A Completed Garden State Super Series Makes The 2017 Fall Edition A Successful One

If the Garden State Super Series Fall Edition could be considered a success by avoiding technical issues and cancellations, this was an exhilarating one.

A Garden State Super Series could be considered a success just by avoiding the technical issues and cancellations that have plagued it previously. If that is indeed the case, this 2017 Garden State Super Series Fall Edition was a rousing one.

The Garden State Super Series Fall Edition ran Oct. 15-22 and, for the most part, appeared to go off without a hitch. In fact, there were no major technical issues. Plus, all 14 events on the schedule were held on BorgataPoker.com, nj.partypoker.com, and for the first time, the online poker network’s new playMGM Poker site.

Of course, the limited 14-event schedule and $375,000 in guarantees was a step down from the Garden State Super Series in fall 2016. That series featured a massive $1.1 million in guarantees over 75 events. However, it was filled with big overlays and geolocation issues caused the cancellation of the Main Event and seven other tournaments.

The first-ever Garden State Super Series in September 2014 was hit by similar issues. Six events were canceled, including the Main Event.

All these issues forced organizers to scale down the spring 2017 iteration of the Garden State Super Series to 11 events. Plus, just $265,000 in prize money was guaranteed.

Garden State Super Series scaled down

The $375,000 in guarantees in this month’s Garden State Super Series Fall Edition was an effort to begin to grow the series again. However, the NJ online poker network may have bitten off a little more than it can currently chew.

The $320 buy-in $100,000 guaranteed Main Event drew 344 players, creating a $103,200 prize pool that managed to surpass its guarantee. However, the other big Sunday event wrapping up the series did not draw nearly as well. The $215 Welcome MGM To The Party/Borgata Network event had a $50,000 guarantee. Alas, the tournament drew just 234 entries. This forced the network to dip into the tournament fees to cover the event’s $50,000 guarantee.

There was also an overlay in the series’ other $50,000 guaranteed event. The $1,060 buy-in $50,000 guaranteed High Roller managed to draw just 47 entries. Even with the fees put back in the prize pool, the event fell short of meeting its $50,000 guarantee.

One of the bright spots on the series was its opening event. The series kicked off with a $215 buy-in $60,000 guaranteed No Limit Hold’em tournament. This one actually drew a bumper 362-entry field creating a guarantee-smashing $72,400 prize pool. However, there were overlays in the other two events on the series’ Oct. 15 opening day.

Small overlays were also recorded in about half of the series’ mid-week events featuring more modest guarantees.

Competing with PokerStars New Jersey

Last year, the Garden State Super Series went head-to-head with New Jersey online poker market leader PokerStars NJ. The site runs its New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP) in the fall. The schedule was altered this time to begin as the $1.2 million-guaranteed 46-tournament NJCOOP series was wrapping up on PokerStars NJ.

PokerStars NJCOOP ran Sept. 30 through Oct. 16 with all but seven events meeting posted guarantees. In fact, more than the total of $1.2 million guaranteed was actually up for grabs and the series saw more than 8,500 total entries.

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Garden State Super Series Fall Edition Schedule Released – Event Begins As NJCOOP Ends

October will continue to be a big month for real money online poker in New Jersey with the Garden State Super Series Fall Edition schedule just released.

It appears October will continue to be a big month for online poker in New Jersey with the schedule for the upcoming Garden State Super Series Fall Edition just released.

The New Jersey online poker tournament series will feature $375,000 in guaranteed prize pools on BorgataPoker.com, nj.partypoker.com, and for the first time ever, the network’s new playMGMpoker site.

The Garden State Super Series Fall Edition will run Oct. 15-22 with 14 events, including a $100,000 Guaranteed $320 Championship Event on the final day.

Scaling down the series

Of course, this is a major step down from the fall edition of the Garden State Super Series on the network in 2016. That series featured $1.1 million in guarantees over 75 events, but was marred by massive overlays and geolocation issues that caused the cancellation of the Main Event and seven other tournaments.

Similar issues plagued the first-ever Garden State Super Series in September 2014. That series saw the cancellation of six events, including the Main Event.

However, the $375,000 in guaranteed money this time around is a step up from the $265,000 guaranteed across 11 tournaments in the spring iteration of the Garden State Super Series held earlier this year.

Competing with PokerStars NJ

In the fall of 2016, the Garden State Super Series ran head-to-head with PokerStars NJ and its New Jersey Championship of Online Poker. This time around, the series is hoping to piggyback on the tail end of the $1.2 million-guaranteed 46-tournament series held by the New Jersey online poker market leader.

PokerStars NJ’s New Jersey Championship of Online Poker wraps up Oct. 16, just as the Garden State Super Series Fall Edition is kicking off.

Buy-ins for the series range from $20 to $1,060. The biggest events on the schedule include:

  • A $215 No Limit Hold’em opening event with a $60,000 prize pool guarantee beginning at 5 p.m. Oct. 15
  • The $1,060 buy-in $50,000 Guaranteed High Roller beginning at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15
  • A $320 buy-in $100,000 Guaranteed No Limit Hold’em Main Event beginning at 6 p.m. Oct. 22

The series will also include a $215 Welcome MGM to the Party/Borgata Network Event. This is the first time the playMGM poker site will take part in a Garden State Super Series.

The site just launched (around the same time as Scores, which operates on the Pala license), joining the existing Party/Borgata network in August of this year. The $215 Welcome MGM to the Party/Borgata Network Event will feature a $50,000 prize pool guarantee.

Added Garden State Super Series championship seats

The network will also be adding several $100,000 Guaranteed Championship seats to the first ten events on the schedule. The top nine finishers in the opening event will earn $320 championship seats. Plus, the top three finishers in the next nine events on the schedule will also be awarded $320 championship seats.

Satellite tournaments into various events on the schedule with buy-ins as low as $2 will also be available on the network beginning Oct. 15.

A look at the full Garden State Super Series Fall Edition schedule is available through playMGMpoker right here.

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The New Jersey Online Poker Industry Has A New Cash Game King

For the first time since PokerStars returned to the NJ online poker market four months ago, WSOP/888 boasts the greater number of cash game players.

In what amounts to nothing short of a stunning reversal, the WSOP 888 Poker NJ online poker network in New Jersey has reclaimed the industry’s cash game crown from PokerStars.

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.

NJ Cash Game Traffic - July 2016

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.

Can Sites Provide Online Gambling In Both New Jersey And Gray Markets? NJ Says Maybe

If an online gambling operator serves so-called “gray markets” for casino games and/or online poker, can that company get an iGaming license in New Jersey? The answer is “maybe.”

If an online gambling operator serves so-called “gray markets” for casino games and/or online poker, can that company get an iGaming license in New Jersey?

The answer appears to be “maybe,” after the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement issued a Director’s Advisory Bulletin issued this week.

What NJ says on gray markets

The advisory bulletin attempts to clarify the NJDGE’S stance toward NJ online gambling operators that are in gray markets. From the bulletin:

The Division of Gaming Enforcement is cognizant that its own applicant and licensed internet gaming platform providers also operate in other jurisdictions. Jurisdictions where the legality of Internet gaming operations is an open question are often referred to as “grey markets,” as opposed to “black markets” where it is clear that Internet gaming is prohibited and the government has taken action to stop online gaming activity. …

…the Division will individually examine each jurisdiction in which a New Jersey applicant or licensee operates pursuant to the above analysis to determine whether  Internet gaming activities in that jurisdiction are objectionable and would therefore be considered a negative factor in assessing suitability for licensure.

The bulletin also notes that operators taking customers in jurisdictions widely regarded as “black markets” — such as most of the United States — would not be suitable for licensure.

So what’s a gray market, according to NJ?

The best and commonly used example of a “gray market” is Canada, a jurisdiction that most online gambling operators serve. That includes PokerStars, the most recently licensed online gaming site in New Jersey.

Gray markets, though, vary in how “gray” they can be. The NJDGE used the example of some European Union nations in the bulletin:

The domestic Internet gaming policies of certain Member States are currently the subject of legal uncertainty which arises out of a contradiction between EU market principles and the unwillingness of certain Member States to surrender local control. In those Member States where this ongoing legal conflict between EU and local law exists, it would be problematic for an outside gaming regulator such as New Jersey to reach a conclusion regarding the ultimate legality of the Member State’s Internet gaming policies.

So, can you serve both some EU markets and New Jersey without issue? It appears so, according to the bulletin.

But when is a gray market too gray? The bulletin attempts to define when it believes a market becomes “gray enough” to warrant action in NJ:

…the division will examine whether or not the jurisdiction has a law that specifically prohibits Internet gaming and, if so, whether the jurisdiction has taken affirmative, concrete action to enforce that law. Types of affirmative, concrete enforcement actions include the government instituting a criminal or civil action against operators in the jurisdiction or the issuance of a formal cease and desist letter sent by a senior government official to an Internet gaming operator, or affirmatively notifying this Division of its prohibition.

GVC/PartyPoker and gray markets?

The bulletin is of particular interest as it relates to GVC Holdings and its takeover of bwin.party earlier this year. PartyPoker, of course, is a licensed online poker operator in New Jersey.

Following the GVC purchase, PartyPoker returned to 21 markets, all of which the online poker operator exited in 2013, and all of which are considered gray markets.

Is the bulletin a precusor to PartyPoker’s NJ license being pulled? It will be interesting to see how New Jersey applies the principles in the bulletin to this case.

PartyPoker NJ Rolls Out Online Qualifiers To Live Borgata Spring Poker Open

Spring is here and that means it’s the time of year when NJ online poker players can earn seats at the Borgata Spring Poker Open via Party Poker New Jersey.

In keeping with its strong tradition of cross-integration between the live and online worlds, the partnership of market share leading PartyPoker and the Borgata in New Jersey has announced that it will be hosting online qualifiers for several Borgata Spring Poker Open land-based events.

The quarterly extravaganza is far and away the most prestigious live poker event on the East Coast, attracting thousands of players and generating upwards of $3 million prize pools for its flagship tournaments. But with price points ranging from the hundreds to the thousands, not every grinder may be able to justify the trip down to Atlantic City.

Satellites for as low as $5 on the other hand, now that’s a different story.

Borgata Spring Poker qualifiers on Party/Borgata

Online qualifiers will be held beginning on March 27, with multiple sub and direct qualifiers running during prime time hours.

At 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. daily until April 22, players can ante up $5 to participate in a sub-qualifier where the top 10 percent win a $45 ticket to a direct qualifier.

From there, grinders will be afforded a couple of options:

  • They can try their luck at a BPO event #1 satellite (7:30 p.m. daily until April 13), where 1 in 14 players will win a $560 entry into the $1 million guaranteed kickoff event. Or…
  • They can hold off until April 14, when the network will begin hosting $45 buy-in qualifiers to BPO event #11 – otherwise known as the Almighty $500,000 Guaranteed. Direct entry to this event is $450, meaning that roughly 1 in 11 players will win tickets.

Beginning on Friday, April 8 at 8:15 p.m., the network will be rolling out $45 buy-in qualifiers to the $2,700 buy-in, $1 million Guaranteed Borgata Championship. Winners of these sub-qualifiers will be granted entry into a $400 Super Satellite where a lucky few will be awarded a $3,000 prize package consisting of the $2,700 entry into the Championship and $300 cash to be put toward hotel accommodations or other expenditures.

The running times for the $45 buy-in qualifier are as follows:

  • Friday, April 8 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 9 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Friday, April 15 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 16 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Friday, April 22 at 8:15 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 23 at 8:15 p.m.

While the Super Satellites run on the following dates and times:

  • Saturday, April 9 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 10 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Friday, April 15 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 16 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 17 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Friday, April 22 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 23 at 7:45 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 24 at 7:45 p.m.

As far as the live events themselves, event #1 is spread across four starting flights beginning on April 12 at 11 a.m., while the first of four starting flights for event #11 kicks off on April 20, also at 11 a.m.

The Borgata Championship is slated to begin on April 24. There will be two starting flights, both at 11 a.m., and four days of poker action in total.

All three event final tables will be live streamed for public viewing, presumably on the Twitch Poker channel.

Recent history of the Borgata Poker Open

A quick survey of the Borgata poker room and event center during Open time firmly extinguishes the notion that poker is a dying sport.

Just this winter, the Borgata Winter Poker Open saw the aggressive guarantees for its top shelf events shattered. When all the numbers were tallied, the final prize pool for the $2 million kickoff event came in at a whopping $2,550,440.

Turnout for the $3 million guaranteed Championship was just as impressive, as players came together to create a $3,543,200 prize fund.

Expect more guarantee-busters when the Spring Open goes live on April 12.

Image credit: Racheal Grazias / Shutterstock.com

The Late Arrival Of PokerStars In New Jersey Was A Blessing In Disguise

PokerStars launched a legal New Jersey online poker site this week, and it greatly benefitted from gains the industry has made in its 2 years of operation.

More than two years since the coordinated launch of the New Jersey online gambling industry, PokerStars has finally joined its iGaming brethren and launched its online poker platform in the Garden State.

What at first seems like an extreme disadvantage for the site, entering an already-established market two years after the fact, may very well turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the site, as PokerStars is avoiding all of the early issues that plagued the New Jersey market.

“PokerStars is going to get a free ride.”

Those were the words used by former bwin.party Director of Poker Jeffrey Haas when I spoke with him back in October of 2014 about – what was thought to be at the time – the imminent launch of PokerStars.

Haas’s “free ride” comment was describing the advantage PokerStars would have by entering the New Jersey online gaming market now that many of the kinks have been worked out. “We got these systems (KYC, geolocation, payment processing) up and running,” Haas said, “and now it’s a much smoother process.”

It would actually be another year (nearly to the day) before the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement approved PokerStars’ license, and a further six months before the site launched (which it did on March 16), but Haas’s words are just as true today as they were in early October of 2014.

And PokerStars’ launch earlier this week confirmed Haas’s suspicions.

First movers left a sour taste

The reputation of all of New Jersey’s online gaming sites took a hit due to the early problems (some self-inflicted and some unavoidable) the industry faced.

Part of the problem was New Jersey’s aggressive nine month timeline from passage of its online gambling law to launch caused a slew of headaches.

First, geolocation in New Jersey was extremely difficult in the early months of the industry. A conservative approach led to many false-negatives (as much as 5 percent) from the state’s massive border population. Geolocation also suffered because of its overall effectiveness (a good problem to have) and multi-layered approach, as players with weak wifi signals, or the wifi on their computers turned off were often greeted with messages that they could not be located and therefore could not log on to the state’s licensed online gambling sites. In the eyes of the geolocation system, these players were not located in New Jersey… even if they were just a few feet from the actual server.

Second, when the industry launched credit card approvals were in the single digits, and with a lack of alternative funding options players found what should have been an extremely simple process of funding their accounts frustrating and in some cases near-impossible.

Third, the bold timeline for launch, and the novelty of online gaming regulation, gave the DGE little opportunity to fully test and/or approve software features, so in many cases the first movers launched with bare-bones, stripped-down versions of their software.

These early issues led many to believe nothing had changed with online poker, and left an extremely sour taste in many people’s mouths.

Perception is reality

And now, here comes PokerStars, sans the problems other sites had to deal with.

Over the past two years, all of the above issues have been worked out, or at least greatly improved, so the disillusioned New Jersey residents who might give online gaming another whirl (after a frustrating first experience that had them swearing to never play at site x, y, or z again), PokerStars looks like the first company to enter the market with its act together.

What a lot of these people won’t realize is that it was the resolution of the very issues they lamented back in late 2013 and early 2014 by the first movers in the market that allowed PokerStars to have such a successful launch two years later.

The first-mover advantage has long been overrated

It wasn’t just New Jersey’s early problems from its accelerated launch timetable that have allowed PokerStars to have a far more successful debut. All along the first mover advantage was likely overstated.

This was perhaps the most evident in Nevada’s online poker industry, where unlike in New Jersey, where the industry had a coordinated launch, online poker sites in Nevada used a staggered launch.

On April 30, 2013, Ultimate Poker became the first licensed online poker site in the United States when it went live in Nevada. Ultimate enjoyed a six-month monopoly in the Nevada market, but its rush to be first ended up being more of a burden than an advantage.

Shortly after the launch of the more polished WSOP.com online poker site, Ultimate Poker’s first-mover advantage all but evaporated, and WSOP.com ascended to the top of Nevada’s small online poker industry. Before the calendar was flipped to 2015, Ultimate Poker was out of business.

Bottom line

As long as PokerStars handles its business, it should have a lot of success in New Jersey compared to the first movers. The environment PokerStars is entering is far more conducive to success than what the likes of 888, WSOP.com, partypoker, and Borgata were faced with.

PokerStars should be able to build on the improvements that have already been made, and hopefully for the companies that went through this trial by fire, lift the entire industry up.