New NJ Online Poker Sites Struggle To Have Meaningful Impact In Crowded Market


The launch of two new sites in an already saturated New Jersey online poker market has done little to reverse the industry’s prolonged downturn.

This, despite both Pala Poker and most recent entry playMGM Poker offering players nearly unprecedented levels of promotional and overlay value.

Cash game liquidity still stuck in the mud

According to online poker traffic tracking site PokerScout, current 7-day cash game averages in New Jersey are hovering right around 295. This figure represents a slight decline over those recorded in mid-July, and a 5.4% downturn since July 31 — the day before playMGM entered the market.

As of August 13, the market share breakdown of cash game liquidity is as follows:

These figures are highly reminiscent of those observed during last summer’s dog days, only back then there were two fewer NJ online poker operators.

High profile tournaments still a traffic driver

One wouldn’t guess it, but it was just a few weeks ago that PokerStars NJ was running over the WSOP/888 network. An extreme example of its recent dominance came on July 23, when PokerStars’ averaged 159 ring game players to WSOP/888’s 113.

Interestingly, that also happened to be the day PokerStars’ 12-event, $300k Summer Series began.

Based on numbers provided by PokerScout, cash game figures on PokerStars remained elevated throughout the beginning and middle parts of the Summer Series, only to stumble back to earth once it concluded on July 30.

This suggests that the rollout of a meaningful tournament series still has a positive, albeit short lived, impact on the site’s other online poker verticals.

One-off tournament extravaganzas are also the primary reason individual operators (namely PokerStars) are able to have the occasional $1 million month; an accomplishment that used to be commonplace as late as early 2016.

But unfortunately, it appears that prestigious tournament series’ are about the only vehicle having a material impact on NJ online poker liquidity, as the recent inclusion of Pala Poker and playMGM Poker have barely moved the needle.

Pala Poker yet to find its groove

Based on PokerScout data, we see that Pala Poker has never averaged more than three ring game players on any day between July 12 – August 9. At times, it’s 7-day cash game average has slipped below just one player.

In Pala’s defense, the poker room is not currently open 24/7 — it opens daily at 3 p.m. That, and the site is still in a beta phase, with the operator exhibiting a commitment to improving the product before it goes gold.

Still, it’s performance so far still comes across as pretty disappointing, especially given that the site has rolled out a fairly aggressive daily tournament schedule, that offers players plenty of overlay value.

Its welcome package, that consists of a $50 sign-up bonus and a 100% match up to $500 on first deposits, is nothing to sneeze at either.

playMGM off to a tepid start

It’s a bit tougher to gauge the impact of playMGM’s launch on total industry liquidity, as it shares liquidity with both Borgata Poker and Party Poker NJ.

But from the looks of it, there isn’t that much movement to report. As per PokerScout data, from July 12 – July 31, the Borgata/Party network was averaging 72 cash game players, and just over 76 during the last week of July.

From August 1 (the day playMGM entered a soft launch phase) to August 9, cash game averages stood relatively pat at 75 players. The current 7-day average is also stuck at 75.

Lack of traction not surprising

Admittedly, the early failures of playMGM Poker and Pala Poker to gain momentum in New Jersey isn’t entirely shocking. Both brands, while well known to gamblers, are new quantities in the online poker sphere, neither having launched a site prior.

This stands in stark contrast to PokerStars, which entered New Jersey as the most well-known (and arguably the most revered) online poker operator in the world. And yet even PokerStars NJ has experienced some turbulence, at times conceding the cash game market share lead to WSOP/888.

It’s also worth mentioning that the NJ online poker landscape, unlike online casino, is a hostile environment where new operators tend to cannibalize liquidity from one another, as opposed to growing the market.

Even playMGM, with its stellar 100% up to $2,000 first deposit bonus and top-flight brand ties, is learning that the hard way.

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Robert is a veteran writer and analyst for the gambling industry, with a particular focus on the emergent US online gambling market. An avid poker and gambling enthusiast, Robert offers unique perspectives from both the vantage point of the player and industry professional, and is fit to cover a broad spectrum of topics.

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