BLAST, which first launched on 888 Poker’s international client last July, takes the LSNG concept to a new extreme. It favors frenetic action and the luck aspect of online poker more than any of its predecessors.
Will it be the boon WSOP NJ needs to propel it past PokerStars? By the looks of it, there’s a possibility.
We’ve only got six minutes
Anyone who has played a lottery sit & go before will likely be familiar with the basics of BLAST.
- At the beginning of the four-man sit & go, there is a randomized draw, which determines the prize pool. In the case of BLAST, the prize pool can be anywhere between two to ten-thousand times a player’s buy-in.
- Lower multipliers have a stronger chance of hitting than higher ones, with the odds of drawing a top-tier multiplier akin to winning a slot jackpot.
- The match adheres to a hyper-turbo format, with short blind levels and a low starting stack to initial big blind ratio.
Otherwise, BLAST deviates somewhat from traditional lottery sit & go’s, particularly the Spin & Go’s currently found on PokerStars NJ.
For one, players start with 30 blinds as opposed to 25 on Stars. However, this apparent nod toward skill is offset by the shorter blind levels of just two minutes.
But the biggest differential is that after a few short blind levels, the match devolves into an All-In Shootout. What this effectively means is that players will lose complete control over their fate, eradicating any skill advantage they may have over the competition.
At the lower multiplier levels (2x and 5x), the match transitions after three blind levels, or six minutes. This will prove by far the most common scenario, as collectively, 2x and 5x multipliers will hit with more than a 95 percent frequency.
However, should players be fortunate enough to hit a high multiplier, they’ll have more wiggle room: four blind levels at 10x, up to six levels at 1,000x+.
Lastly, payout distributions for BLAST are flatter relative to other LNSGs. Only at 2x do winners take all, and at as low as 10x, three players will divvy up the prize pool.
Trial begun, more buy-in levels to follow
Presently, the BLAST format on WSOP NJ is in a sort of trial phase. The only buy-in level available is $1.
US Poker received assurance from WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini that pending approval from the state’s gaming regulatory body, the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, more games will be coming soon.
Based on what we’re seeing, the full rollout may include the following buy-in levels:
BLAST is not yet available on WSOP NJ sister site, 888 Poker. It is presumed that BLAST launched on WSOP NJ first because it is the more popular of the two skins on the network.
Is BLAST fun? Yes. Beatable? Less so.
There’s little doubt that BLAST was engineered with casual poker players and straight-up action junkies in mind.
That’s not to say the format completely nullifies a player’s skill edge, but the window for skillful play starts off small, and disappears within minutes.
Couple this with a high rake, and an even higher effective rake, and it becomes difficult seeing grinders seeking out BLAST games for profit.
Just how high is the rake? It looks to be 9 percent at the $1 level, scaling down to 6.67 percent at $30. This compares somewhat unfavorably to the Spin & Go rake on PokerStars NJ, which is 7 percent across the board.
Factor out the jackpot tiers, which only hit with a 0.005 percent frequency, and the effective rake shoots up to 12.5 percent — which by all accounts, is beyond unbeatable over the long run.
But just like how casino slots draw the masses (despite a considerable house edge) through their fun elements and the prospect of mammoth payouts, BLAST may prove effective at doing the same.
Just know going in — this is not your traditional online poker game.
What will the BLAST rollout mean for WSOP?
During an average month, WSOP/888 and PokerStars NJ draw roughly the same amount of cash game liquidity. And in the absence of a one-off event on PokerStars, the two sites also attract a comparable amount of tournament players.
Despite this, PokerStars NJ has averaged $900,000 in monthly revenue over the past six months, compared to just $669k on WSOP/888.
It’s likely that some of the differential is accounted for by higher stakes games on PokerStars.
But we surmise that Spin & Go’s are the primary factor. Thus, now that WSOP NJ has debuted its own lottery sit & go variant, it’s plausible, even likely, that the network will make up significant ground on PokerStars, and possibly even cannibalize some of its LSNG liquidity.
Will it be enough to vault WSOP/888 to the NJ online poker market share lead? That may very well depend on the expansiveness of the BLAST rollout and the marketing dollars put behind it.
But we wouldn’t rule it out.
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