The second running of the PokerStars New Jersey Spring Championship of Online Poker, which wrapped up Monday after two action-packed weeks, was unequivocally the biggest tournament series in NJ online poker history, paying out nearly $1.5 million in prize money.
In terms of total prize pool, the series handily defeated last year’s NJSCOOP as well as October’s inaugural NJCOOP, which generated just over $1.4 million in tournament buy-ins.
But the 2017 running of the NJSCOOP wasn’t without its struggles, with a number of individual events failing to meet the gold standards set by equivalent events in 2016.
Not to mention, the NJSCOOP needed a whole lot of tournaments to set the new prize pool record.
Main Event among the highest of highlights
The most positive takeaway from this year’s NJSCOOP was the turnout for the $500 buy-in, $200,000 guaranteed Main Event. The event drew a total of 435 total entries in creating a $204,600 prize pool.
It marked the first time that a $200,000 event on PokerStars exceeded its minimum guaranteed prize pool.
That being said, the event was helped along by the presence of re-entries, and the fact that PokerStars NJ ran no less than four promotions that enabled players to win their Main Event ticket on the cheap.
The two Sunday Special SEs on the NJSCOOP schedule both performed admirably.
- The first, a $300 buy-in, $85k guarantee attracted 332 total entries and wound up with a $92,960 prize pool — the second largest of the series.
- PokerStars upped the price point for the second Special Edition to $350. Despite the bump, the prize pool dipped to $87,963.
The Progressive KO format continued to be extremely popular among newbies and veterans alike. NJSCOOP-17-H ($150 buy-in Progressive SuperKO) drew 216 players in nearly doubling its $15,000 guarantee. Other progressive bounty tournaments put forth a solid showing.
Eight events attracted 500 entries or more — which is saying something for a market with hard liquidity caps. The best performer was the low version of the Main Event, which saw 936 entries and 563 unique participants.
On a final positive note, nearly all 18 alternative format events (PLO, HORSE, 8-Game etc.) hit their guarantees, with half generating prize pools of $10k or more. While this might not seem too significant, the NJ online poker industry has had a notoriously difficult time filling up seats for its alternate format tournaments.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns
The record-breaking prize pool for the NJSCOOP 2017 should come with an asterisk. It featured 16 more total events than last year’s NJSCOOP, and 27 less than the NJCOOP. This matters because it means the average event prize pool was significantly lower this go around compared to series past.
The tournament guarantees were also more conservative. Yet, despite this, nine events couldn’t fend off overlays, and another 14 only beat their minimum prize pools by 10 percent or less.
Notably, the highest buy-in event on the slate, NJSCOOP-24-H ($1,000 buy-in High Roller) failed to meet its conservative $85,000 guarantee by six buy-ins. This stands in stark contrast to the NJCOOP High Roller, which generated a healthy $109,250 prize pool.
Cash game volume virtually unaffected by NJSCOOP
Historically, the running of major online tournament series’ in New Jersey does not have a significant impact on cash game liquidity. Unfortunately, the NJSCOOP did little to disrupt this trend.
However, do notice that cash game liquidity was moving along a positive trajectory in the run-up to the NJSCOOP. This was most likely due to the rollout of a reload promotion on PokerStars NJ, which gifted returning players a dollar-for-dollar match up to $500.
According to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout, cash game volume was up 17.7 percent from April 29 to the first day of the NJSCOOP (May 6). From that point it mostly leveled off, climbing just another 8.3 percent before swiftly dipping to pre-NJSCOOP levels.
Current seven-day average cash game levels in New Jersey are near or at their lowest levels in the industry’s three-and-a-half year history.
Given the overall success of the NJSCOOP, it’s likely that future runnings will adhere to a similar formula: a high series guarantee, consisting of lots of low-to-mid individual multi-table tournament guarantees with a couple larger events thrown in for flavor.
What’s almost a certainty is that the NJSCOOP and its autumn counterpart, the NJCOOP, will remain the largest online tournament series in NJ for the foreseeable future — especially now that Party / Borgata has shown an unwillingness to push the envelope.
And who can really blame the network after the disaster that was the Garden State Super Series V?