the composition of their schedules. That suggests a second motive for PokerStars, which is to standardize the series in preparation for combining them. Michigan expects to join an interstate poker compact with New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware by year’s end. Pennsylvania hasn’t made anything official, but is expected to follow suit.
Legal online poker isn’t much of a novelty in any of the three states anymore. PokerStars launched most recently in Michigan, back at the end of January, but is closing in on its second anniversary in Pennsylvania, and has been in New Jersey since 2015. It’s also a veteran operator with a conservative and meticulous approach to setting its series schedules.
That makes it rare to see a PokerStars series performing much better or worse than the company anticipates.
The last installments of PACOOP and MICOOP beat their guarantees by a wide margin, so PokerStars beefed them up by a half-million in each state. It left New Jersey’s untouched. All told, it guaranteed $4.5 million across the three series.
Together, they generated about $5.3 million in prize pools, or 18% more than their guarantees. That sort of margin of excess is very typical for PokerStars, as it’s good at predicting turnouts but shuns overlays and wants to leave itself some margin for error. Each of the three states was also beat its individual guarantee total by a similar margin in the 10% to 20% range.
Here’s the state-by-state breakdown in nutshell form. More detail is available at our sister sites, PlayNJ, PlayMichigan and PlayPennsylvania (links below).
PokerStars has been in a holding pattern in New Jersey for many years, and it’s the smallest of those three US markets. Not only does it have less population than the other two, but PokerStars is the second place site there, as WSOP‘s poker room holds the upper hand thanks to sharing traffic with Nevada and Delaware.
As such, it had the fewest tournaments on the schedule and the smallest guarantees, totaling just $1 million. This is the standard number for NJCOOP, though PokerStars sometimes goes a little higher for the spring series, NJSCOOP.
All told, the series got about 10,600 entries and paid out $1,105,230.80 in prizes. That’s the smallest margin by which a state beat its guarantees, but it’s very much in line with last year when the series paid out $1.12 million.
Despite awarding a trophy this year, the Main Event came up 24 entries shy of the number needed to hit its $100,000 guarantee. The top prize, won by “sri100k” was $18,600.
Read the full series breakdown at PlayNJ.
If there were to be any surprises, they would have come in Michigan. This wasn’t the first run of MICOOP, but the inaugural edition took place at an unusual time, starting in late February, less than a month after the site launched.
That first MICOOP only guaranteed $1 million, due to early caution by PokerStars and the fact that MISCOOP would follow not long after. This time around, it guaranteed $1.5 million, and cleared that bar handily. All told, it got 18,636 entries on 68 events, and generated $1,787,502.10 in prize pools.
As good as that number is, it’s clear that enthusiasm has waned a little since February. The inaugural series, despite its lower guarantees, exceeded $2.2 million in prizes. Of course, PokerStars also has competition from BetMGM Poker now, which it didn’t in Michigan at that time.
The MICOOP Main Event guaranteed $150,000 and performed along the same lines as the series as a whole, drawing 632 entries and producing a $176,960 prize pool. Player “WadeDavenport” took down the event, winning $31,000 and the trophy.
Read the full series breakdown at PlayMichigan.
PokerStars expected Pennsylvania to pull in the biggest crowds of the three states, and it was correct. It guaranteed $2 million for the series, up from $1.5 million last year. Despite facing competition from both WSOP and BetMGM, it beat that target by a similar margin to Michigan.
The schedule for PACOOP was nearly identical to MICOOP, but with one extra event included. Those 69 events drew over 25,500 entries and produced prize pools in the amount of $2,378,151.65. The one misstep was an Escalating Antes event early in the series, which missed its $35,000 guarantee by nearly $7000 and accounted for about half the total overlays for the series as a whole.
As in Michigan, the Main Event proved to be a bellwether for the series, beating its $200,000 guarantee by 19.1%. The winner there was “Hondoribbia,” who received $36,400 and the trophy for their efforts.
Read the full series breakdown at PlayPennsylvania.