Are Big Online Poker Tournaments Losing Their Appeal in New Jersey?

New Jersey online poker just can’t seem to get anything going. Even a larger-than-usual tournament guarantee failed to attract enough entries. New Jersey poker players may be on tournament series overload.

There is a little excitement thanks to some movement in neighboring Pennsylvania to launch online casino gaming and sports betting. It is positioned to start offering sports betting soon. Additionally, online casino gaming will likely begin in the first or second quarter of 2019.

Two New Jersy casinos petitioned the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for online casino licenses: Borgata’s parent company, MGM, and Golden Nugget. Only MGM, however, is seeking a license to offer online poker.

While this might seem like good news, it is likely to draw some players away from the New Jersey poker market until a combined player pool becomes a reality.

For now, though, let’s focus on the key stories from the US regulated poker scene since our last report published on Oct. 24:

  • All three online poker sites are showing positive trends for peak traffic history.
  • WSOP.com began hosting Coast 2 Coast III. The magic might be wearing thin as the online poker site contributed to the prize pool for only the third time since the launch of shared liquidity.
  • PokerStars NJ for the seventh time since June 4 adjusted its guarantee, lowering it to $30,000. Even so, it still had to contribute to the prize pool.
  • partypoker NJ is busy maintaining the status quo. There were no big wins and no big losses. They are playing the “slow and steady wins the race” game.

Now, let’s take a look back at the tournament and cash game trends for the two-week period ending Nov. 4, 2018.

U.S. Regulated Online Poker Operators

The major U.S. poker operators are:

Operator Network Provider Other Sites in the Network
WSOP.com 888 888poker
PokerStarsNJ PokerStars None
partypokerNJ partypoker Borgata Poker and PlayMGM-NJ

Pala Poker also operates in New Jersey on its own network. We do not include Pala Poker in this report because the traffic volume is low and doesn’t affect the latest US online poker trends.

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Major online poker tournaments summary

A tournament series with a big guarantee seems to be the strategy the three major New Jersey poker sites are sticking with.

Coast 2 Coast III began on WSOP.com on Nov. 4. The $320 Coast 2 Coast III Event #2 with $125,000 guaranteed replaced WSOP.com’s regular $100,000 buy-in tournament.

The event had a $5,600 overlay. It’s only the third time since the launch of shared liquidity that a WSOP.com Sunday major tournament failed to exceed its guarantee.

Players may be losing their love affair with bigger-than-normal buy-in tournaments. They happen practically every weekend and aren’t so special anymore.

Also, of note is another lowering of the Sunday major guarantee by PokerStars NJ. PokerStars NJ has altered the guarantee of its weekly Sunday major tournament seven times since June 4. Only one of those times was the guarantee raised. Even with the new lower guarantee, it still failed to attract enough players to meet it.

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, was not available. To avoid affecting the trend line, we averaged the entries from the week before and the week after.

Online poker in New Jersey is stagnant. There is no denying it.

It’s interesting that in the short term, both WSOP.com and partypoker NJ have slightly positive trend lines, while PokerStars NJ has a slightly declining one.

Taking a look at the total entries since the launch of shared liquidity paints a more accurate picture of the tournament trend in the Garden State.

Overall, tournament poker is on the decline, with a few good weekends here and there.

Sunday major online tournaments by the numbers

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, was not available.

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018:

Tournament Entries Guarantee Actual Prize Pool Difference
WSOP $320 Coast 2 Coast III #2 $125,000 Guaranteed 398 $125,000 $119,400 -$5,600
PokerStarsNJ $200 Sunday Special $30,000 Guaranteed 142 $30,000 26,412 -3,588
partypokerNJ $215 Sunday NLH $35,000 Guaranteed 181 $35,000 $36,200 $1,200

Average cash game and peak traffic summary

There is a little bright light in the seven-day rolling average cash game numbers – at least for WSOP.com.

In the last report, WSOP.com was averaging about 180 cash game players. At the end of this latest two-week period, it was averaging 190. The result is one the most positive trend lines we’ve seen in a while.

Unfortunately for PokerStars NJ, it saw an exodus of an average of five players. Per usual, partypoker NJ saw no change.

Looking at the chart, you can see a big dip in traffic at the end of October for PokerStars NJ. We reached out to the site for an explanation but never received a reply. We do know that Run It Up Reno was underway and that is a huge attraction for the PokerStars community in the US.

Peak traffic is following a pattern of a few good days and then a few not-so-good days. The good news is all three online poker sites are showing positive trends. Granted PokerStars NJ and partypoker NJ are barely in positive territory, but WSOP.com again is showing a very healthy trend line.

Factors impacting U.S. regulated online poker in the coming weeks

The Coast to Coast Classic III will continue through Nov. 18. It has 51 events and guarantees over $1.5 million of prize money plus a Champion’s Belt to the Main Event winner. While it didn’t get off to the greatest of starts, the Main Event is likely to smash its $200,000 guarantee.

Other than that, there is still a glimmer of hope that Pennsylvania coming online will provide a much-needed boost to the New Jersey online poker scene.

The reality, though, is that Pennsylvania is probably a lot further away from being in a position to combine player pools with New Jersey. There is always hope (who are we to try to take that away from you?), but don’t put any real money on a combined player pool anytime soon.

In other words, the stagnant New Jersey poker scene is likely to stay stagnant for a while longer.

We will keep our eyes on the New Jersey poker scene, and the complete U.S. regulated online poker landscape and report back here on Nov. 20.