NJ iGaming Weekly: ‘Tis the Season for Overlays, Giveaways at New Jersey’s Online Poker Rooms

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Any serious online poker player knows that one standout promotion can mean the difference between a good week and a mediocre one.

Holiday promotions in particular are notorious for driving professionals to online poker rooms. Well, that and the influx of casuals who’ve overindulged on too much wine.

So it follows that New Jersey, now in its fifth week in the iGaming biz, would step up its game just in time for the apex of the holiday season.

But the question remains: Are the recent flood of tournament overlays the result of generous promotions or a gross overestimation of poker traffic?

We explore this topic and more in this edition of NJ iGaming Weekly.

Tournaments: Holiday promos and huge overlays lead to unprecedented value

The biggest story this week, at least from the vantage point of the serious grinder, is the exceedingly high value of holiday themed and other guaranteed tournaments, particularly those from underperforming sites.

As a frame of reference, consider the following turnouts to select guarantees:

  • Ultimate Poker Holiday Thousandaire: This tournament typically draws 130-140 runners, and pays over $1,000 up top – all for a $1 entry fee.
  • Ultimate Poker $1,500 Nightly: Usually draws no more than 20 players ($50 buy-in), amounting to an approximately $500 overlay.
  • Ultimate Poker $20,000 Sundays: Last Sunday, only 67 participants showed up, leading to a staggering $13,901 in added prize money.
  • WSOP.com $25,000 Weekly Sunday Guarantee: Missed the minimum number of entrants to hit the guarantee by a long shot, equating to an over $5,000 overlay.
  • 888Poker $10,000 “The Big Sunday”: Last Sunday, it came up over $2,000 short of guarantee. Also of note, the vig for this tournament is a paltry $5 (2.5%).
  • 888Poker $10,000 Every Day Welcome Freeroll: Pays approximately 20 percent of the field, with prizes ranging from $30 to $500.
  • Betfair $50 GTD: $1.10 buy-in, usually draws a whopping 10 players.

Notice that Party Borgata NJ does not grace our bullet-point list once.

Why? Simply put, its tournaments are generating enough traffic to meet its guarantees, albeit barely.

Also noteworthy is that WSOP.com, while still not quite fulfilling some of its larger tournament guarantees, is coming relatively close.

It appears, at least for now, that the sites struggling to carve a niche in the market will continue to offer attractive guarantees as a means of drawing in more users, and not because they’re feeling particularly generous this holiday season.

In lieu of this, I suggest that players take advantage of the incredible value afforded by these tournaments before they either start filling up or the guarantees are reduced.

Is Betfair conceding defeat?

Admittedly, I am a bit befuddled that Betfair, which seems to be on target to generate negative revenue for the state, isn’t proffering more lucrative welcome bonuses and tournament specials.

Originally offering a measly free $10 for new signups, the site has increased its welcome package marginally – $25 bonus plus 8 tournament tickets to very small events – but not nearly enough to compete with the match bonuses offered by PartyPoker, WSOP.com and Ultimate Poker.

Given the wealth of Betfair billboards lining the New Jersey Turnpike and its recent light shows in two of the Garden State’s most densely populated cities, Hoboken and Jersey City, it appears that the UK-based betting exchange hasn’t given up the good fight quite yet.

However, what it seemingly fails to realize is that a showy marketing campaign means very little without an intuitive, aesthetically pleasing user interface and a variety of attractive incentives programs.

Case in point: Caesars and the Borgata have done little to no public advertising. And yet, thanks to their promotional structure, solid VIP rewards schemes and clean interfaces are utterly dominating the market.

All this despite both sites having their share of geolocation, depositing and server issues.

Growth: Nearly 20,000 new accounts but only incremental poker traffic increases

According to data released by the NJ DGE, nearly 110,000 iGaming accounts have been created in New Jersey.

This marks an approximately 18,000 account leap over last week.

Several notes regarding the iGaming market’s rapid growth:

  • Unexpectedly, the growth is following a relatively linear progression, meaning that approximately the same amount of new accounts have been created each week. This is unusual in the sense that most new markets see a wealth of signups early, followed by a rapid decline in week-over-week growth.
  • The number of registered accounts on its own is only a baseline indicator of the industry’s performance as a whole. With six poker sites and nine casinos at players’ disposal, and a slew of promotional bonuses to take advantage of, it’s more than likely that most players created multiple accounts.
  • Case in point: Poker traffic has only increased incrementally over the past two weeks. PartyPoker’s Sunday Majors, including New Jersey’s Next Poker Millionaire and the Sunday 50k have drawn similar numbers since December 9th. And the site’s cash game traffic has only increased by 8 percent.

More on NJ’s iGaming traffic growth.

The good news is that as more New Jersey residents become aware of the burgeoning market – which will likely happen once companies begin their aggressive Q1 2014 marketing campaigns – the market should continue to grow at a steady, possibly accelerated, pace.

Also helping matters will be the inclusion of sites not yet launched, including the Tropicana and Golden Nugget‘s online poker rooms.


According to PokerScout, cash game traffic in New Jersey saw little to no gain across the board.

Twenty-four hour peaks and averages listed below:

  • Party Borgata (NJ): 527 (220 average) – on par with last week
  • WSOP: 347 (140 average) – again, no significant change
  • All American Network (888poker): 164 (70 average)
  • Ultimate Poker: 41 (18 average) – a slight decrease
  • Betfair: No data recorded

PokerScout’s data reveals two things:

1. An increase in accounts is not synonymous with an increase in traffic.


2. That after one month the market has mostly stabilized.

Now, of course the entry of another major player, say PokerStars, would undoubtedly shake things up. But for now, expect each site’s market share to remain relatively static.

That is of course, until the next wave of promotions hit.

- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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