Tests New Jersey Poker Market With A Big Buy-In Tournament

There was a glimmer of hope as New Jersey online poker showed signs of growth outlined in our last report on Nov. 21. In this recap, the darkness returned — well, mostly.

Actually, there are quite a few positive points to report from the last few weeks. Additionally, some exciting industry news may trickle into the Garden State and provide a much-needed boost to the online poker industry in 2019.

Regular readers of this report are fully aware of the struggles facing New Jersey’s online poker market.

We reached out to Bill Rini, Head of Online Poker at Caesars Entertainment, and asked about the challenges of trying to grow in a struggling market.

“The biggest challenge every operator faces is having the right offering for a constantly evolving market. There’s a constant tweaking process that goes on, experimenting, doing more of what works, and less of the stuff that doesn’t, to keep the lineup exciting and engaging for players.

“For instance, we’re going to be announcing the 2019 WSOP schedule soon, and we think players will be really excited by what we have to offer both online as well as at the Rio this summer.” definitely experimented when they offered a $1,000 buy-in on Nov. 25. We will talk more about that a little later, but in short, the experiment paid off.

For now, though, let’s take a closer look at the key stories from the US regulated poker scene for the past two weeks:

  • posted its lowest seven-day rolling average number of cash game players since shared liquidity
  • Pokerstars NJ, on the other hand, posted its highest average number of cash game players
  • partypoker NJ also posted an increase in average cash game players for the first time in three months

Now, let’s take a look back at the tournament and cash game trends for the two-week period ending Dec. 2, 2018.

U.S. Regulated Online Poker Operators

The major U.S. poker operators are:

Operator Network Provider Other Sites in the Network

Operator Network Provider Other Sites in the Network 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

As mentioned earlier, ran a $1,000 buy-in tournament on Nov. 25. Bigger buy-in tournaments are more common on the global stage than in the New Jersey market. In the Garden State, $500 seems to be on the higher end for its players. took the opportunity to test a larger amount for its monthly big-buy-in tournament. We asked Rini about the decision:

“We’ve seen some interest in higher buy-in tournaments during some of our previous tournament series. There are a lot of players that like the higher buy-in and smaller player pools than an event like our $100K Sundays so we try to have a robust selection of tournaments to play in.”

The guarantee was lower than its regular Sunday major, only $50,000, but that makes sense for the buy-in. In the end, the tournament attracted 99 entries (63 players plus 36 re-entries) generating a $91,200 prize pool. On the surface, it appears the experiment was a success.

In contrast, Pokerstars NJ took the opposite approach by offering a half-priced buy-in. The online poker site ran the $100 Half-Priced Sunday Special with a guaranteed prize pool of $30,000. The tournament resulted in the largest number of entries the poker room has seen in seven months.

And that is where the good news stops. Overall, the total Sunday majors drew the fewest entries the market has seen since Sept.

Sunday major online tournaments by the numbers

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018:

Tournament Entries Guarantee Actual Prize Pool Difference
WSOP $1,000 Monthly Sunday $50,000 Guaranteed 99 $50,000 $91,200 $41,200
PokerStarsNJ $100 Half-Priced Sunday Special $30,000 Guaranteed 391 $30,000 $35,893.80 $5,893.80
partypokerNJ $215 Sunday NLH $35,000 Guaranteed 160 $35,000 $32,000 -$3,000

Information for the tournaments held on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018:

Tournament Entries Guarantee Actual Prize Pool Difference
WSOP $320 Sunday Weekly NLH $100,000 Guaranteed 347 $100,000 $104,100 $4,100
PokerStarsNJ $200 Sunday Special $30,000 Guaranteed 160 $30,000 $29,760 -$240
partypokerNJ $215 Sunday NLH $35,000 Guaranteed 159 $35,000 $31,800 -$3,200

Average cash game and peak traffic summary

The cash game side of online poker looks pretty similar to the tournament sides of things. Some individual wins, but overall, the market took a hit.

PokerStars NJ walks away as the biggest winner of the week posting a seven-day rolling average of 100 cash game players. That is the highest average the site has seen since we began regularly tracking the data in May.

partypoker NJ added about five players to its seven-day rolling average, bringing it up to 50. It has been at an average of 45 cash game players since the beginning of Sept. seems to have gifted their competition with some players this holiday season. It posted a seven-day rolling average of only 110 cash game players. That is by far the lowest figure it has seen since May.

Looking at the charts since the launch of shared liquidity, there is a definite downward trend across all three major online poker sites.

Peak traffic continues to do its own thing. One notable item is that and PokerStars NJ had a few days where peak traffic took a severe dip. The dips occurred on different days, but both were significant and something we hadn’t seen before.

The trend lines still show a better story than the average cash game players trend does. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold true for partypoker NJ. It is the only operator to show a declining trend in peak traffic.

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

If history were to repeat itself, online poker would maintain the status quo until we emerge from the holidays. That means there will likely be no big wins and no big losses for a few weeks.

That doesn’t mean there is nothing out there worth watching. On Nov. 28, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) approved PokerStars petition for a PA interactive gaming license. Don’t get too excited, though, combining player pools between the two states is a long way off.

That doesn’t mean New Jersey online poker won’t stand to benefit in some way. PA launching online poker in the first few months of 2019 will likely bring some new players to the online poker scene.

Just like New Jersey sports betting sees some traffic from its neighbor, online poker might as well.

It stands to reason that new PA poker players might also gravitate to the Garden State when a big prize is on the line. It will be hard to stay away if New Jersey is hosting popular tournaments, like Online Circuit or Gold Bracelet events and PA isn’t.

Additionally, poker players might be more likely to fire up their NJ client when placing a sports bet on a big game while in the luxury of their favorite sportsbook.

And finally, maybe, just maybe, the excitement around poker launching in another state will get New Jersey poker players excited about poker again.

We will keep an eye on that, and other news affecting the New Jersey poker scene, and the complete U.S. regulated online poker landscape. We will see you back here on Dec. 18.