New Jersey Online Poker Operators See Spike With Players Staying At Home

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It’s a tough time for the legalized sports betting industry of New Jersey, there’s no doubt about it. With all of the world’s major sports leagues on pause, March earnings for retail and mobile sportsbooks are sure to suffer as sports bettors are left looking for ways to stay in action.

But for poker players, specifically online poker players, the exact opposite is true. 

The COVID-19 global pandemic is keeping people indoors, especially in the Tri-State area where a “shelter in place” mandate has people staying in their homes for the foreseeable future. This has led to an explosion of action in the online poker scene as players in New Jersey, and around the world, are logging back into their online poker clients and trying to take their mind off the current situation by playing some cards.

World Series of Poker Super Circuit

One of the most shining examples of the online poker spike taking place over the past couple of weeks can be seen in the ongoing World Series of Poker Online Super Circuit Series.

Even though 888/WSOP.com is currently the only operator that benefits from the use of a shared player pool between its customers in Nevada and New Jersey, the dramatic rise in participants cannot solely be attributed to just having more potential players, or even providing a novelty online poker series.

The series, which is comprised of 18 events, promised a total of $1.24 million in total prize money. By the eighth event, nearly $1.5 million had already been given away.

Nearly every event is more than tripling its posted guarantee. For example, Event #1 ($320 No-Limit Hold’em Double Stack) kicked off the series and had an initial guarantee of $50,000. A total of 570 entries pushed the prize pool to $171,000. For comparison, the first event in the previous WSOP.com Online Circuit Series drew 387 total entries at a $200 buy-in, which resulted in a prize pool of $73,917.

The bigger buy-ins of the Online Circuit events are providing registration numbers that are normally reserved for the low-limit value tournaments. 

Event #2 ($215 No-Limit Hold’em) saw 941 total entries for a $188,200 prize pool, nearly quadrupling the $50,000 guarantee. Even the $1000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller 6-Max crushed its guarantee. The 290 total entries created a prize pool of $276,950, more than $200,000 higher than the original $75,000 guarantee.

PokerStars Sunday Boost

PokerStars NJ is also seeing a significant hike in its New Jersey player base during this time. Sunday is traditionally the busiest day for online poker, with online operators providing their biggest tournaments of the week, but this past Sunday exceeded already high expectations.

PokerStars NJ’s marquee Sunday tournament is the $200 buy-in Sunday Special, a tournament that traditionally offers a $25,000 guarantee. Just two weeks ago, on March 8, 152 players participated in the event, creating a prize pool of $28,272. Then the very next week on March 15, registration skyrocketed 43% to 216 players, creating a prize pool of just over $40,000.

PokerStars boosted the guarantee for the next week to $40,000 only to see the week-over-week growth continue. There was another 23% surge as 265 players registered to create a $49,290 prize pool with a top prize of $10,079. The overall growth in just two weeks was just shy of a 75% increase.

A dramatic increase can also be seen in the PokerStars NJ Sunday Storm. The $10 buy-in tournament captures the recreational player demographic. On March 1, the tournament ran with 399 players. On March 22, 937 players helped crush the boosted guarantee of $5,000 to more than $8,500.

 March 8March 15March 22
$200 Sunday Special
Entries152216265
Prize Pool$28,272$40,176$49,290
$10 Sunday Storm
Entries448678937
Prize Pool$4,076$6,169$8,526
$75 Sunday Supersonic
Entries537086
Prize Pool$3,736$5,000$6,063
$50 Sunday Warm-Up
Entries87161224
Prize Pool$4,000$7,325$10,192

Revenue spike ahead?

In February, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that online poker revenue remained flat, at $1.8 million, while other online gaming continued to gain upward momentum.

Along with increased fields in tournament poker, cash game traffic and the rake that comes with it is on the rise as well. So while sportsbooks are assuredly going to take a massive revenue hit in March, and likely the ensuing months, those keeping tabs on New Jersey gaming revenue will be keeping their eyes on online poker.

Photo by Mayer Vadim / Shutterstock.com

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Jeff Walsh

Jeff Walsh has been a member of the poker media for over seven years and currently serves as the Senior Writer for the leading online poker website PocketFives.com. He is also a contributor to the Sports Handle/US Bets network of sites.

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