888 Holdings and Caesars Entertainment operate several online gaming websites in New Jersey, including two of the four remaining online poker rooms in the market, US.888Poker.com and WSOP.com. Borgata operates New Jersey’s other two online poker rooms, BorgataPoker.com and NJ.PartyPoker.com, which both operate on the same network
Up until now the two Caesars’ sites have operated independently of one another, and both have managed to carve out a significant percentage of market share.
Even with their successes neither site was able to overtake the tandem of NJ.PartyPoker.com and BorgataPoker.com on their own. This was likely the main reason that led to the announcement in December that the two sites, 888 and WSOP.com, would begin pooling players at select tables beginning in January.
Only players at the following cash game tables and tournaments will be combined:
- No Limit Holdem cash game tables up to $.25/$.50
- Fixed Limit Holdem cash game tables up to $.50/$1
- $5,000 Guaranteed Nightly Tournament (previously exclusive to WSOP.com)
- $10,000 Guaranteed Nightly Tournament (previously exclusive to WSOP.com)
- $10,000 Guaranteed Sunday Tournament (previously 888’s big weekly tournament)
- $25,000 Guaranteed Sunday Tournament (previously WSOP.com’s big weekly tournament)
Caesars finally claims the #1 traffic spot
Since New Jersey’s online poker sites launched in November of 2013 the combination of partypoker and Borgata have held the #1 spot when it comes to traffic and revenue. But unlike Caesars’ two sites the Borgata’s online poker rooms have pooled their players all along.
With the two Caesars’ sites now pooling their cash game players in their most populous games, both 888 and WSOP.com have finally leapfrogged partypoker/Borgata.
As expected, once the two sites began sharing players their numbers have jumped, but they jumped even a bit further than many people had anticipated (I predicted a jump of about 60 players; the actual number was about 80), evidenced by the pre-merger and post-merger numbers from PokerScout.com:
Before liquidity sharing:
- 888 – 95
- com – 110
- Party/Borgata – 160
After liquidity sharing:
- 888 – 170*
- com – 190*
- Party/Borgata – 160
*Because the two sites are only pooling players at select tables, shared players are being counted at both 888 and WSOP.com. therefore, some of the traffic at both sites includes duplicate players.
Shared liquidity hasn’t led to migration… yet
Even though the low stakes games at 888 and WSOP.com have gotten juicier following the merger (with traffic jumping 40%-50% there are more games to choose from), thus far partypoker and Borgata have managed to retain their player base, holding steady at 160 average cash game players.
This is definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward, as even a relatively minor migration from partypoker to WSOP.com will be impactful.
The wider the gap grows between the two networks, the more appealing WSOP.com and 888 become to existing and new players. Just 10 players switching sides would severely hurt partypoker, as WSOP.com would suddenly boast 200 players with party/Borgata at just 150. And this widening gap would likely lead to even more players moving to WSOP.com/888, creating a vicious cycle for partypoker.
Will Borgata still be tops in revenue?
What will be interesting to see is whether or not the shared liquidity can help Caesars overtake Borgata in terms of revenue in the coming months.
Despite 888’s and WSOP.com’s combined player pools being larger than Party/Borgata all along, it’s been Borgata that has generated the most online poker revenue in the market – tournament traffic at Borgata and partypoker is much higher than 888 and WSOP.com.
Pooling their existing customer base will not change this.
So while the move has created aesthetically pleasing traffic numbers, shifted the balance of power in terms of cash game traffic, and will be lauded by players who will now find more games to choose from, it will do little to dethrone Borgata as New Jersey’s online poker revenue king.
That being said, shared liquidity at 888 and WSOP.com is a long-term move for the two companies, shoring up their player base not only to better challenge Party/Borgata, but also as a preemptive move to fend off the anticipated launch of PokerStars in New Jersey which is expected to occur this year.