To say it’s been an eventful week over at PokerStars NJ would be selling the magnitude of what just happened decidedly short.
On Sunday, Stars capped off yet another highly successful tournament series. The operator’s Winter Series may have initially flown under the radar, but by the time the final card was dealt, it had arguably set a new precedent for excellence within the NJ online poker sphere.
Then the following day, a nearly yearlong promotion finally met its end, when PokerStars issued the first six-figure Spin & Go jackpot on US soil.
Together, these two events breathed life into what has been an otherwise pedestrian January for US online poker; one marked by alarmingly low liquidity given the time of year.
Winter Series heats up
It might not have carried the same prestige as October’s NJCOOP, but the Winter Series outperformed its predecessor — at least in some metrics. And that’s saying something, given what the NJCOOP did to jump start the market.
Notably, all ten events Winter Series events surpassed their guarantees, some by a remarkable margin:
- Only two events (Event #2 – $200 NLHE and Event #8 – $150 NLHE, 1R1A) failed to beat out their minimum benchmarks by less than 10 percent.
- Among the others, five surpassed their guarantees by 40 percent or more.
- The most notable turnout was for Event #10, a $400 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event that cracked its already aggressive $75,000 guarantee by 36.5 percent.
The Main Event hit $100K, and becomes the biggest non-COOP MTT in NJ.
These days, to say that NJ online poker players don’t see too many six-figure prize pools would be an understatement. But despite a subdued marketing effort, Event #10 managed to generate $102,375 in buy-ins.
Brand recognition, a relatively low house take of 6.25 percent, and a solid blind structure appeared to be the primary draws.
Overall, the Winter Series generated $366,127 in buy-ins, trumping its $275,000 guarantee by 41.3 percent. Interestingly, the average tournament guarantee for the Winter Series ($27,500) was only marginally lower than for the NJCOOP ($27,907) , yet the latter only scraped by its series guarantee.
This suggests that PokerStars’ ambitions for the NJCOOP rode a fine line between aggressive and unrealistic. By contrast, frequent yet smaller series that concentrate considerable wealth across a modest number of events may be a better fit for the diminutive NJ online poker market.
A champion is crowned, and it’s about time
Shortly after its mid-March 2016 go-live date, PokerStars celebrated the launch of its Spin & Go format via the $100,000 Spin & Go Special Edition promotion.
Special Edition saw the jackpot prize for the site’s $10 Spin & Go’s multiplied tenfold. In actuality, it resembled more of an event than a promotion, as there was no additional value of playing Spin & Go’s.
To clarify, PokerStars offset the increase to the highest multiplier by lowering the hit frequencies of the mid-tier multipliers (6x, 10x, and 25x). What resulted was a higher effective rake for anyone but the jackpot winner.
Suffice it to say, after 10 months without hitting, Special Edition became something of a stain on the PokerStars lobby. Although at a hit frequency of 1 in 500,000, a ten-month lapse between inception and conclusion isn’t totally out of bounds.
The jackpot match concluded after 14 minutes, with a player going by the name of ‘martillo1978’ taking down the victory. The two runners-up won $10,000 each.
Somewhat surprisingly, PokerStars will continue to run the Special Edition promotion. It seems as though nearly yearlong waits are worth the positive PR the event generates.
If anything, Stars is providing even more incentive for players to grind out Spin & Go’s in February, as it has relaunched its 5 Spins Challenge — a promotion that rewards players who partake in five Spin & Go’s per day with randomized cash prizes, ranging in value from $1 – $1,000.
Cash game liquidity takes a tumble
If it weren’t for the notable events of the past few days, January would have been considered a month to forget for the NJ online poker industry.
According to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout, seven-day average cash game liquidity sunk 20.1 percent from January 1 through January 30. That’s an alarming turn of events under any circumstances, but even more so considering that seasonal winds typically carry cash game liquidity to its annual peak in the winter.
More concerning still is that cash game liquidity is down 2.3 percent year-on-year, despite the presence of a prestigious third operator.
The explanation for the downtrend? Market fragmentation may have played a role, but more and more, it looks as though NJ is becoming known primarily for its online poker tournaments, with cash games taking a back seat.