For all their volatility, cash-game traffic levels in New Jersey ended the week exactly where they started. Given the negative fluctuations of the global market that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
It does make one wonder however, if the market’s nearly two month long upswing has finally come to an end.
Well, judging by recent tournament trends and the upward movement of two out of three NJ networks, I’d guess that the answer to that question is “no”, but it’s certainly not a “no” of the resounding variety.
More apparent, is that the partnership of PartyPoker and Borgata, collectively known as PartyPoker NJ, has lost its stranglehold on the now eight month old market. This could prove huge should two scenarios play out.
Those scenarios and more will be discussed in this iteration of New Jersey Traffic Report.
Cash-game volume jumps to 10-week high, then meets resistance
On Wednesday, it looked like it was going to be another victory for NJ’s online poker scene. I say “another” because week-over-week liquidity had been up five out of the six weeks prior.
But a rather steep weekend falloff effectively negated any early-week gains.
As clearly illustrated, PartyPoker’s losses were completely offset by the gains of WSOP and 888. This marks the second time in a month that Party, which saw its market share lead over WSOP shrink from 10.7 percent to 2.8, is vulnerable to falling out of NJ’s top spot – a position it’s held since regulated online poker first went live in the Garden State back in late-November.
WSOP’s latest challenge to Party’s reign is more threatening than its first. Back then WSOP was still riding high on the benefits of its marketing blitz out in Vegas.
888 also exhibited modest gains, although I would suspect that traffic levels will begin to taper off after August 1st, when the network’s exemplary Summer Slam and Double Points Summer promos come to an end.
That is unless the network immediately rolls out another cashback promotion. Historically, this has not been the case.
Despite breaking even, New Jersey fared well compared to the global market, which exhibited a 1.2 percent loss, leaving it just a smidgen ahead of its yearly low point.
Is the Party over?
After scouring the network’s dedicated Two Plus Two forum for clues as to why PartyPoker NJ has failed to exhibit the same level of growth as its rivals, little stood out.
One thread’s author directs blame at Party for not properly handling a recent server crash, which caused him to miss out on potentially winning the network’s biggest weekly guarantee. Yet, the crash appeared to be caused by a widespread ISP outage, not Party’s software.
(As an Optimum subscriber, I can confirm that the ISP was experiencing outages around that time.)
Other recent threads were less popular and even more mild in nature, leading me to believe that no one major catastrophe precipitated Party’s recent struggles.
Party had better reevaluate its strategy quickly, as it could easily find itself in a distant third place should the following two scenarios come to pass:
- PokerStars enters NJ’s market. This seems to be an inevitability, with the only remaining question not being if, but when.
- 888 and WSOP.com forge an agreement to share liquidity. Given recent happenings in Nevada and the looming threat of a PokerStars monopoly, this certainly seems like a distinct possibility.
Tournament turnouts remain strong
Whereas the continued growth of ring game volume fell into question last week, those sentiments were not echoed on the tournament front, where turnouts continued to increase.
Here’s a quick peek at turnout figures for some of the state’s biggest weekly tournaments (two week prior turnouts in parenthesis):
- Party $50k Guarantee: 291 runners (271), $53,835 prize pool
- Party $10k Daily (Sunday): 152 runners (144), $13,832 prize pool
- WSOP $25k Guarantee: 116 runners (113), $1,800 overlay
- WSOP $10k Guarantee (Sunday): 142 runners (111), $14,200 prize pool
- 888 $10k Guarantee: 63 runners (53), $11,655 prize pool
Traffic for nearly all tournaments boasting a $5k guarantee or higher were up. Of particular note is the increased turnouts for 888′s Sunday Major, which had languished at around 45 -50 runners for months before gaining momentum in the past several weeks.
Perhaps its new promotional listing dictating the many ways players can parlay their way into the tournament, has something to do with it.
In any case, tournament traffic in New Jersey is as healthy as its been in months – a trend that should continue as the fall, and the seasonal uptick that comes with it, approaches.
Along the same line, I would expect cash game traffic to either hold pay or trend upward throughout August, before rising dramatically in September and October.