Reason number one was the legalization of online gaming in Pennsylvania. The Keystone State’s online casinos and poker sites are expected to be up and running sometime in H2 of 2018.
Reason number two was New Jersey‘s decision to enter into an interstate online agreement with Nevada and Delaware. When it’s consummated, the interstate agreement will have an immediate and significant impact on online poker tournament numbers.
But even more promising is what happens if both of these things intersect and Pennsylvania follows New Jersey’s lead and joins the existing interstate framework.
In this column, US Poker will examine what changes online tournament players can expect from the interstate agreement, with and without Pennsylvania.
Current Sunday major prize-pools
Before diving into the future, here’s a look at the current online tournament situation in the US.
PokerStars hosts a $200 buy-in, $45k guaranteed tournament in New Jersey. The actual prize-pool of the tournament fluctuates between an overlay of a few thousand dollars to near $50,000.
888poker/WSOP.com NJ and NV
888poker/WSOP.com hosts a $215 buy-in, $40k guaranteed tournament in New Jersey. In Nevada, WSOP.com hosts a $200 buy-in, $20k guaranteed tournament. 888/WSOP.com struggles to meet its guarantee in the highly competitive New Jersey market, but the actual prize-pool tends to be right around $40,000.
The partypoker/Borgata/MGM network hosts a $215 buy-in, $40k guaranteed tournament in New Jersey. partypoker’s guarantee in New Jersey is probably a bit light. The tournament’s prize-pool routinely reaches $44,000 and flirts with $50,000 on occasion.
Major tournament series in New Jersey have produced main event prize-pools as high as $200k. A total series’ guarantee of $1 million is close to the ceiling.
Forecasting the Sunday majors without Pennsylvania
Presently, the only beneficiary of the interstate agreement between Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey is 888poker. 888 is the only operator active in Nevada and Delaware.
Simply adding the current prize pools offered by 888/WSOP.com would produce a weekly $60k guaranteed tournament.
But that’s the floor. Chances are that number will be much higher.
PokerStars and partypoker will likely see a small percentage of players migrate to the significantly larger 888-WSOP.com Sunday major.
Pulling just 20-25 players from each network would boost 888’s prize-pool by a further $8-$10k. Based on their current prize-pools, PokerStars and partypoker would likely continue offering their current guarantees, but a $5k drop to $40k at PokerStars isn’t out of the question.
If 888/WSOP.com slaps a $75k guarantee on its weekly tournament it will probably reactivate some weekend warrior types, particularly in Nevada, where the current guarantee is just $20k. In New Jersey, a loftier guarantee will also have an impact. The larger prize pool will entice players from New York and other neighboring states to head to New Jersey to play online poker on Sundays.
The site could see even more players reactivate or switch sites if it gets aggressive with its guarantee, perhaps bumping it to $100k. It would be surprising, and a missed opportunity, if 888 didn’t take this aggressive line.
If 888 does get aggressive, the combined guarantees of the Sunday majors at the three major networks would be around $180k once New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware begin pooling players. That works out to a $40k bump, double the amount of simply adding Nevada’s $20k weekly tournament to New Jersey.
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Forecasting the Sunday majors with Pennsylvania
Factoring in Pennsylvania makes things a lot more interesting, and will likely lead to exponential growth.
With all three operators expected to be active in Pennsylvania – a state with a population on par with the combined populations of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey – the guaranteed prize-pool of the Sunday majors will rise across the board.
Each network would likely be able to host a $100k guaranteed tournament every Sunday, and because of Nevada, 888 might be able to push that number to $150k.
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Major tournament series would also benefit
In the three-state model, major online tournament series would receive a major boost. In the four-state mode, they would explode.
A typical two week series in New Jersey might guarantee $1,000,000 over 30 tournaments. Add in Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, and the schedule would likely guarantee $5,000,000.
Including Pennsylvania, Main Events for major tournament series would likely boast guarantees of $500k or more.
The reason for optimism is because sites are drawing from larger pools of player, they could run more satellite tournaments and promotions, and they’d be far more appealing to professional and amateur players.
As Former bwin.party Group Director of Poker Jeffrey Haas once told me, there are recreational players who only play the Sunday major in New Jersey. Now imagine if the Sunday major had a $150k guarantee instead of $40k, or if the Sunday major was the Main Event of a special series on occasion?
What you’d see is more professional types coming to online poker states to play during these series, and more amateur types attracted by the big prize-pools and reasonable buy-ins, since online events are in the same ballpark as daily tournaments at casinos and charge a fraction of the tournament fees.
If a site wants to get really aggressive, slapping a $1 million guarantee on a Main Event isn’t out of the question, and in special circumstances it could be much higher.
WSOP.com has produced $1 million prize-pools for online bracelet events during the WSOP. Open those events up to New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania residents and who knows what type of prize-pool could be achieved.