NJ Traffic Report: PokerStars Continues to Gain While WSOP.com Trends Down

Poker seems to be taking a backseat to the sports betting conversation these days. DraftKings has been dominating headlines since launching the first mobile sports betting app in New Jersey, and The Stars Group made waves last week when it announced a partnership with Mount Airy Casino in Pennsylvania, setting the company up to offer a comprehensive gambling suite in PA.

PokerStars moving into Pennsylvania is the news poker players have been waiting for. While the timeline is unknown, PokerStars will be offering a full complement of online gaming products including sports betting, casino games and, of course, poker.

For now, though, poker continues to limp along until more states, like Pennsylvania, join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement to create a robust player pool.

There is some good news. The DDoS attacks that plagued the global poker platforms over the past week did not affect the New Jersey clients.

The key stories from the U.S. regulated poker scene since our last report published on July 31 are:

  • WSOP.com tried to keep some its momentum from the World Series of Poker by launching the Coast to Coast Classic II tournament series
  • WSOP.com failed to meet its Sunday guarantee for the first time since the launch of shared liquidity
  • PokerStars NJ continues to gain ground in online poker cash games
  • Overall, partypoker NJ is holding steady in both cash games and tournament entries

Now, let’s take a look back at the cash game and tournament trends for the two-week period ending Aug. 12, 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.

Major online poker tournaments summary

Tournaments used to be the driving force behind a thriving online poker site. A big tournament series practically guaranteed a high turnout and substantial revenue for online poker sites.

That is not so much the case anymore. Tournament entries remained relatively flat across the board, even with WSOP.com’s Coast to Coast Classic II on the schedule.

On Aug. 5, PokerStars NJ raised its Sunday major guarantee from $30,000 to $35,000. The increase came after incrementally lowering it from $40,000 starting back in June.

A successful NJ Summer Series most likely prompted the action as the online poker site smashed its guarantees for a few weeks in a row. Unfortunately, the move didn’t attract players, and PokerStars NJ posted an overlay on both Sundays.

partypoker NJ barely covered its guarantee on the first Sunday in this report. Covering its guarantee is something partypoker NJ has only done three other times since the beginning of May.

What’s really noteworthy is all three operators failed to meet their guarantees on Sunday, Aug. 12, even WSOP.com. It is the first time since shared liquidity launched in May, that WSOP.com was unable to reach its major Sunday tournament guarantee.

The WSOP.com $500 Coast 2 Coast II #33: $250,000 Main Event reported 445 entries which resulted in a massive $42,185 overlay.

Online poker tournament trends

Looking at the trend lines from the past eight weeks, WSOP.com is showing a definite decline. It’s not surprising after the initial excitement around combining player pools between Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.Things appear to be settling down into a new standard post-WSOP in Las Vegas — whatever that means.

PokerStars NJ and partypoker NJ, however, are both showing upticks in their trend lines. This fact is most likely because players are back home from the Nevada desert and getting back into their regular Sunday grind.

Sunday major online tournaments by the numbers

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018

Tournament Entries Guarantee Prize Pool Difference
WSOP WSOP.com $320 Coast 2 Coast II #9: $100,000 Sunday Special 382 $100,000 $114,600 $14,600
PokerStarsNJ $200 Sunday Special, $35,000 Guaranteed 171 $35,000 31,806 -3,194
partypokerNJ $215 Sunday $35,000 Guaranteed NLH 176 $35,000 $35,200 $200

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018

Tournament Entries Guarantee Prize Pool Difference
WSOP WSOP.com $500 Coast 2 Coast II #33: $250,000 Main Event 445 $250,000 $207,815 -$42,185
PokerStarsNJ $200 Sunday Special, $35,000 Guaranteed 161 $35,000 $29,946 -$5,054
partypokerNJ $215 Sunday $35,000 Guaranteed NLH 144 $35,000 $28,800 -$6,200

Average cash game and peak traffic summary

In our last report, PokerStars NJ was the clear winner in the battle for cash game players. In this week’s report, the site remains king of the hill.

PokerStars NJ continues to accumulate cash game players posting a seven-day rolling average of 100. That number represents 15 more players than its pre-liquidity average at a time when PokerStars NJ dominated the New Jersey poker landscape.

Those players seem to be jumping ship from partypoker NJ as its average declined over the past few weeks. It shows in partypoker NJ’s flat trend line which is somewhat disappointing after posting a positive one in the last report.

WSOP.com’s sharply declining trend line is alarming. The good news is it hasn’t lost any additional ground in the past two weeks. It maintains a seven-day rolling average of around 240, the same number previously reported.

Last week, we anticipated a move to correct the declining trend. Enter, the Coast to Coast Classic II. It does say something that a big tournament series on the schedule didn’t help draw more players to its cash games and what it means isn’t good.

The peak traffic numbers put an exclamation point on the cash game trends. Compared to last week, both WSOP.com and partypoker NJ are showing sharper declines. PokerStars NJ, however, shows a strong positive trend.

Factors that will impact U.S. regulated online poker in the coming weeks

It is an interesting time in the online gaming industry when what will affect poker has very little to do with poker.

The most significant factor affecting poker will be the launch of online poker in Pennsylvania. We’ve been talking about the potential since the beginning of the year. Lately, the process appears to be moving at a frantic speed.

An operator can apply for separate licenses for online poker, casino games, and mobile sports betting. Most, including PokerStars NJ’s partner Mount Airy, applied for all three.

With football season around the corner, the push is definitely behind the launch of sports betting in the Keystone State, but that doesn’t mean poker gets left behind. The opposite, in fact, is true.

PokerStars’ global brand is likely to expand into all three online gaming markets (poker, casino, sports betting)  as soon as it is approved to do so. The only question that remains is, “When?”

We will keep our eyes on this developing story, and the complete U.S. regulated online poker landscape and report back here on Aug. 28.