Looking Back: Top 5 New Jersey Online Poker Moments Of 2018

New Jersey poker had some shining moments in 2018. Here’s a look back at the top five NJ online poker headlines featuring WSOP and PokerStars NJ.

The past year hasn’t been very kind to New Jersey online poker.

Overall, online poker saw declining player fields, tournaments struggling to make the guarantees, and less game choice thanks to fewer players.

Even so, NJ online poker had some shining moments. These moments highlight the potential of the online poker market as we head into 2019.

Here’s a look back on the top five New Jersey online poker headlines for the year.

1. WSOP Online Bracelet Events

This summer saw the World Series of Poker make history when New Jersey poker players were able to play for their slice of WSOP glory from the comfort of their own home.

The annual WSOP opened its doors less than a month following the launch of shared liquidity. It provided New Jersey players a chance to sit down on the virtual felt at WSOP.com alongside players in Nevada to battle for gold.

A WSOP gold bracelet is the dream of every poker player, amateur and professional alike. The dream is now more accessible. If that isn’t enough of a highlight, one of those bracelets landed on the wrist of Matt Mendez.

Mendez, a full-time, stay-at-home husband and father from rural New Jersey, walked away with more than $135,000 in the $565 Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed event.

In total, 107 New Jersey players participated in the second of four online WSOP events. That figure represents about 16 percent of the field. It is true, NJ poker players have claimed gold bracelets in the past, but Mendez was the first to do it while in the Garden State.

The WSOP bracelet events were wildly popular. Expect more online bracelet events in living rooms across New Jersey in the summer of 2019.

2. The inaugural WSOP Online Circuit Event

For two weeks in September, just about every poker player in New Jersey sat down at the inaugural WSOP Online Circuit Event.

The event exceeded WSOP.com’s wildest dreams.

Following the event, Bill Rini, head of online poker for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, commented on the appeal of the tournament series to PlayNevada.

“We were actually quite surprised at how well the event performed. We were aware that a lot of players wanted something like this on the schedule but we were truly blown away at the draw.

“We thought our guarantees were fairly in-line, but when every event is doubling or tripling the guarantee, it shows we underestimated the demand.”

When all was said and done, WSOP.com awarded 13 gold rings, over $1.6 million in prize money, and two seats to the WSOP Global Casino Championship.

And even though WSOP.com awarded the first gold ring in an Online Circuit event in February, the tournament series marks the first full Online Circuit event and the first time New Jersey players were able to participate.

3. The launch of shared liquidity

There is a reason the World Series of Poker and WSOP.com are responsible for two of the top five headlines, and that is because it is the only operator able to take full advantage of shared liquidity.

Poker players in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey combined into one player pool for the first time in the US regulated online poker market. Expectations were high, and initially, shared liquidity appeared to be living up to them.

The player pools combined on May 1. The World Series of Poker opened its doors at the end of May, so the dust didn’t have time to settle for a few months.

Once it did, though, shared liquidity didn’t do much for the fledgling New Jersey online poker industry. New Jersey poker players are not necessarily loyal to one online poker platform. Instead, they hop around to the platform hosting the latest major tournament series.

Even so, the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement is an essential step in returning online poker to its former glory. Unfortunately, that glory will have to wait until more states get on board.

4. PokerStars awards NJ poker players Platinum Passes

On the heels of the WSOP.com Online Circuit Event, PokerStars NJ launched its own major tournament series. NJCOOP (New Jersey Championship of Online Poker) consisted of 47 events and guaranteed more than $1.5 million in prize money.

However, everyone had their eye on earning one of three Platinum Passes. The highly-coveted Platinum Pass has been the talk of the tournament world for the last year. Everyone wants one, and PokerStars has found some creative ways to award them.

PokerStars announced it would be giving away at least 300 Platinum Passes to the PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship (PSPC) in January 2019. Each Platinum Pass is worth $30,000 and includes:

  • $25,000 entry to the PSPC event
  • Six-nights at Atlantis Resort, Nassau, in The Bahamas
  • $2,000 in travel expenses

Most Platinum Passes were awarded onsite at one of PokerStars global live events. So, the announcement that three passes were coming to New Jersy created some serious buzz.

Three lucky New Jersey poker players will be basking in the Bahamas sun come Jan.:

  • Anthony Maio, Moneymaker Special Tourney winner
  • Tenzin Chakdor, PSPC Main Event All-in Shootout winner
  • Andrew Canfield, PSPC Entrants All-in Shootout winner

5. Poker and online sports betting share wallets

The biggest story in the NJ online gambling market this year was the launch of NJ sports betting. Granted sports betting has little to do with online poker other than a potential player crossover.

We’re counting on the crossover to influence poker trends positively —especially as we near 2019. Maybe not a lot, but these days every little bit helps.

Two online poker platforms are taking advantage of sports betting fever by combining their wallets between their verticals.

BetStars NJ and 888 Sportsbook saw an opportunity to capitalize on its existing customer base to grow its NJ online sports betting platform. Additionally, it is counting on the popularity of sports betting to filter into their casinos and poker rooms.

Making it easier for sports bettors to fire up their poker client can only end up helping online poker. These days it only takes a few extra players sitting down in a game to impact the trends positively.

2019 is just around the corner

While 2018 had some good moments, there is no doubt that the beleaguered poker industry could use a do-over. A fresh start in 2019 might just be what the doctor ordered.

As we enter the New Year, more states will entertain the idea of gaming expansion legislation. While it may not have a direct impact on NJ online poker, there is no denying that the more states that legalize online gaming, the better it is for the health of the overall industry.

Now, that is worth raising a glass to.

Stars Rewards Rolls Out For New Jersey PokerStars And BetStars Players

PokerStars launched its new customer loyalty program, Stars Rewards, in New Jersey for its online casino, sportsbook (BetStars NJ), and poker room.

Last week, PokerStars launched its new customer loyalty program, Stars Rewards in New Jersey.

Now, players can earn rewards for their play for the global brand’s NJ gambling sites:

Progress bars, chests, and prizes … oh, my

Even though there are a lot of moving parts, the Stars Rewards program is pretty simple.

A player earns one reward point for every one cent they pay in rake or tournament fees.

A player receives a Stars Rewards Chest after earning enough reward points. The longer a player plays, the more chests they can earn. Earning four chests in the same day results in a level up for higher rewards.

Additionally, boosting periods are available. Players can earn double the number of rewards during a “boost.” Players can monitor their progress on a visible progress bar.

Stars Rewards personalizes the reward chests based on a player’s gaming preferences. Rewards include opportunities to take part in the specific games a player enjoys.

StarsCoin, redeemable for cash and other items, plus extra rewards points are also inside the chests.

Rewards range in value from 7 cents for the smallest reward in the lowest level chest to $1,000 for the highest reward in the highest level chest.

The range in rewards and the random nature of the chests make the reward program more like a lottery than a typical VIP program, which is very appealing to the casual gambler.

New Jersey poker players can win a share of $250,000

To celebrate the launch of Stars Rewards in New Jersey, PokerStars NJ is rewarding real money play across all three of its gaming platforms.

Poker players, casino gamblers, and sports bettors have a chance to win their share of $250,000 through “loads of random Chests containing $1,000 cash prizes!”

Here’s what you need to do to win:

  • Join the Stars Rewards program inside the PokerStars NJ app
  • Start playing!
  • Players can earn an unlimited number of Chests each day
  • Even casual players will have chances to win big

The promotion began on Nov. 7 and has no definitive end date.

When speaking about how long the promotion will last, PokerStars said it “will end at our discretion.” PokerStars expects to run the promotion until players claim at least $250,000 in rewards.

Poker players mixed about the new rewards program

PokerStars NJ is calling the new rewards program “revolutionary.” Poker professionals, however, are singing a bit of a different tune.

Poker players tend not to embrace changes to their loyalty programs. To them, it is part of their income formula.

You just have to read through some popular player forums, such as Two Plus Two, to get an ear-full of comments from the global rollout earlier this year.

Overall, the majority of comments allude to the potential of the new rewards program to hurt the regular players while being attractive to the new player.

Additionally, it has not gone unnoticed that PokerStars is placing more emphasis on gambling then receiving a reward for how much a player plays.

At a time when NJ online poker is struggling, trying to attract new players to the game is an excellent thing. Unfortunately, though, what often draws new players to the game conflicts with what supports the regular player base.

PokerStars revenue shows a focus on more than poker

At the same time the loyalty program rolled out, The Stars Group, the parent company to PokerStars, reported on its financial results for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

The results show a need to bring new players to the poker table both in New Jersey and around the world. Poker revenue for the global brand was $212.8 million for the quarter. That is a 3.9 percent decrease compared to the same period last year.

For the company as a whole, revenues increased 73.6 percent over last year. A key acquisition, plus the launch of NJ sports betting under BetStars, helped drive the revenue windfall.

Rafi Ashkenazi, The Stars Group’s Chief Executive Officer, spoke about the Group’s earnings in a press release.

“This was a landmark quarter during a transformative year for the company as we begin to deliver on our vision to become the world’s favorite iGaming destination. We completed our acquisition of Sky Betting & Gaming, which was cleared by the CMA in October, making us the leader in the UK online betting and gaming market. We also launched BetEasy in Australia and sports betting in New Jersey.”

Online poker accounted for 63 percent of The Stars Group’s revenue before July. Since then, it dropped to just 36 percent of the total. Sports betting, on the other hand, grew from five percent of the Group’s total revenue to 32 percent.

It appears the company is focusing on promoting all of its gambling platforms. The company’s new Stars Rewards program is just one piece of that puzzle and is designed to help make the vision of being the “favorite” online gambling destination a reality.

PokerStars NJ To Host Online Event As Part Of New Moneymaker PSPC Tour

PokerStars’ Chris Moneymaker announced the launch of the Moneymaker PSPC Tour, at which US poker players pay a $86 entry fee for a chance at a Platinum Pass to the PokerStars championship.

All that stands between you and a seat at the PokerStars Players No-Limit Hold’em Championship (PSPC) is $86.

This past week, 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Chris Moneymaker announced he would be hosting a national tour. The Moneymaker PSPC Tour will award one winner from each tournament a $30,000 Platinum Pass to the PSPC, which is scheduled for Jan. 6-10, 2019, in the Bahamas.

The $86 buy-in is a nod to what Moneymaker paid in order to get his seat at the WSOP Main Event and win the $2.5 million first-place prize.

PokerStars NJ to host a Sept. 30 tourney stop

Moneymaker will run one of his $86 events at the New Jersey online poker site, PokerStars, on Sept. 30. This means one lucky New Jersey poker player could win a Platinum Pass to the 2019 PSPC.

The Platinum Pass that’s up for grabs includes the following, according to PokerStars’ PSPC tourney page:

  • $25,000 entry  fee
  • Six nights’ accommodation
  • $2,000 in travel and on-site expenses

The PSPC tournament will take place at Atlantic Resort, the hotel at which the winner receives free accommodation.

Basically, whoever wins the Platinum Pass at the NJ online poker stop for the Moneymaker PSPC Tour is going to get luxury accommodations, a free flight, and a few free meals by virtue of the six nights and the $2,000 stipend.

More than 300 of the passes will be awarded.

Moneymaker’s win a historic one for online poker

Up until Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win, the final table was where seasoned poker pros converged every year to battle out for the big prize and the gold bracelet.

In fact, leading up to Moneymaker’s 2003 win, four of the past eight winners are now in the Poker Hall of Fame: Dan Harrington, Stu Ungar, Scotty Nguyen, and Carlos Mortenson.

What was so revolutionary about his win is that he was primarily an online poker player and was regarded by many as an amateur.

However, Moneymaker exhibited steely resolve at the final table, ousting Phil Ivey’s full house with a better full house.

“Who is this young man?” asked announcer Lon McEachern after Moneymaker took down Ivey.

‘David against the Goliath’

Moneymaker’s hot streak continued, eventually placing him across the table from respected vet Sammy Farha.

The young Moneymaker bluffed Farha out of a hand that Farha was winning and then, on the next hand, he flopped two pair to Farha’s jacks.

He went all in, Farha called, and Moneymaker hit a full house on the river once more to cement his standing in history and unwittingly launch the modern era of online poker.

His influence on online poker is known as the “Moneymaker Effect.”

“I’m just your average guy,” Moneymaker said in a promo video of the tour on the PokerStars site. “It was the David against the Goliath. You can’t even make a movie that good. I lived it. It was incredible.”

WSOP Boss Rini Opens Up About NV / DE / New Jersey Online Poker Player Pooling

WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini revealed his thoughts on New Jersey’s online poker player pooling with real money poker in Nevada and Delaware.

New Jersey is in the sharing mood.

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie signed an agreement with the governors of Nevada and Delaware to share online poker players, a move called “player pooling.”  888/WSOP clearly stands to benefit because they have online poker networks in all three states.

WSOP/888’s Head of Online Poker Bill Rini recently revealed his thoughts now how player pooling could affect WSOP’s standing in New Jersey.

NJ online poker talks went on for some time

One of the things that Rini revealed is that WSOP.com has known for awhile that talks have been going on in backchannels about the possibility of player pooling. However, he didn’t know how advanced those talks became until after Christie signed the agreement.

In that sense, the news was a bit of a surprise, but a good surprise in what seems to be the most significant year in New Jersey gambling since the inception of casinos in 1978.

Next steps: It’s with the regulators

Now that player pooling is ready to roll in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada, the big question is, “What happens next?”

Rini says, at this point, the focus is on regulators. Breaking new ground like this requires WSOP.com to submit its rules and regs to regulators.

“There’s a few steps between here and there. First off, there’s the finalization of some regulations,” Rini said. “Then, we are submitting our plans to all the regulators, who will then review those plans and let us know exactly what needs to be accomplished before they can give us the thumbs up to go live.”

Most of those interactions will happen between New Jersey and Nevada but Delaware will be involved in the talks, too.

Extended prime-time big advantage of player pooling

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers of player pooling. If WSOP.com becomes the sole platform for player pooling, it’s numbers will pass the point-in-time live player numbers of leader PokerStars NJ.

However, that’s only part of the draw of player pooling. Perhaps the greatest advantage is, according to Rini, extended prime time playing hours. Bringing Nevada into the fold means there are more around-the-clock opportunities for live players.

“One of the things we have been most excited about even just thinking about the potential of additional states in a compact is the time zone difference. Being able to extend primetime for the players,” Rini said. “Which is something we have tried to do promotionally in Nevada and New Jersey with happy hours before or after traditional primetime, trying to get people to play a bit more.”

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WSOP.com NJ, and its partnership with 888Poker, means the two sites can share a player pool. That’s a huge positive for poker players looking for a game. Yes, WSOP.com’s interface is a bit outdated, but it’s reliable and stable. And now that WSOP integrated its player rewards program with Caesars Total Rewards, players have every reason to sign up at WSOP.com NJ.

For The First Time In Years, PokerStars NJ Is Running A PCA Qualifier In The US

PokerStars NJ is giving real money online poker players in the state of New Jersey the chance to win a trip to the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

PokerStars NJ is giving online poker players in the state of New Jersey the chance to win a trip to the 2018 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA). In fact, it may even be possible to win a $15,855 PCA package for free.

Players can win their way into the 2018 PCA through a $1,000 PCA Qualifier on PokerStars NJ. This event is set for Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. local time. One PCA package is guaranteed.

The $15,855 PCA package includes a $10,300 Main Event buy-in and nine nights’ accommodation at Atlantis Resort & Casino on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. It also includes $1,000 for travel and another $1,000 in room credit at Atlantis for food and beverages.

Players can buy into the $1,000 qualifier directly or win a PCA Qualifier seat through satellites.

The site is running a series of $100 satellites to the PCA Qualifier. Plus, players can win their way into the $100 satellites for free.

Daily PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Qualifier freerolls

PokerStars NJ began hosting daily freerolls Oct. 27. The freerolls are running every single day at 7 p.m. local time, wrapping up with a final freeroll Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. The top five players in each freeroll will win a $100 PCA satellite ticket.

Players can get two tickets for the freerolls by depositing at least $10 using the bonus code PCA before 1:59 p.m. local time on Nov. 5. Additional deposits prior to the deadline will allow players to claim more freeroll tickets.

The PCA is returning to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas this coming January after a year during which the name was changed to PokerStars Championship Bahamas.

However, more than just marketing material and signage is being altered. The PCA Main Event buy-in is going back to the $10,300 price point of its glory years. That’s when the number of entries reached over 1,500 and prize pools hit more than $15 million.

The number of events on the schedule and rake has also been reduced.

The road to the Bahamas

Back in August, PokerStars global announced its Road to the Bahamas in 2018 PCA satellite plan outside of the US. The goal was to qualify as many as 400 players for the 2018 PCA Main Event.

The PokerStars NJ $1,000 PCA Qualifier may only send one or two players to the Bahamas. However, it does represent the first time US players have been able to qualify for the event since 2011.

The three largest PCA Main Events in history were recorded from 2009 to 2011, when Americans were qualifying for the event in big numbers online.

In 2009, the PCA Main event drew 1,347 entries creating a $12,674,000 prize pool. By 2010, the number of entries reached 1,529, creating a $14,831,300 prize pool. Finally, in 2011, the PCA drew 1,560 entries, creating a $15,132,000 prize pool.

The US Department of Justice effectively shut down online poker in America in the spring of 2011, indicting operators including PokerStars on charges of illegal gambling and bank fraud. PCA Main Event entry numbers have been in a nosedive ever since.

PokerStars ultimately settled the case and returned to the US market via New Jersey in the spring of 2016. PokerStars NJ has been the market leading online poker site since it launched. However, online poker revenues represent less than 10 percent of the $20 million a month in revenue NJ online gambling sites have been earning through 2017.

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NJCOOP Is A Wrap, But Did Anyone Even Notice It Happened In The First Place?

This year’s NJCOOP tournament series on PokerStars in NJ improved over last year’s numbers, but the event failed to make much of an impact in the NJ market.

For an online poker series with $1.2 million in guarantees, the 2017 PokerStars New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP) did not exactly make a lot of noise. It made the guarantees for most of the events on the 46-event schedule.

However, headlines were few and far between.

2017 NJCOOP Main Event just misses guarantee

One of the seven events PokerStars NJ did miss the guarantee on was the $500 Main Event, though it is not exactly anything Stars management is overly concerned about. With a $200,000 guarantee, the NJ online gambling site needed 426 players to cover it, but came up with just 420.

PokerStars had to eat $3,000 of rake to cover the difference.

The winner of that tournament was Dan Dizenzo, who played under the screenname “RazzleDazz1e.” Dizenzo pocketed just over $36,000 for the win. After the tournament ended, the champ sent out a rather subdued Tweet about his success.

Really, PokerStars never had to put up more than a couple thousand dollars to make up the difference in events that missed the guarantee. For example, the High Roller event, which was a $1,000 buy-in, missed the guarantee by a single entry.

Here are the rest of the events that missed the guarantee:

  • Event #11: $300 Heads-up ($20,000) – 56 entries; needed 72
  • Event #28: $500 Pot-Limit Omaha High Roller ($30,000) – 58 entries; needed 64
  • Event #29: $150+R [one re-buy, one add-on] ($20,000) – 136 entries; needed 146
  • Event #30: $1,000 High Roller ($80,000) – 84 entries; needed 85
  • Event #32: $25+R ($15,000) – 628 entries; needed 660
  • Event #41: $500 Main Event ($200,000) – 420 entries; needed 426
  • Event #44: $75 Sunday SuperSonic SE ($15,000) – 207 entries; needed 213

Will PokerStars NJ run out of cash fire power once WSOP.com pools players?

Granted, part of the reason the overlays were not a big issue is because the guarantees were not particularly big. With WSOP.com pooling players in New Jersey and Nevada soon, the online poker site will inevitably bump up its guarantees. If PokerStars NJ can only muster up the small sums of NJCOOP, one has to wonder if it is still going to be able to compete.

As we previously noted, the live PokerStars event arguably suffered because of a lack of substantial guarantees. In a market where poker attendance goes where the big guarantees are, the site runs the risk of being an also-ran if the competition starts offering substantially more lucrative Sunday tournaments.

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WSOP.com NJ, and its partnership with 888Poker, means the two sites can share a player pool. That’s a huge positive for poker players looking for a game. Yes, WSOP.com’s interface is a bit outdated, but it’s reliable and stable. And now that WSOP integrated its player rewards program with Caesars Total Rewards, players have every reason to sign up at WSOP.com NJ.

There were some NJCOOP highlights

That is not to say this year’s NJCOOP was not without merits. In fact, attendance actually surpassed last year’s numbers, with over 8,500 entries.

Total prize pools also surpassed the promised $1.2 million. While PokerStars put up some overlay in a few spots, the site more than made up for losses in other events.

But over the course of a two-week series, there was little chatter about NJCOOP. Team PokerStars Pro and former WSOP Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker did manage to win the $500 High Roller PLO event. However, with a mere 58 entries and a $9,000 payday, the news of his good fortune did not travel too far.

Right now, PokerStars NJ is not the only site in the Garden State with uneventful numbers. All the sites are struggling, and revenues are on a slight decline. The hope is the NJCOOP will result in a spike in October revenue numbers, but it will be another couple of weeks before we will find out if that is the case.