Pala Poker is finally fully live, having proudly removed the Beta tag early last week, and appear to be hoping to position itself as New Jersey’s online destination for small tournaments.
So far, it’s only really managed to be small.
Pala’s big selling point for its official full launch is an expanded weekly tournament schedule, with 67 guaranteed events per week — three of which are its marquis Pala Mega tournaments.
Unfortunately, the site continues to suffer from the same tepid liquidity that plagued it throughout the beta period. On any given day there are 14 tournaments — every half-hour from 4:00 PM to 10:30 PM –- and those with guarantees almost never have sufficient entries to cover the pool.
Of course, from the point-of-view of the seasoned low-stakes player, this makes Pala’s tournaments extremely appealing as the value of the payouts far exceed their proper proportion to the buy-in.
But it is not a sustainable environment, as the operator will only be able to tolerate losses on its tournaments for so long before it has to restructure the schedule to better match its level of activity. Either that, or find some way to bring in the number of players it may have already expected to have.
A loose definition of the word “Mega”
The branded tri-weekly Pala Mega tournaments are look to be the major selling point of the schedule. The Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday night events carry the largest guarantees on the site, and each is only $2,000.
However, the other three online poker networks in New Jersey frequently host events with five-figure guarantees. For instance, the weekly Sunday Special on PokerStars NJ currently guarantees $45,000. Pala cannot hope to compete with these numbers, and may have to rely on working the overlay angle to hang on to its loyal players and grab a few new ones.
Each Mega tournament is preceded by two Mega Qualifier events, small Hyper Turbo tournaments with a $3.30 buy-in which will award the top player alone an invitation to the next main Mega event.
As the Mega tournaments have a $30 buy-in, Pala only needs 10 entries to make these worth it to run, and they do entice players to get more excited for the largest tournaments on the site. The Mega events are woefully under-attended, but since they are Rebuy tournaments it is still possible for Pala to profit off of them, especially since the disproportionate rewards for winning will make repeat rebuying much more of a logical strategy than otherwise.
But these still remain another example of Pala’s designed schedule failing so far to garner a sufficiently large player base for the site to thrive.
The Pennsylvania connection
While Pala Poker is capable of thriving, it is still a distant last place in the market for poker traffic.
One can make a case that this is partially by design — that the entirety of PalaPoker’s operation in New Jersey, even though now gold, is really in essence just part of a larger beta for a Pala Poker PA site that is yet to launch.
This is really the only way the choice to remain its own network makes sense. Otherwise it may have been better off latching onto the Borgata Poker network, where it would have undoubtedly enjoyed better liquidity.
But if the real goal was simply to test and refine its software to have a head start in developing a solid product in Pennsylvania’s online poker market, then it has thoroughly succeeded. This is an even bigger advantage if Pennsylvania manages to join the imminent interstate liquidity compact between New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada.
PalaPoker has used the past half-year of its beta to refine its software and work out a functional plan for full operation, but unfortunately it has failed to carve a real place in the New Jersey market and is still distantly in last place in traffic.
While the new tournament schedule indicates an optimism that Pala will attract a solid fanbase of low-stakes players, this clearly still has not happened as it still suffers from the same epidemic of overlays that it had since the site began.
Still, it’s an ideal site for a tournament-inclined neophyte, as well as experienced players with a mind to exploit the current poorly-planned guarantees by frequently entering the least attended events.
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