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
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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.

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.

[toc]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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NJ Agrees To Share The Online Poker Sandbox With Nevada And Delaware

New Jersey announced it will begin sharing online poker player pools with Nevada and Delaware, which will hopefully invigorate stagnant poker revenue.

[toc]After four years of refusing to share, New Jersey is learning to play well with others when it comes to online poker players.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and Gov. Chris Christie announced earlier this month that it will begin sharing players with both Nevada and New Jersey.

New Jersey officials have new enthusiasm about gambling compacts

Previously New Jersey officials seemed uninterested in sharing player pools. This might be in part because New Jersey is the only state with online casinos. Really, New Jersey is the only state generating revenue from online gambling because of it. So, pooling poker players seemed to be a drop in the bucket, and the NJ online gambling bucket was big enough.

However, now the online poker industry in New Jersey not only is not growing much, it is shrinking. While online casino sites in New Jersey continue to grow by leaps and bounds, poker is stalling. The drop-off is such that now pooling players actually does make some fiscal sense for the Garden State.

Christie seemed very optimistic about the upside of the compacts in his official press release:

”New Jersey has been a pioneer in the development of authorized, regulated online gaming, which has been a budding success since its launch in late 2013. Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance annual revenue growth, attract new consumers, and create opportunities for players and Internet gaming operators.

This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor.”

Currently, New Jersey online gambling comprises 10 percent of total casino revenue in New Jersey. Of that, only 10 percent currently comes from online poker.

WSOP.com will be first to start pooling online poker players

As of now, there is only one operator offering online poker in both New Jersey and Nevada. That is Caesars Entertainment’s site, WSOP.com. Because it is the only site already set up, it is pretty clear it will be the first to offer shared-pool cash games and tournaments.

However, do not expect the site to just flip a switch and go. The compact introduces some new regulatory components, including server locations. It will likely take until 2018 before anything is launched and ready to roll out.

The good news for WSOP.com is that several key competitors might have difficulty getting into Nevada. Most notably, PokerStars. While PokerStars is the market leader in the New Jersey, Nevada regulations actually exclude the company from coming into the state.

Nevada allows individuals who offered offshore gambling after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed to enter the state’s regulated market after a five-year period sitting out. Nevada does not make the same allowance for entities. As such, PokerStars will be on the outside looking in.

Meanwhile, eligible brands like playMGM and Golden Nugget will need to make up lost time setting up shop in Nevada if they want to dig into WSOP.com’s market share.

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Scott Blumstein’s WSOP Win Cements NJ As The New US Poker Mecca

For the fourth-straight year, a NJ poker pro made the WSOP Main Event final table. This time they won. Scott Blumstein defeated the big field to earn $8.1m.

[toc]Over the course of three nights of televised poker action, New Jersey native Scott Blumstein rarely relinquished the chip lead at the final table of the 2017 WSOP.

Thanks to that dominant performance, Blumstein now has over $8.1 million, a prestigious WSOP bracelet, and the title of World Champion.

Dramatic finish capped off ESPN live coverage

Certainly Blumstein proved his poker skills over the course of the tournament. However, the final hand was a dramatic and lucky one for him. He was all-in holding A-2 to Dan Ott’s A-8. With one card to come, Blumstein needed to hit a deuce and only a deuce to win, otherwise Ott would be right back in the thick of things. Blumstein hit his miracle card, ending the tournament with a dramatic flourish.

Blumstein, 25, is a professional poker player from Morristown, NJ. He did not enter any other WSOP events this summer, save for the Main Event. This is the first year he ever played the biggest poker tournament of the year.

Blumstein defeated Pennsylvania poker player Ott, 26, heads-up to claim the title. Both young pros credit their interest in the game to Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Main Event champion.

The two youngsters bested a final table with two former Main Event November Niners, Antoine Saout and Ben Lamb. This year’s Main Event drew 7,221 players, making it the third-largest WSOP Main Event ever.

Blumstein describes himself as a New Jersey online poker grinder

Blumstein was understandably overcome with emotion after his win. Even at the height of his poker career though, Blumstein seemed grounded in who he is and what this win means.

As he told the WSOP:

“I don’t have an ego in this game. I know where I stand. I know two weeks ago I was just a New Jersey online grinder and nothing’s really changed […] This is just one poker tournament. It takes variance and luck and playing your best. And all those things came together.”

Blumstein is an online grinder indeed. He plays under the screen names “2Due4U” on WSOP.com and “SBlast2711” on BorgataPoker. Across the NJ online poker sites, he has $147,046.

Blumstein also has a couple dozen live scores dating back to 2012. His biggest cash prior to the Main Event was actually last July. While everyone was in Vegas playing the WSOP Main Event, Blumstein stayed home and won the Borgata Summer Poker Open Kickoff event for almost $200,000.

As Blumstein tells it, the future is wide open for him, and it is less about the money than you might think.

“I didn’t want to win this thing for the eight million dollars. But it’s nice to have some freedom now. That was the goal, to get to the point where I can do what I want. And I think I’m going to have that opportunity now, whether it’s poker, whether it’s business, whether it’s going back to school, whatever it is, I have the freedom to do that now.”

New Jersey’s strong showing in WSOP Main Event

Blumstein did not exactly come out of nowhere. He is part of what is arguably the hotbed for poker talent in the United States.

Since online poker launched in New Jersey in November of 2013, a year has not passed without a Garden State player at the final table. The following New Jersey players final tabled the Main Event the past four years:

  • William Tonking – Fourth place in 2014
  • Josh Beckley – Second place in 2015
  • Thomas Cannuli – Sixth place in 2015
  • Michael Ruane – Fourth place in 2016

Worth noting that Ruane also bubbled the final table this year, finishing in 10th place. Another honorable mention goes to 2015 champ Joe McKeehen, who hails from Pennsylvania, but is a frequent player in the Atlantic City casinos. Cannuli, meanwhile, followed up his final table appearance with a win in one of the three online bracelet events at WSOP.com this year.

While it is not exactly the most compelling reason for states to legalize and regulate poker, it is not a coincidence these players who grind online day in and out are the ones winning the big bucks.

California actually sent the most players to the Main Event this year with 922, while New Jersey was fifth on the list with 212. The final table was an international affair, with Great Britain, France, and Argentina represented in addition to the US. In fact, there were more players from outside of the States than Americans at 5-4.

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Image c/o World Series of Poker

Grinding WSOP.com In Nevada This Summer Could Be Better For Your Bankroll

There’s over $2.5 million in guarantees up for grabs on Nevada online poker site WSOP.com. With so much value, New Jersey players should consider the trip.

[toc]With May upon us, poker enthusiasts can now say the 2017 World Series of Poker starts this month. In just a few weeks, the biggest poker series of the year kicks off at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.

Plenty of New Jersey poker players will head west in search of a WSOP bracelet. With such a big slate of online action though, the New Jersey online gambling grinders might consider making the trip too.

Summer Grind Series runs from May 30-July 17

The live poker action is not the only reason to travel to Nevada though. WSOP.com is offering online poker players a jam-packed schedule of MTTs, satellites and megas, featuring over $2.5 million in guarantees. There are a few important online events New Jersey players traveling to Vegas this summer should mark on the calendar.

Three online bracelet events

The online offerings run concurrently with the live summer series. As usual, there is also an online component of the live bracelet action, but things are even bigger and better this year. For the first time ever, there will be three different online bracelet events.

All events are one-day tournaments, which will play out entirely online. All three feature unlimited re-entries until registration closes. The schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday, June 3 at 3:33 p.m.: $333 buy-in The Little Grind ($333,333 guaranteed)
  • Saturday, July 1 at 3:33 p.m.: $3,333 buy-in The Big Grind
  • Friday, July 7 at 2 p.m. – $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em aka The Classic

Mega satellites with with big seat guarantees

If you’re traveling to Nevada and plan to play live and online, you can do so on the cheap. There are daily satellites offering two seats guaranteed to $1,000 buy-in bracelet events. Those events have a $20 buy-in, but satellites are running non-stop throughout the summer for as little as $10.

There are two big mega satellites for live events. The first one is a $22 buy-in mega for the $550 buy-in Colossus bracelet event. Called the Colossus XXII, the tournament runs on Saturday, June 3 at 5 p.m. and guarantees at least 22 seats.

Then, of course, there is the return of the 25 Seat Scramble. One of the best Nevada online poker values of the year, this Main Event satellite is a $200 buy-in with 25 guaranteed seats into the $10,000 buy-in tournament. The Scramble runs on Saturday, July 8 at 3 p.m.

Nevada Online Championships

Don’t worry, New Jersey online players. The East Coast WSOP.com site will have its own Online Championships series later this year. Nevada will get first crack at it though. Throughout the summer there will be a 108-event series on the site.

The Championships kick off with a $100 buy-in opening event on Saturday, June 3 at 4 p.m. The tournament features a deep-stack structure and a $20,000 guarantee.

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Setting up your WSOP Nevada account

Be warned: Just because you have an account set up in New Jersey does not mean you are good to go in Nevada come summertime. The sites are both operated by WSOP.com, but you need to have separate NV and NJ accounts.

Separate accounts also mean separate funds. You are not able to transfer funds across the two sites. In other words, you will need to sign up for a new account in Nevada. You can use your New Jersey address, but you will not be able to play unless you are physically located in Nevada.

As in New Jersey, you will need to provide your phone number and Social Security number in order to get your account set up, approved and verified. Then you are able to deposit and withdraw using the same methods as NJ.

Additionally, you will need to download a different version of the poker client. You can do that in advance by clicking here.

The client is the same, but WSOP.com is going to be a lot busier in the desert. So, if you are making the trip to Vegas this summer, be sure to pack your laptop or tablet to get in on the action.

Image credit: Oscity / Shutterstock.com

WSOP NJ Goes The (Mostly) Tried And True Route With Its March Promotional Schedule

For the most part, WSOP NJ has rolled out a promotional schedule that mimics its previous efforts. But there are a few little extras worth checking out.

[toc]The live World Series of Poker may still be a few months off, but that hasn’t stopped WSOP New Jersey from upping its aggression.

Much to the delight of players, the site has unveiled a laundry list of March promotions, most of which will look at least vaguely familiar to site regulars.

However, sprinkled among the old standbys is at least one infrequent event that should help draw higher than average traffic to the tournament tables.

Here’s a look at the best of the bunch.

Miniaturized MTTs at WSOP NJ

Players that want to win big prizes WSOP NJ, but who don’t necessary have the roll to play in the site’s high buy-in tournaments, will relish this one.

From March 12-19, the site is hosting the Mini Fest of Poker — a string of eight guaranteed tournaments where the highest buy-in is $10. The guarantees for these tournaments are admittedly on the lower end, ranging from $150 to the low four figures, but the rebuy and add-on formats could facilitate an increase to these prize pools.

The highlight event occurs on March 19, when players have a chance to parlay $10 into a sizable slice of a guaranteed $2,000 prize fund.

Also on the schedule is a pot-limit Omaha event (March 13), where the price of entry is just a mere $2. This presents a rare inexpensive opportunity for players to learn an alternative format.

Satellites abound at WSOP NJ

There is no shortage of satellites this month. For just $1 players can parlay their way into the site’s Warriors’ Opening Strike — a $50 buy-in, $10,000 guaranteed tournament that runs every Sunday at 4 p.m. The top prize for this event usually comes in somewhere around $3,500.

As an added perk, satellite winners are granted the flexibility to use their ticket on any $50 buy-in event.

On the high end, WSOP NJ is offering satellites to its Tuesday Showdown, a mammoth $15,000 guaranteed re-entry event where the price of admission is a steep $500. However, the satellite enables players to win their way in for just one-tenth that cost, $50.

Each Tuesday Showdown satty awards a minimum of five seats, so be on the lookout for overlays.

But perhaps the most attention grabbing qualifier is the one WSOP NJ will be hosting every week from now until the 2017 WSOP Main Event at the Rio in Las Vegas.

On Sundays at 7:30 p.m., players can ante up $500 (re-entry) to try and win a $12,000 WSOP Main Event prize package, that not only includes a seat, but also gifts $1,000 for travel and an additional $1,000 ticket into Event No. 71, the $1,000 WSOP.com Online Bracelet tourney.

The online bracelet event is just one of three that WSOP.com in Nevada will be hosting this summer, marking the first time in industry history that multiple bracelets will be given away via the online format.

Old meets new at WSOP.com

Beginning last month, WSOP NJ has added a nuance to its recurrent SNG Leaderboards promotion.

As usual, the best performing sit & go players will split a $3,000 prize pool, spread across three buy-in tiers and 30 players per tier.

The twist is that at the end of each leaderboard week, one player in the top 100 on each leaderboard is selected to win half his or her paid rake back for the qualifying period.

Interestingly, the mechanism for which WSOP NJ selects the lucky winner is not entirely random (although it may as well be). Instead, the winner correlates to the cents spot for the price of gold for the day — hence the Gold Rush name.

For instance, if the price of gold ends at .76 on the qualifying day, the 76th spot on the leaderboard will win the Gold Rush component of the promotion.

There’s still time to get in on this week’s leaderboard rush, which runs from February 28 – March 6.

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Where does WSOP NJ stand in the market?

Currently, WSOP NJ’s cash game traffic trails that of industry leading PokerStars, but the margin is small. According to Poker Industry Pro via PokerScout.com, PokerStars boasts a rolling seven-day average of 146 players, versus 140 for WSOP.com.

However, the script may flip shortly, as PokerStars’ Cash Game Quests promotion comes to a close on March 5.

The two have been embroiled in a fierce competition for the cash game market lead dating back to last May. That said, PokerStars regularly beats out WSOP with regard to monthly gross gaming revenue.