PokerStars’ four-month reign comes to a close
When PokerStars launched in late March, it immediately claimed a sizable lead over WSOP/888 and the state’s other online poker power, PartyPoker NJ / Borgata.
Fading novelty and a lack of cash-game promotions caused that lead to wane rather quickly, but PokerStars had just enough to hold serve throughout April and May. Then, in early June, PokerStars reopened its lead, fueled by a CardHunt promotion that offered NJ players extra incentive to grind out cash games.
The operator maintained a comfortable margin until early July, when a concerted promotional push by WSOP/888 sent liquidity soaring, and on July 12th, the NJ online poker industry had a new market share leader.
WSOP/888 lead continues to grow
Based on data gathered from Poker Industry Pro (paywall) via PokerScout.com, liquidity on WSOP/888 began to pick up steam around July 5. Not coincidentally, WSOP NJ unveiled a new Summer Reload promotion just a few days earlier, which offered a one-time 100 percent match up to $1,000 to returning players.
The site paired this offer with a Weekly Match Bonus promotion, that saw players (presumably regulars) receive smaller 100 percent match bonus offers via email each Wednesday. New signups are still entitled to a 100 percent match up to $400.
Reload bonuses have notoriously proven popular with NJ online poker players, and the WSOP NJ offer was no exception. The high monetary cap, 20 percent rakeback rate and favorable timeframe (90 days to clear the bonus) attracted players to the site in droves, and in the two weeks from July 1 – July 15, traffic shot up 31.5 percent.
Meanwhile, liquidity on PokerStars stayed flat — which given the notable lack of cash game promos and the seasonal downwind, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Traffic on distant third place competitor Party/Borgata has also held steady throughout July.
Notably, WSOP/888 appears to have expanded its lead in recent days. This may or may not have something to do with the increased attention given to the network’s new weekend tournament schedule, themed Weekend Warriors. 888 is currently hosting a tie-in promotion where players who complete daily challenges earn Weekend Warrior Freeroll tickets: one of these challenges involves playing cash games hands.
Also, all the attention surrounding the Main Event in Las Vegas has undoubtedly heightened WSOP brand awareness, which may have translated to temporarily increased sign-ups.
In either case, the entire market is benefiting from the network’s recent surge. Current seven-day industry cash game averages are at 322 players — their highest point in six weeks.
Why is WSOP/888’s ascent so significant?
For PokerStars not to hold the No. 1 spot in any jurisdiction where it hosts operations is a rarity. It’s the overwhelming market share leader in the international market, as well as in the regional markets of Spain and Italy.
Until recently, France was the only region where PokerStars was not top dog. Interestingly, the French market parallels that of New Jersey in that PokerStars went head-to-head with an already well-established brand (Winamax in France).
WSOP/888’s rise is also noteworthy in that it’s proven it can keep up with, and at times outperform, a site that stands to be its primary competitor in any U.S. state that regulates online poker — with the possible exception of California, where PokerStars’ entry has been a point of contention for years.
WSOP/888 still has a ways to go if it hopes to capture the revenue share lead from PokerStars in New Jersey, however. For the month of June, PokerStars took in $778,070, as opposed to $602,103 for WSOP/888.
That being said, the gap is shrinking, and thanks to WSOP/888’s recent ascent to the top of the cash game charts and its tournament schedule revamp, all bets are off as to who which NJ online poker site will produce the most gross gaming revenue for July.