Poker Pro Matt Stout Talks NJ Online Poker Launch

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Matt Stout first made his name in the poker world playing online from his home in New Jersey.

He’s won more than $3.6 million playing under the screen name “all_in_at420” since the mid-2000s, plus another $2.2 million in live tournaments.

The 28-year-old left the United States for Costa Rica after Black Friday in order to continue plying his trade online, and continues to travel throughout North America and the rest of the world to play live tournaments. I wondered what his take would be on the upcoming re-launch of online poker in the Garden State, so I caught up with him this week while he was traveling to Las Vegas.

Pro comments on apparent lack of awareness of NJ market

As covered here at Online Poker Report, a recent survey showed that the gaming industry has been ineffective at letting people know about New Jersey’s plan to launch online poker this month. With that in mind, I asked Stout how much he and his friends back home know about details of the launch.

“I don’t know too much about the offerings aside from knowing that Borgata has teamed up with Bwin/Party, which is pretty exciting since Borgata is my home casino,” he told me. “There’s definitely a little excitement about online poker in New Jersey but people, pros especially, seem to be more concerned about if/when PokerStars will be allowed back into the market.”

When asked about how long it will take the new online rooms in New Jersey to become competitive, Stout he alluded to PokerStars again.

“Being that our government already forced the competition out of the United States, it won’t take long at all,” he said. “If they hadn’t it probably would have taken several years.”

Competitiveness doesn’t necessarily mean success, though.

Stout predicts volume in New Jersey will mirror that in Nevada

Volume in Nevada, where Stout has played occasionally since online poker went live there, has been low.

That’s something he says he expected there and expects in New Jersey as well, limiting the value of the state’s online offerings for pros like him.

“It’s definitely something that will be worth playing while I’m in NJ, but it will take years for it to become a viable alternative to leaving the country in order to play on PokerStars,” he remarked.

Stout said that in his mind, the industry has a lot of work to do if it wants to build a valuable product, work that will require both effort and money.

“I think volume will be relatively low at the beginning for many reasons, but that the industry’s lack of clear communication certainly isn’t helping the problem,” he said. “Hopefully the companies will put an appropriate budget into advertising and creating pro teams to spread the word.”

Stout’s responses to these basic questions suggest that the state’s casinos have their work cut out for them, not only to get the word out about the launch but to make sure that the launch is something worth telling players about in the first place.

They could have trouble convincing players accustomed to the industry’s gold standard to play with regularity on the new regulated sites, especially if they bring a clearly inferior product to market.

That players who depend on high volume are more concerned about a potential re-entry into the market by PokerStars than the launch of any of the state’s approved offerings says a lot about what players expect from the sites.

- Jason Kirk is a freelance writer. He has covered poker, both online and offline, since 2005. He lives with his wife and two dogs in Nashville, Tennessee.
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