The NJ Online Gaming Scoop: Cash Game And Tournament Traffic For The Final Week of 2017

Joss Wood January 4, 2018 1984 Reads
NJ Online Gaming Traffic

The final week of 2017 produced a mixed bag of results for New Jersey’s licensed online poker providers.

New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday which led to the main operators taking steps to avoid overlays on their usual Sunday majors. Even so, only PokerStars managed to avoid an overlay, and it did so by switching its event to New Year’s Day.

Cash game traffic held up better, continuing the upward trend which began in mid-November. Nonetheless, the average number of occupied seats at cash game tables ended the year well down on the figures seen at the end of 2016.

Over the course of 2017, PokerStars average traffic fell by 32 percent; partypoker/Borgata succeeded in maintaining stable numbers but remains the poker room with the lowest level of player liquidity while 888/WSOP followed PokerStars in losing around a third of its traffic.

There were a couple of moments during the year when 888/WSOP cash game traffic dropped to near parity with partypoker/Borgata, but the judicial use of player incentives managed to maintain the gap.

Better tournament revenues mean that the cash game traffic gap is not seen in revenue numbers, where partypoker/Borgata outperforms 888/WSOP by a small margin. PokerStars remains the largest room in terms of cash game traffic and revenues, but partypoker/Borgata looks to have a small lead in tournaments.

And so to US Poker’s weekly look back at the cash game and tournament trends in the New Jersey online poker market.

New Jersey’s online poker operators

New Jersey has seven online poker sites operating on four separate networks.

During the week of December 26 –January 1, New Jersey online poker sites averaged 283 cash game players. Peak traffic numbers were around 645 players, almost identical to the previous week.

Here’s how those players are distributed across the four online poker networks.

*Cash game traffic data provided by PokerScout.com. Collected on January 2, 2017.

Borgata/MGM/partypoker

Seven-day rolling cash game traffic data:

  • Seven-day rolling peak traffic average: 185 cash game players – up 9 percent compared to the previous seven days

WSOP/888poker

Seven-day rolling cash game traffic data:

  • Seven-day rolling peak traffic average: 206 cash game players – up 8 percent compared to the previous seven days

PokerStars NJ

Seven-day rolling cash game traffic data:

  • Seven-day rolling peak traffic average: 248 cash game players – down 1.9 percent compared to the previous seven days

Pala Poker

  • Platform provider: Pala
  • Sites in network: PalaPoker.com

Seven-day rolling average cash game traffic data:

  • Seven-day rolling average: 1 cash game player – no change compared to previous seven days, however the peak traffic average was up slightly from 8.6 to 8.8 players.

Evaluating cash game traffic trends

A closer look at the detailed cash game numbers for each operator reveals that PokerStars and 888/WSOP both saw respectable traffic increases in the week after Christmas Day, with partypoker/Borgata making smaller gains.

All three networks saw a small traffic peak on New Year’s Day as players returned to the tables after the previous evening’s celebrations.

Going on performance in previous years, all the New Jersey online poker rooms can look forward to steadily rising traffic over the first quarter of 2018. The current freezing weather across much of the US is also likely to help, as a cold winter generally encourages more play at the virtual tables.

2018 should see peak traffic sometime in April before the first harbingers of summer attract recreational players to seek alternatives to staying at home and playing online poker.

The sharp reductions in cash game traffic during 2017 should not be seen as putting at risk any of the main operators. Experience in other regulated markets in France, Spain, and Italy suggests that the levels of cash game traffic remain sustainable and none of the operators are likely to be thinking about a market exit.

Cash game traffic reductions also indicate a change in player preferences for other forms of online poker, such as tournaments and lottery style Sit & Go’s like the PokerStars Spin & Go. The more operators come to introduce innovations of this type, the more players will find alternatives to straightforward cash game poker.

If the coming merger of New Jersey’s player pool with that in Nevada and Delaware does result in higher tournament guarantees, then this could also exacerbate the move from cash games to tournaments.

2018 looks like it will be an interesting year for both players and operators.

Tournament Report: A look at the Sunday Majors

Three of the four online poker networks host a signature Sunday tournament:

  • The Borgata/partypoker/MGM online poker network offers a $40,000 guarantee tournament. The tournament has a $215 buy-in.
  • The WSOP.com and 888poker network also host a $215 buy-in, $40,000 guaranteed tournament that it’s dubbed, “The Warrior.”
  • PokerStars NJ hosts the Sunday Special, a $200 buy-in with a guarantee of $45,000.

*Pala Poker doesn’t offer a signature Sunday tournament at this time.

Pala has introduced its largest guaranteed tournaments yet with a thrice-weekly $2,000 Guaranteed Pala Mega. The buy-in is $30, and the events run on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday each week at 7.30 p.m.

These standard events have all been interrupted by the calendar, as New Year’s Eve fell on a Sunday. Faced with the prospect of serious overlays if they continued with their standard tournament schedule, all the operators made substantial changes to their planned events.

  • PokerStars NJ switched its Sunday Major to Monday, New Year’s Day, but kept the guarantee intact at $45,000.
  • Partypoker/Borgata kept their Sunday Major but renamed it as the $215 Holiday Special Sunday $30k –dropping the guarantee by $10,000.
  • 888/WSOP adopted the same strategy as partypoker, but halved their guarantee from $40,000 to $20,000, running the $20k Guaranteed Ultimate Warrior.

Major tournament results for December 17, 2017

The changes had varying results.

PokerStars could be said to have hit on the best strategy as their New Year’s Day Special $45k guaranteed not only hit its guarantee but exceeded it with a final prize pool of $46,686. This was made up of 167 original entries with 87 re-entries.

All three of the largest events used the re-entry format, a structure that has become standard in big buy in New Jersey events.

Partypoker/Borgata and 888/WSOP both saw overlays. If partypoker had reduced its guarantee by the same amount as 888/WSOP, it would have exceeded it nicely, but setting the guarantee at $30,000 actually resulted in an overlay of $4,600.

888/WSOP’s guarantee was $10,000 less than party’s, but they ended up with an identical overlay.

Partypoker managed to attract a player entry well over twice the size of 888/WSOP, which had to make do with just 51 entries and 26 re-entries.

Here’s a look at the total number of entries for the largest tournament held on each of the three main online poker networks in New Jersey events:

And here’s a look at the total prize-pool for each tournament:

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