PokerStars Hits Its First Snag In New Jersey

April 14, 2016
PokerStars Hits Its First Snag In New Jersey

After rocketing to the market share lead shortly after its official launch date of March 21, PokerStars NJ’s stranglehold is beginning to loosen.

Competition tightening in New Jersey

The latest figures from Poker Industry Pro via tracking site PokerScout show that the online poker powerhouse now accounts for just 40 percent of cash game liquidity in New Jersey, down moderately from its high water mark of 43 percent set on March 30.

Current cash game averages on the site are hovering right around 155, down 15 percent over the past two weeks. Peak traffic, which tends to occur between the hours of 9 p.m. – 11 p.m., is roughly 450.

Competing networks WSOP/888 and Party/Borgata haven’t exactly killed it either, but have closed the gap by sustaining lesser declines.

Traffic for the NJ’s other two online poker forces as follows:

  • WSOP/888: 135 7-day average, 322 24-hour peak – 35 percent market share
  • Party/Borgata: 97 7-day, 255 peak – 25 percent market share

In total, the New Jersey online poker market is averaging 387 ring game players, down a tad under 11 percent since the monthly high point reached on April 3.

So why the sudden decline?

There are a multitude of factors contributing to the market’s recent struggles, with some of the more likely candidates including:

  • PokerStars hangover: Now that the initial media hoopla associated with the PokerStars NJ launch has died down, so has liquidity.
  • PokerStars’ promotional strategy: The latest promotions on PokerStars are geared toward tournament and Spin & Go players. These lucrative opportunities are undoubtedly luring players away from the cash game tables.
  • High prevalence of regulars: Apparently, PokerStars’ launch in New Jersey didn’t go unnoticed by the state’s professional players, as the site appears more reg-heavy than either competing network. The predatory practice known as bumhunting also seems to be on full display.
  • Seasonal downwind: With the advent of warmer weather comes the decline of online poker.

The upshot

The news is not nearly as bad as it initially appears, as from March 24 to April 18 last year industry liquidity plummeted a full 22 percent before mostly stabilizing, and then reversing course in July.

Also, New Jersey cash game averages are still up 24 percent from exactly four weeks ago – which also happened to be the day prior to PokerStars’ soft launch in New Jersey.

Granted, many of these “new” players are actually returning players who multi-table across multiple sites, but even still, it looks like PokerStars only siphoned about half of its cash game traffic from competing networks. The rest is new seats filled.

What does the immediate future hold for PokerStars NJ?

I’d expect cash game liquidity on PokerStars to decline slowly throughout the next several weeks, before reaching an equilibrium point sometime in early May.

Right now, the presence of Team Pros Jason Somerville, Vanessa Selbst and Chris Moneymaker is artificially boosting liquidity, especially for lesser player poker formats such as 8-game. When they take their leave from the Garden State, mixed game traffic may take a nosedive.

However, the presence of the first NJ SCOOP should revitalize the operator, drawing players to the tournament, and subsequently the cash game tables.

All this said, I can’t envision a single scenario in which PokerStars NJ doesn’t come out well on top of the NJ online poker revenue charts for April, as it’s the only site to support the very profitable and screamingly popular Spin & Go format – a format that will only see increased traffic in the weeks to come thanks to a series of new targeted promotions.

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