The NJ Poker Classic, which ran from November 10 – 20 and guaranteed a minimum $500,000 across 38 events, represented both a symbolic and material win for the New Jersey online poker market.
No, it didn’t carry the same guarantee as the PokerStars NJSCOOP or NJCOOP, but given how little it was marketed and how abruptly it was announced, it did more to defy expectations than either of those series.
There wasn’t a single event after #10 that didn’t surpass its guarantee, with numerous tournaments boasting pots of more than double the allocated prize pools. And of the three events that did post overlays, two featured overlays of approximately 1% of less, with only one of two Pot Limit Omaha events (Event #10) coming up significantly short.
Granted, the guarantees did err on the side of caution, but there’s little overlooking the fact that the series generated a more than $660,000 prize pool, with 12 events featuring 100 runners or more.
Not bad for a market that has struggled mightily of late, with both revenue and cash game liquidity on the down.
NJ Poker Classic highlights
The series featured a number of notable bright points, including:
- The two bounty events (Events #15 and #26) performed extraordinarily well, with Event #15 beating out its $2,500 prize pool by nearly $4,000. Event #26 saw 64 runners create a $9,088 prize pool ($5,000 GTD).
- The biggest buy-in event on the slate (Event #16 — $50,000 GTD High Roller) also beat the mark, with 44 players (60 total entries) accounting for a $57,300 prize pool.
- Event #7, a $65,000 guarantee featuring a $320 buy-in did post an overlay, but it was less than $1k. It’s performance was roughly on par with the inaugural event of last month’s GSSS Fall ’17, which boasted a $72,400 prize pool.
- The Main Event was by far the most notable success of the series. The $100,000 GTD event saw 156 runners pony up the $500 to enter. Add in the 108 reentries and the prize pool swelled to $123,288.
Surprisingly, the Main Event outperformed the Main of the Borgata hosted GSSS Fall ’17, which only resulted in a $103,200 pot. And while the NJCOOP Main Event did create a substantially larger $197,200 prize pool, we must reiterate that NJ Poker Classic players were given very little advance notice of the series.
Given the turnouts, it wouldn’t surprise if WSOP NJ/888 Poker NJ corrected that faux pas next time around by offering players sufficient notice.
In terms of scale, the NJ Poker Classic was bigger than the GSSS Fall ’17 and smaller than the NJCOOP:
- GSSS Fall ’17: 14 events, >$400,000 total prize pool
- NJ Poker Classic: 38 events, $660,000 total prize pool
- PokerStars NJCOOP: 46 events, $1.45 million total prize pool
However, both Borgata and PokerStars are known to run series in October, and thus a solid performance was more expected. For WSOP NJ/888 Poker NJ to even hang with them is quite the achievement.
A signal for the future
It’s quite likely that this is the last time we’ll see WSOP NJ/888 Poker NJ run a tournament series as part of a standalone network. That’s because the duo are expected to join the Multi State Internet Gaming Association when it launches (presumably next year).
Once that happens, the network will share liquidity with players in both Nevada and Delaware, as 888 is the only operator with a presence in all three states that support legal online poker.
It’s also conceivable that Pennsylvania, which recently legalized online poker, will join the association on Day One, effectively doubling the size of the player pool.
Given this, it wouldn’t shock if the foremost reasons WSOP NJ/888 Poker NJ decided on now to run a tournament series was to gauge player interest and generate hype for future events.
How big will those future events be? A tripling of the market size and a more concentrated marketing strategy could easily result in events that dish out a minimum $2 million, with Main Event guarantees flirting with half-a-million.
Considering that WSOP.com in Nevada already saw $1 million prize pools for two of its bracelet events last summer, it could happen.
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