In the fall of 2016, PokerStars fell flat on its face trying to bring a live event to the Garden State. PokerStars live events are among the most attended around the world, but not this one. Limited marketing, lead up time, and a lack of online satellites and guaranteed prize pools led to dismal entry numbers at the first ever PokerStars Festival in New Jersey. Several events were even canceled.
PokerStars Megastack fail
They tried again last weekend. However, the results were even more disastrous in a scaled down event. The PokerStars Megastack New Jersey two-event schedule featured $125,000 in guaranteed prize pools. However, the site was forced to fork over $31,000 in overlays.
The marketing effort started early enough. They ran online satellites, giving players the chance to qualify for the series’ largest event for as little as $0.50. The guaranteed prize pools were in place, yet they still failed.
The $220 Sunday Special Live event drew just 409 entries over four starting flights Oct. 6 and 7. With the fees removed, that left PokerStars $18,200 short of meeting the event’s $100,000 guarantee.
The $120 Cheap and Deep event on Oct. 8 had a $25,000 guarantee, but the 119 entries it drew forced PokerStars to fork over more than half of that. No matter what kind of spin you put on it, a $13,100 overlay in a $25,000 guaranteed event is a big one.
Online lead falling fast
PokerStars has been the market leading online poker site since it launched in New Jersey in the Spring of last year. But even that lead isn’t what it used to be.
According to figures released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, PokerStars posted an industry-leading $707,976 in revenue in September 2017. However, for the first time since the site launched, its revenue lead dipped below six figures.
Borgata’s network of online poker sites, which includes Borgata Poker, partypokerNJ, and now playMGM Poker, is now creeping up fast. In fact, it posted $632,568 in revenue in September 2017. PokerStars revenues were down almost 11 percent. The Caesars Interactive Entertainment network of online poker sites that includes 888 Poker and WSOP NJ also saw revenues drop last month. In the meantime, Borgata’s were on the rise.
If the overall numbers for online poker in New Jersey seem less than impressive, it’s because they are. In fact, the $1.9 million in online poker revenue these sites posted last month fell to less than 10 percent of the $20.4 million in total online gambling revenue generated in the state.
Losing ground, falling flat
Still, the question of why PokerStars is losing ground online, and falling flat live, remains.
PokerStars created a ton of goodwill and positive PR when it bailed out Full Tilt Poker after the US Department of Justice shut them both down in 2011. Could it be that has been replaced by the ill will and negative publicity created when the company pulled the rug out from underneath it’s highest volume players, canceling Supernova Elite benefits at the 11th hour?
Globally, they’ve launched an increasing number of gimmicky games that make luck a bigger factor than skill. Perhaps turning poker into more of a casino game is turning people off? In fact, adding traditional slots and table games to the site may have had the same effect.
Maybe years of being the world’s biggest online poker site have left the company a little on the arrogant side. Maybe they strode over-confidently into the market figuring name recognition was enough. Now, underdog supporters in the Garden State may be turning their back on this frontrunner.
No matter what it is, the marketing department at PokerStars better hope it figures it out fast. Or their employment statuses will soon join PokerStars on the list of things that aren’t what they used to be.