The birds might be chirping, but players haven’t exactly been flocking to the poker tables.

As to be expected in early-Spring, month-over-month global cash-game figures are markedly down. And despite rebounding valiantly over the past week, history tells us that this overall downtrend could continue into May and June.

Yet since our last report, two of New Jersey’s four primary poker networks – WSOP and 888poker – managed to hold their ground. The Party Poker NJ network and the Garden State’s perennial last place finisher Ultimate Poker did not fare quite as well.

So is the party over, or are Party and Borgata merely biding their time, banking on the upcoming NJCOP to pull them out of the proverbial quicksand?

Cash-game volume swings up and down, and in some cases just down

For the first time since early-February, WSOP.com is threatening to strip Party Poker NJ of its Internet gaming crown.

Cash-game volume as of April 9th (7-day averages) as follows:

  • Party Poker NJ: 177
  • WSOP: 139
  • AAPN (888 poker): 96
  • Ultimate Poker: 6

Sadly, Ultimate Poker’s single-digit cash-game averages virtually eliminate it from contention in the nascent NJ iGaming market. Unless it takes action soon, UP will be sharing a basement with the forgotten Betfair.

But the real story is Party / Borgata’s fall from grace. Until recently, volume on the site has been volatile, with a nearly equal number of ebbs and tides. But since March 22nd, traffic has steadily crept downward,  amounting to a nearly 19 percent loss in the past two weeks and change.

The upcoming Borgata Spring Poker Open and first annual NJCOP will undoubtedly spark renewed interest in the fledgling site, but there’s little guarantee that any momentum gained won’t quickly be lost in the weeks that follow.

And unlike the network’s first foray into the land of six-figures, its second 100k guaranteed Sunday Major, held on March 31st,  failed to boost cash-game volume. Not a favorable sign.

Volume on WSOP is down slightly since our last report, but up significantly over the past three days. This sudden surge can be partially attributed to a slew of new promos, not the least of which is its unprecedented Neteller match bonus.

To put the breadth of WSOP’s promo into perspective, never before has a NJ site offered a four-figure match bonus. An additional $20 in free money rounds out an already delectable offer.

888 also shot slightly better than par, with volume trends mimicking those of WSOP and the global market.

In lieu of the recent stripped status points fiasco, 888 gifted players $1 for every 100 points accumulated – amounting to a paltry two percent in rakeback. Granted, 888 was not required to do anything, but seeing as the site’s VIP Rewards scheme will not go live until May, in retrospect most players would have been better off grinding it out elsewhere.

I say “most” because players who did manage to capitalize on 888’s 80 percent rakeback promo are in fact much better off playing on 888 than anywhere else, at least until May 1st. My what a tangled web we weave.

What will be of particular interest is whether or not cash-game traffic on 888 will plummet in May. Forum posters on the Two Plus Two’s 888poker USA thread appear confident that it will.

For now, 888 is skidding by on the merits of its recently concluded March Madness promo and latest software patch.

So who crashed the Party?

There isn’t one all-telling factor that points to Party / Borgata’s recent traffic failings, but a few theories stand out:

  • Confusion has arisen regarding the status of the monthly $2.5k and $5k giveaways.
  • The NJCOP withstanding, Party’s April promos fail to reach the heights of months prior.
  • Speaking of the NJCOP, the payout structure for Event #1 ($50k Freeroll) is not exactly what some players anticipated. Unbelievably, only the top three runners of the expected thousands will receive small cash prizes. Others winners will gain entry into NJCOP events. Comparatively, last week’s $88,888 freeroll on 888 awarded nearly $15,000 in cash to the first place finisher.
  • Party / Borgata’s rake is on the high side, and its signup bonuses (particularly Party’s) are fairly weak.
  • Not much attention has been dedicated to Party’s software, which is still prone to lag and riddled with bugs.

Tournament turnouts hold steady

Sunday Major turnout figures are nearly identical to what they were two weeks ago.

There’s been a tendency for players to sign up for Majors across multiple sites, indicating that while most cash-game players are loyal to one site, tournament players tend to spread the wealth.

Numbers as follows:

  • Party / Borgata $50,000 Guaranteed: 304 entries, beat guarantee by $6,240
  • WSOP $25,000 Guaranteed: 133 runners, exceeding guarantee by $1,660
  • 888 Poker Big Sunday $10k Guaranteed: 45 entrants, $1,675 overlay
  • Ultimate Poker $20,000 Guarantee: 125 runners, $8,625 overlay

Despite exceeding its guarantee, the 304 entries for Party’s $50k ties for the lowest turnout since the tournament structure was altered in early-February.

Week-over-week tournament turnouts on WSOP and Ultimate Poker were down ever so slightly, while the Big Sunday rebounded.

Predictions for next time

Now that the Borgata Spring Poker Open is in full swing, expect more players from NJ’s neighboring states to be playing online. Thus, overall traffic numbers should rebound slightly this week.

As the hype for the first NJ-based WPT Championship and NJCOP reaches a fever pitch, I wouldn’t be surprised if cash-game volume exploded.

Either way, April 19th through the 27th should be an exciting time in New Jersey.

Robert DellaFave

About

Robert DellaFave is involved in the legal New Jersey online gambling industry in a number of ways. Not only does he contribute to a variety of online gambling publications focused on regulated US online poker and online casino sites, he is also a game designer.