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New Jersey Traffic Report: Volatility Runs High but Outlook Remains Hopeful

Even with PartyPoker's slow decline, the industry has reason to remain hopeful.

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.

7-day averages, according to PokerFuse Pro via PokerScout as follows (last week’s numbers in parenthesis):

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.

That’s bad news for Party and Borgata, as it indicates a more organic shift away from the network and towards WSOP and 888.

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.

PartyPoker NJ Latest DSS Promo to Award FIBA Basketball World Cup Prize Package

Promotion free trip to Spain from party poker nj

After a short hiatus, PartyPoker NJ’s Dream Seat Series is back and bigger than ever.

Since launching last winter, DSS has awarded dozens of  lucky winners with everything from New Jersey Devils hockey tickets, to paid entry into concert events at the Prudential Center and even an International Champions Cup prize package.

This time around New Jersey’s perennial iGaming market share leader will be sending one grinder and a guest to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

There, they’ll enjoy:

  • Paid six night hotel stay
  • VIP entry into four games
  • Free transfer
  • $2,000 in spending money
  • Personal look at today’s hottest basketball stars

In order to win your seat to the invite only Grand Finale on August 17th, you’ll first need to qualify. Luckily, Party is offering players a multitude of opportunities to check, call and raise their way in – many of them not requiring you to spend a solitary dime.

How to win a seat to the 8/17 Grand Finale

The FIBA World Cup package qualifying route is broken down into three tiers, with each bringing players one step closer to the winner-take-all finale.

The first is easy. If you’re a new player to the site, you will automatically receive two Spain 2014 DSS Qualifier tickets when you make your first deposit.

Existing players can win their way into the qualifier by finishing in the top 20 of a Spain 2014 DSS Freeroll tournament. Considering that the freerolls run at the off-peak hours of 6 am and 11:30 am EST, that shouldn’t prove too difficult.

Like I said, easy.

The DSS Qualifiers are held twice daily at 6:15 pm and 9:15 pm EST, with each event awarding ten tickets to the weekly final. Or for all you instant gratification tpes, you could simply bypass the first two steps altogether by making a minimum $25 deposit onto PartyPoker NJ and punching in the bonus code SPAIN. Doing so will award you one ticket to a weekly final of your choosing.

Speaking of which, the Spain 2014 DSS Weekly Final will be held each Saturday at 9 pm, with the top 50 winning entry into the Grand Finale (August 17, 9 pm). Assuming four Saturdays between now and the 17th, that’ll be 199 other finalists you’ll have to oust in order to win the grand prize – a formidable task, but certainly not impossible.

Is it worth it?

If your a fan of either basketball, traveling or money than the answer is a resounding “Yes.” There’s simply too much potential upside for the latest DSS promo to be ignored.

Here’s why:

  • Participating in DSS series tournaments will cost you a grand total of nothing.
  • Freeroll tournaments allow you to hone your poker skills – especially useful if you’re just starting out.
  • Previous DSS tournaments have featured relatively small fields. The smaller the field, the better your odds of winning.
  • The winner gets an all expenses paid trip to Spain! Enough said.

The FIBA World Cup DSS promo is a testament to Party’s ongoing commitment to creating an exciting poker atmosphere, where the best prizes are not always strictly monetary in nature.

Now to the virtual felt!

William Tonking to Represent New Jersey in WSOP November Nine

NJ Poker Player in WSOP Main Event November Nine

New Jersey has a special reason to celebrate the 2014 World Series of Poker final table when it comes to pass in November of this year. One of the November Nine is William Tonking of Flemington, New Jersey.

Many online poker players in New Jersey will recognize him as “WillTonk21″ online, and others will know his face from the cash game tables in New Jersey and Pennsylvania casinos. Of course, he plays the occasional live tournament as well.

Who is that New Jersey Niner?

Tonking is a 27-year old from New Jersey, a grinder who has been playing poker since he was old enough to enter casinos and play legally online.

After most online poker disappeared from the US market on Black Friday, Tonking took to playing more live poker, both cash games and a few tournaments here and there on the East Coast. But the launch of online poker in New Jersey within the past year gave him more online options once again, and he is a regular player on sites like PartyPoker, Borgata, and WSOP.com.

He told one media outlet in an interview that he hit a $50K score online at WSOP.com prior to heading to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.

Prior to this year, Tonking had accumulated some occasional live tournament finishes, final tabling events at series like the Borgata Poker Open and Sands Bethlehem Deepstack Extravaganza.

At the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, he cashed in two events in 2010 and the $1,500 NLHE Mixed Max in late June, just before playing the WSOP $10K Main Event.

That Main Event was a tough one, but Tonking told PokerNews that he felt he had an edge in it. He asserted that cash game players take to the deep stacks and good structure of the Main Event quite well, sometimes better than regular tournament players. He made the most of the frequent post-flop play as well.

During his Main Event run, he didn’t finish Day 3 in the top 200 and finished in 101th place on the Day 4 leaderboard. By the end of Day 5, he was in 58th, and he soared into the top 20 on Day 6. And when Day 7 was over, he was in the November Nine in seventh of the nine chip stacks.

Anonymous No More

As one of the 2014 WSOP November Nine, Tonking no longer has the option to stay under the radar and play anonymously online.

When interviewed by PokerNews the day after he made the biggest final table in all of poker, he commented that he used to enjoy being a relatively unknown player. It gave him an edge online and in live play.

Poker is a big deal in New Jersey, and since the launch of regulated online poker in the state, more poker players have been making their way to the Garden State. Tonking will now represent the East Coast poker hub in the WSOP Main Event.

With a combination of years of live cash game play, some tournaments, and quite a bit of online poker action on his résumé, Tonking has as much of a shot as any of the November Nine at winning the tournament, which would be worth $10 million.

Where are the Sponsorships?

Tonking wore a plain white t-shirt at his post-November Nine interviews on July 15 – no logos, no patches. It may not be that way for long.

WSOP.com has been adamant about not offering player sponsorships, but PartyPoker has signed deals with several New Jersey players since the site launched there.

Jamie Kerstetter and Scott Baumstein are the pros who have been sponsored for the longest time, and PartyPoker just announced the signing of Melissa Burr at the end of her summer in Las Vegas.

Whether PartyPoker or one of the other online poker sites initiates talks with Tonking, it is quite likely that the New Jersey player will be representing an online poker company by the time the November Nine reconvenes in Las Vegas in a few months.

Meanwhile, look for “WillTonk21″ online. He seems to have a little extra money in his bankroll these days.

Photo Credit: pokernews.com

New Jersey Traffic Report: Summer Downtrend? Not in New Jersey

Online gaming improves despite it being summer out

Apparently, the US’s regulated poker rooms are immune to the summer sickness that infects most online gaming networks.

Thus far this summer, iPoker traffic in both Nevada and New Jersey has experienced gains. And while the level of growth was far more pronounced in Nevada than it was in New Jersey, Nevada’s online poker boom can easily be justified by the presence of the live-WSOP.

This is accounted for by the thousands of out-of-state poker players that come with it – not to mention the nearly heroic cross-promotional efforts of WSOP.com.

But I’d argue that the modest, incremental growth exhibited in New Jersey was all the more impressive, if only because the state’s industry managed to buck the seasonal downtrend despite the presence of a live poker festival. If anything, New Jersey’s market found itself at a detriment, as some of its most dedicated online players were to be found some 2,500 miles west in Las Vegas.

Alright, enough with the accolades.  Let’s take a peek at the numbers.

Cash-game Traffic Inches Upwards

The fact that we’re celebrating modest growth is a testament to just how poorly New Jersey’s iPoker market performed during the spring months.

But progress is progress. Here’s a look at current 7-day averages across all NJ networks (June 16th averages in parenthesis)

PokerFuse Pro no longer displays data for Ultimate Poker‘s New Jersey room (hence the question marks), probably because there isn’t any traffic to report. Thus, from this point forward, UP will be stricken from our report.

Assuming cash-game traffic on UP is non-existent, the average number of players mixing it up at one of the state’s regulated poker rooms is 335. That represents a 7.3 % margin of growth in the past four weeks.

Compare this to the global market, where volume has stood relatively pat since June 16th, and it becomes evident that NJ is outperforming expectations.

But Why?

A few theories come to mind:

  • The more cynical side of me believes that traffic levels could not realistically sink much lower, and that the modest reversal of fortunes is merely a consequence of a few players becoming cognizant of the increased value to be had by playing MTTs featuring massive overlays.
  • A better theory is that New Jersey’s sites have finally gotten their act together. Compared to a few months ago, the software is more responsive, daily tournament schedules are much improved, and the mobile apps have finally reached a serviceable state.
  • 888′s Double Points Summer headlines the market’s strong promotional schedule. Other notable promos include WSOP’s recently expired 2014 WSOP Reload Bonus , Party’s overdue SNG leaderboards and incredible New Player Bonus, and 888′s Summer Slam. Together, these promos have attracted renewed interest in the fledgling market.
  • It’s possible that the seemingly inevitable reentry of PokerStars has New Jersey players pumped up, and hence playing more.

Major Tournaments Back to Meeting Guarantees

For a while there, the state’s biggest daily and weekly tournaments were struggling to meet their guarantees.

June’s WSOP Online Championship Main Event was the biggest offender, featuring a more than $100,000 (50 %) overlay. But even Party’s Sunday $50k, which for months was crushing its minimum benchmark, was suddenly coming up decidedly short.

Last week, MTT turnouts fared significantly better. Granted, overlays were still fairly abundant, but at least they were smaller.

Here’s a look at a few of last week’s results:

  • Party / Borgata’s $50k Guarantee: 271 runners, $50,135 prize pool
  • Party / Borgata’s $10k Daily (Sunday): 144 players turned up to create a $13,104 prize pool.
  • WSOP’s $25k Weekly Sunday: 113 runners, $2,400 overlay
  • 888′s The Big Sunday $10k Guarantee: 53 entrants, $195 overlay

Clearly, the partnership of PartyPoker and the Borgata has reasserted its position as the premier destination for tournament poker in New Jersey.

Other Noteworthy Trends

  • On July 5, WSOP.com came within one player of tying PartyPoker’s average cash-game traffic mark. This is the closest WSOP has come to usurping the state’s perennial market share leader since regulated online poker was launched in late-November 2013.
  • Party has since opened up a sizable (12.5 %) gap over its closest competitor.
  • Ring game traffic on 888 is up 50 % since June 8.
  • Since slashing the guarantee for its Sunday Major by 87.5 %, the average turnout for UP‘s now $2,500 Sundays has fallen by approximately 75 %. On a more positive note, the average overlay has dropped from over $10,000 to a few hundred bucks.

Party Poker’s WPT500 at ARIA Has Eye-popping Numbers

Partypoker WPT500 has Yu as the Winner

The recently completed WPT500 at ARIA Resort and Casino presented by Party Poker monumentally exceeded everyone’s expectations. From July 4th though 9th, Party ran this tournament for the first time, not sure with what the results would be.

Exceeding expectations at ARIA

With a $500 + $65 buy-in and $1 million guaranteed, PartyPoker was hoping it would draw a lot of players and fans. What they got was a grand total of 3,599 entries, more than any other event in Wold Poker Tour history, smashing their expectations.

The prize pool also exceeded the $1 million number that they guaranteed. The $1,799,500 prize pool with first place receiving $260,000 had players from all over wanting to get a piece of the pot.

A champion emerges among tough final table

At the end of the 5 day tournament, 39-year-old Sean Yu took home the first place prize. The Biotech sales consultant from Los Angeles said,

“I entered on Day 1A but didn’t get through so I had a go at the last chance satellite at 8.30am this morning. In one day of poker I have turned $565 into $260,000 – it is really amazing, I love the format.”

At the final table, Yu beat WPT Champions Club members Christian Harder and Scott Clements, French pro Brian Benhamou, and bwin.be online qualifier Messadek Soufiane from Belgium.

Runner-up was Foxwoods regular Kareem Marshall from Boston. Defeating the runner-up was a tough task for Yu, seeing as Marshall had NFL defensive tackle and three time Super Bowl winner Richard Seymour cheering him on the entire time.

Along with the $260,000 first place prize, Sean Yu won a £2,000 package and a spot in the November WPT500 in the United Kingdom. Yu was thrilled to receive this prize package, as he has never been to the UK before.

There he will have a chance to win a portion of the £1,000,000 guaranteed prize pool. For other players, online qualifiers start on August 3rd on partypoker.com and partner sites.

WPT500 success felt all around

In his post tournament statement, Group Director for partypoker Jeffrey Haas said:

“This event was an amazing success that surpassed our expectations and really seemed to strike a chord with the community. There were more than 100 online qualifiers from partypoker and partners, all of whom seemed to love the opportunity to qualify online to play one of the greatest events in Las Vegas this summer… We cannot wait for next year’s event when we expect bigger fields, richer prize pools and an even more FUN experience for recreational poker players from around the world.”

World Poker Tour President Adam Pliska was also very thankful to ARIA Resort and Casino and excited at the great response that the tournament got from fans.

Adam Altwies, the Director of Poker Operations at ARIA Resort and Casino, acknowledges his appreciation:

“Our whole staff at ARIA would like to thank everyone for a great event: 3,599 entries for the inaugural partypoker presents the WPT500 at ARIA! That is simply fantastic anyway you look at it. I am grateful to the players that experienced Aria for their first time; we hope you come back soon…We would also like to thank partypoker, WPT and the ARIA poker staff. We all care about poker players. We hope you experienced that during this event. There is always a next. This next is July 2015. Bigger and better.”

A few of the big names who joined the tournament via the $565 buy-in included:

  • Poker legend Phil Hellmuth
  • New Jersey Devils NHL icon Ken Daneyko
  • WPT Alpha 8 regulars Bill Perkins and Dan Shak
  • Team partypoker.com’s Kara Scott, Mike Sexton, Marvin Rettenmaier, Scott Baumstein and Jamie Kerstetter.

The success of this year’s tournament has led to the WPT500 at ARIA Resort and Casino already being confirmed for next summer. Next year should be bigger and better than ever!

For more information on the tournament visit worldpokertour.com and the nj.partypoker.com blog.

Burr Joins PartyPoker, New Jersey Pros Shine at WSOP

As the Main Event approaches, New Jersey players are having great success.

As the World Series of Poker got underway in Las Vegas, Nevada, players who traveled from the state of New Jersey were already preparing to make their marks on the series.

The first 23 events were examined to find some big finishes from PartyPoker-sponsored players like Jamie Kerstetter and big final table finishes by the likes of Jason Paster.

While difficult to determine just how much of an effect New Jersey online poker had on the play of any competitor hailing from the Garden State, it is undeniable that a number of the players in Las Vegas won their WSOP seats via online poker in New Jersey. And the mere presence of online poker in New Jersey has allowed many players to hone their skills and bring them to Las Vegas for the summer.

PartyPoker Pros Pick Up New Addition during WSOP

Players sponsored by PartyPoker made a splash at the WSOP, especially those with New Jersey sponsorships. Jamie Kerstetter and Scott Baumstein represented the site well throughout the WSOP.

Kerstetter launched into the WSOP with three cashes in the first week, the deepest run being in Event 4, where she finished in the $1K NLHE event in 27th place for $10,308. She also cashed in Events 8 and 11.

Baumstein started with a solid run in Event 4 but hit his stride as the Series rolled on. His accomplishments before the start of the main event included:

  • 36th place in Event 35, a $5K NLHE event, for $12,847.
  • 5th place in Event 40, a $10K NLHE Heads-Up tournament, for $54,736
  • 24th place in Event 60, a $1,500 NLHE event, for $17,577

And then, one of the breakout stars of the 2014 WSOP was revealed as the newest member of Team PartyPoker for New Jersey. The US PartyPoker Twitter account announced that Melissa Burr was officially making her debut as the newest team member when she played the WPT500 tournament at Aria this week.

Burr has been on fire during the WSOP. Though she is quite well known in cash game circles in New Jersey and has been for many years, Burr isn’t a tournament grinder and didn’t have many tournament credits to her name prior to this summer. Cash games are her bread and butter. But then, she launched into the 2014 WSOP, and everyone took notice.

Her first big finish came early at the Series in Event 10, the $10K buy-in Limit Omaha Hi/Lo tournament. She made the final table and finished in eighth place for $51,768.

From there, she made a second final table 12 days later and finished fifth in Event 30, the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo tournament, for $39,181.

Less than a week later, she ran deep in the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice Six-Handed event (#41) and just missed the final table, finishing ninth for $9,944.

Days later, she played the $50K Poker Players Championship and finished seventh for $165,435, becoming the first woman to ever cash in nine years of that tournament’s history.

Finally, Burr finished 13th in the $3K Omaha Hi/Lo that was Event 59 for a take-home amount of $14,122.

It has been a whirlwind summer for Burr, and she is enjoying all of it.

WSOP Final Table Players Doing New Jersey Proud

As reported through the first 23 events, New Jersey poker players were doing quite well at the WSOP in Las Vegas. Let’s review that list first:

Event 4: $1K NLHE

  • Jason Paster, Morganville (2nd place – $223,418)
  • Daniel Dizenao, Sussex (4th place – $113,499)
  • Ken Weinstein, Chatham (8th place – $34,552)

Event 20: $3K NLHE Shootout

  • Jack Duong, South Plainfield (4th place – $85,616)

Event 21: $1K NLHE

  • Dave D’Alesandro, Wenonah (2nd place – $208,931)

And the rest of the WSOP had even more solid results:

Event 25: $2,500 Omaha/Stud-8

  • Terrence Hastoo, Teaneck (4th place – $75,713)

Event 26: $1,500 NLHE

  • Michael Katz, Manalapan (2nd place – $252,826)

Event 30: $1,500 Stud-8

  • Sanjay Pandya, Galloway (6th place – 28,346)

Event 33: $1K NLHE

  • Steven Norden, Princeton (2nd place – $178,490)

Event 34: $1,500 Stud

  • William Thompson, Toms River (4th place – $34,283)

Event 41: $1,500 Dealer’s Choice

  • Aaron Schaff, East Brunswick (2nd place – $90,854)

Event 48: $1,500 PLO-8

  • Gary Kosakowski, Newark (5th place – $56,216)

Event 59: $3K Omaha-8

  • Michael Bees, Medford (3rd place – $118,036)
  • John D’Agostino, Egg Harbor (5th place – $65,736)

Event 61: $10K Stud

  • Henry Orenstein, Verona (8th place – $31,419)

Event 62: $1,111 NLHE Little One for One Drop

  • Jack Duong, South Plainfield (6th place – $117,507)

Event 63: $1,500 10-Game Mix Six-Handed

  • Daniel Zack, Princeton (4th place – $40,550)

Keeping Both Eyes on Main Event

The $10K WSOP Main Event has begun. Action started on July 5 and offered three starting days. We’ll be keeping our eyes on New Jersey players throughout the big event, including those who won their seats through WSOP.com in New Jersey.

Before everyone heads back to the online poker tables in the Garden State, there is the potential to make poker history in Las Vegas.

New Jersey Gamblers Want to Stay in Atlantic City, Says Poll

Atlantic City desirable for casino-goers in NJ

Most New Jersey gamblers embrace their Atlantic City casinos and the ability to play any type of casino game without much travel. Atlantic City prides itself on its tourism but remains a special place for the gamblers of the state.

A new poll reveals that most gamblers in New Jersey call Atlantic City their destination of choice, while only a small percentage look forward to the opening of casinos in New York. That percentage of players who want to leave the state for betting gambling options could be an open door for online gambling sites to walk through and work their magic.

Poll Numbers Offer Insight

The poll was conducted by PublicMind of the Fairleigh Dickinson University, the results of which were revealed by the Associated Press this week. Political scientist Dan Cassino analyzed the poll.

The majority of New Jersey gamblers, 57 % to be exact, chose Atlantic City as their gambling destination of choice. But there was 12 % that claimed they would switch to a New York casino once that type of option is in place.

The rest of the polled players were undecided as to whether they would travel to New York to gamble or not.

New Yorkers want more than the few Indian casinos that currently exist in their state, and a voter-approved referendum proved it. Major casino operators have already submitted bids to build massive casino / resort properties, and Genting Group and Caesars Entertainment are just two of the many who would like to gain a foothold in New York.

The Positive Spin

Kevin Ortzman, President of Caesars, Bally’s and Showboat Casinos, responded with the positive spin on the poll.

“The results of this poll underscore that our visitors return to Atlantic City time and again because it remains the heart of gaming, world-class entertainment and many great experiences in New Jersey and the entire region.”

It’s true that the majority of respondents were committed to Atlantic City for their gambling needs. And what is obvious from New Jersey tourism numbers is that many gamblers from surrounding states also call Atlantic City home and travel there regularly for the gambling offerings.

The launch of online gaming in New Jersey has also drawn in some players. Whether they gamble solely online or take advantage of the promotions that offer perks for those who gamble online and live, the Internet gaming industry is a positive addition to the entire New Jersey experience.

The Negative Spin

Poll analyst and aptly-named Dan Cassino noted that there is a negative side to the results.

“Atlantic City casinos have to be happy that they’re not facing wholesale defection. But even the loss of 12 % of their customers, on top of what they’ve already lost, could be devastating.”

As casinos in neighboring states like Pennsylvania have grown, overall casino revenue in Atlantic City has dipped, dropping in half from 2006 to 2013. And Cassino added that New York casino operators will be pushing hard to attract gamblers from everywhere, from New York to New Jersey, so the Atlantic City problems have the potential to worsen in the coming years.

Online Gambling Operators Can Save the Day, or Part of It

Internet poker and gambling are, by no means, the answer to the entire problem of decreasing revenue in Atlantic City. However, the new industry has already demonstrated that it can be a leader in the emerging United States online gambling market.

Initial numbers may not have met the hopes of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but stood over and above those of Nevada and Delaware.

Operators like PartyPoker / Borgata and WSOP.com can continue to improve their offerings and attract more customers from New York and neighboring states. The potential for promotions that will benefit players who decide to come for the online gaming and stay for the Atlantic City casino perks is wide open for operators.

Partnerships with major sports teams like the New York Rangers and WSOP.com are the first step to showing New Yorkers the positive side of gaming in New Jersey. Further sponsorships and promotions can draw players from that state, in addition to creating more excitement among potential players within the state of New Jersey.

Casinos like the Borgata are gaming destinations that poker players and others hail for its customer service, amenities, and poker room offerings. PartyPoker has more potential to work from that basis and create an irresistible set of promotions to attract and keep players in New Jersey.

Online poker players and gamers have no options in New York at the moment. Though the legislators there have discussed online gaming possibilities, it could be some time before the state is ready to legalize and regulate the industry, and it will be a number of years before casino properties are ready to welcome players.

That gives New Jersey the perfect opportunity to set itself up as the leader and regain its prowess as THE gambling destination on the East Coast.

Internet gaming operators have the chance to lead that movement if they choose to accept the challenge.

New Jersey Traffic Report: Cash-game Traffic Shows Signs of Life; Big Tournaments Struggle

Fluctuation in different areas of traffic last week in NJ

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.

Why Pennsylvania Online Poker is Important for New Jersey

PA's legalization of online gambling impacts more than just the state

Pennsylvania lawmakers have until the end of June to decide if this is the year for online poker in the state. The online poker hearing held by the Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development last week was a mixed bag.

Michael Cohen of Caesars Acquisition spoke on the importance of getting into the industry sooner rather than later. Several other speakers were less enthusiastic. Some were bothered by the low numbers experienced by the online poker market in neighboring New Jersey.

Pennsylvania became the second largest casino state in terms of revenue in 2012. It overtook New Jersey that year. Some of this was blamed on Hurricane Sandy, however, Atlantic City was unable to return to second place in 2013.

It is clear that Pennsylvania has players interested in poker. There are nine poker rooms in the state. These rooms host over 200 combined poker tables.

If Pennsylvania were to regulate online poker, New Jersey could offer a turnkey solution through its existing poker sites, assuming the two states could agree on a liquidity sharing agreement.

Caesars Entertainment owns casinos in both states. This would give Pennsylvania players access to about 120 average players on WSOP.com immediately, according to stats published on Pokerscout.com.

Caesars is the only casino company that owns casinos in both states. That would not stop other Pennsylvania casinos from entering into agreements with the remaining New Jersey sites.

Party Poker, 888, and Ultimate Poker would all be open to joining Pennsylvania casinos.

Amaya Gaming controls the Ongame platform used by Betfair in New Jersey. While this site has virtually zero traffic at this time, it would not prevent an agreement.

There are eight companies that are approved for a transactional waiver in New Jersey that have yet to find a casino partner in Atlantic City. This could give these software providers an opportunity to operate in both states as New Jersey allows five skins per Atlantic City casino.

Delaware and Nevada have already announced a partnership to share poker liquidity. This has yet to launch.

When it does, its impact on Nevada will be minimal. Delaware peaks at around 30 or 40 players daily. 888 is the only operator in Delaware.

A partnership between Pennsylvania and New Jersey would trump the one already agreed upon between Delaware and Nevada. New Jersey already enjoys two to three times the traffic of Nevada’s poker sites.

Pennsylvania has about 50 % more residents than New Jersey. A potential partnership between it and New Jersey would create a potential player pool seven times larger than the combined population of Delaware and Nevada.

This scenario would put the Delaware and Nevada in a position where it would need to find a way to join the larger player pool to survive.

Offshore sites play into this equation. The larger regulated poker sites grow, the more obsolete offshore site would become. These unlicensed sites come up in almost every discussion about regulated online poker.

Some wonder how to get rid of these sites once and for all. A large player pool with proper liquidity may be the only way.

Exploring the Borgata and PartyPoker Relationship

Borgata builds off PartyPoker and vice versa in NJ iGaming

Borgata and PartyPoker have teamed up to create the busiest poker network in the New Jersey regulated market. The two sites use PartyPoker’s software. It is similar to the one used in PartyPoker’s international operations.

A History

It all started in October 2011 when PartyPoker, MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming created a partnership to offer online poker as a team once it was legalized in the U.S. Party Gaming. Known by the name of bwin.party at the time, they reportedly owned 65 % of the partnership. MGM Resorts owns 25 %, while Boyd Gaming owns the remaining 10 %.

Nevada was the first state to launch online poker. While MGM Resorts and Boyd Gaming got licensed there, PartyPoker and its parent company bwin.party do not currently hold one.

This partnership made more sense when it was time for Atlantic City casinos to prepare for the launch of iGaming in New Jersey. That is because the Borgata is owned through a 50 / 50 split between Boyd Gaming and MGM Resorts.

Borgata Strengthens Party Network

Borgata is the flagship of Atlantic City. It is by far the highest volume casino in Atlantic City. It is the second newest casino in the resort town. Revel, being the newest casino, has struggled from day one and has yet to launch any form of online gaming.

Borgata’s brand name gave it an advantage over the other Atlantic City casinos vying for a piece of the iGaming market from the start. PartyPoker has over a decade of online poker experience and was once the largest poker site accepting U.S. players. The pair has dominated the New Jersey online poker and casino market.

Borgata has managed to integrate its live casino players’ club into its online platform. Casino players may convert points earned online into comps at Borgata at a far better rate than converting them into bonuses. This helps draw players that were acquired online into live casino gamers, which was one of the selling points of offering interactive gaming in New Jersey.

Differences Between Borgata and Party Poker

While Borgata and PartyPoker share a platform, the two sites are independent in other ways. The two sites have separate support, processing, affiliate programs, bonuses, and VIP programs.

Some players prefer one skin over the other. Accounts may be created at both sites. Players qualify for the first deposit bonus at each.

Borgata and PartyPoker tie for the fastest clearing first deposit bonus in New Jersey. Borgata offers a 100 % up to $600 bonus to new players. The bonus releases in 10 equal increments. The rate is equivalent to 50 % rakeback. Players have 45 days to clear the bonus.

PartyPoker offers the same 50 % rakeback rate when clearing the bonus. It releases in four equal installments. Players that cannot deposit the full amount for the Borgata bonus should take advantage of the PartyPoker offer first.

The VIP programs are not as generous as some competitors. Borgata players can exchange bonuses at a rate up to 15 %. Note that this is not straight cash. It is a bonus with a wager requirement.

Players that would like to exchange points for Borgata comps receive a more favorable rate.
PartyPoker’s VIP return is a bit lower – the rate for turning points into bonuses is 10 % rakeback. This is not cash, it must be cleared first. Tournament players receive a better rate exchanging points for tickets to events.