Something strange and unusual happened in New Jersey last week, and it had little to do with the noxious fumes emanating from the NJ Turnpike.
For the first time in seemingly forever, cash-game volume in the Garden State’s iPoker industry took a decided turn for the better.This is despite the global industry suffering through its usual early summer swoon.
But before we throw up our arms in jubilation faster than Mike “the Mouth” Matusow does every time he steals the blinds and antes, it might be best to take a step back and see what precipitated this trend towards prosperity.
We’ll do just that and examine how matters fared on the tournament front in this iteration of our New Jersey Traffic Report.
Cash-Game Traffic By The Numbers
Two of New Jersey’s four networks exhibited modest to moderate gains last weeks, with the others either standing pat or losing a smattering of players.
7-day cash-game averages, with one-week change in parenthesis, according to PokerFuse Pro and PokerScout as follows:
Overall traffic jumped from its six-month low point of 307 to a slightly more respectable 320. That equates to a 3.8 % gain. Internationally, cash-game volume fell by the same amount.
Yes, you read that right – New Jersey’s poker rooms were plus 7.6% relative to the global market.
After observing the latest trends, a few questions immediately sprang to mind. Namely, how on Earth did 888 Poker manage to suddenly rebound after ceding the majority of its traffic over the past four months? And why did the only site (WSOP) that most analysts (including me) expected to pick up steam, instead regress?
The answer to the first question quickly became clear. The second, not so much.
888 Launches Double Points Promotion
Back in February, 888′s 80% Rakeback Promo nearly vaulted New Jersey’s perennial third-place network into a dead heat with PartyPoker NJ and WSOP.
Because of this lucrative online poker promotion in NJ, or the world for that matter, hardcore grinders could not ignore the value to be had by such an opportunity.
But when it ended, those same grinders were left with little incentive to remain on the site. Even after 888′s generous player loyalty program went into effect in May, traffic continued to stumble.
The recently rolled out Double Points Promo is essentially a modest version of the 80% Rakeback “fire sale.” As the name implies, players who make a deposit on the site between now and July 31 will receive twice the number of status points for every dollar they contribute to the pot.
As a result, entry level players will receive 10 % rakeback. That’s roughly on par with what most NJ operators offer to their more loyal patrons. Play a few hundred hands and that rakeback will increase to 16 and then 20 %, with the site’s highest ranking members (Platinum) receiving an astounding 70 % cash-back.
It’s clearly evident, at least to me, that the Double Points Promo and to some degree the inclusion of two daily $5,000 freerolls, are the primary facilitators behind 888′s reemergence as a player in NJ’s nascent iGaming scene.
So Why Did Volume on WSOP.com Slip?
Last week, I thought WSOP.com was on the verge of usurping Party NJ for the Garden State’s top spot.
It was the culminating week of the heralded WSOP.com Online Championship Series, the live WSOP was in full-swing in Nevada and the site’s marketing campaign was approaching a fever pitch.
Yet, cash-game traffic on both the Nevada and New Jersey version of the site exhibited moderate losses. The question is why?
While is there is no clear cut answer, several theories emerge:
- WSOP’s and 888′s clients are essentially mirrors of one another. Thus, all other things considered equal, it’s conceivable that players are migrating to the site currently offering the best rakeback opportunities. Right now, that’s 888.
- The Borgata Summer Poker Open kicked off last week. While not as prestigious as other seasonal opens, the Summer Open still attracts a swatch of participants, many of whom are attracted to the Borgata brand. Furthermore, BorgataPoker.com is currently hosting satellites into live Summer Open events.
- It’s a stretch, but it’s plausible that NJ players who couldn’t get out to Vegas this summer don’t want to be reminded that they’re missing out on the live WSOP.
Father’s Day Puts a Damper on Tournament Turnouts, Overlays Abound
Holidays are never the best times to host exclusive one-off events. We saw in February just how much of an impact even an unofficial holiday (Super Bowl Sunday) can have on tournament turnouts.
Volume on Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day didn’t fare much better. So I have to question why both WSOP and Party NJ decided to host prestigious special events on a day when most grinders would be spending time with their pops?
Whatever the reason may be, both the WSOPOC Main Event and Party’s $500 buy-in, $20,000 Guarantee experienced sizable overlays.
The Main Event, which featured a nearly unprecedented $200,000 guarantee, drew 395 players. It also collected 101 entries. Each entry was worth $200. A bit of simple math reveals that the totality of buy-ins equated to $99, 200 – or slightly less than half the guarantee.
At this point, for any NJ poker network to lose more than 100 grand in a single day is hardly irrelevant. On the flip side, give WSOP.com credit for sticking to their guns, and hosting a Sunday Major with a guarantee eight times bigger than normal.
The High-Roller only sported a $2.330 overlay, but given that only 44 runners were necessary to meet the minimum benchmark, it’s still noteworthy.
Here’s how NJ’s other weekend tournaments fared:
- WSOPOC Event #14: $50k NLHE R&A – 57 runners, 31 rebuys and 43 add-ons. That amounted to a $23,800 overlay.
- Party / Borgata $50k Guaranteed: 246 runners, $4,490 overlay
- Ultimate Poker $20k Guaranteed: 107 entries, $10,263 overlay
- 888 Big Sunday $10k Guarantee: 46 runners, $1,490 overlay
In short, great week for player value, not so much for poker operators.
One final note: It appears that beginning in late June, WSOP.com will be hosting a Mini-Fest Tournament Series. Comprised of a sequence of low buy-in events (did I see an O8 tournament in there?), Mini-Fest should be great fun for grinders on a limited bankroll.
May even entice a few players to make WSOP.com their new home.