PokerStars Releases NJSCOOP Schedule, And Regulars Might Not Be Thrilled

NJ online poker industry leader PokerStars has unveiled the schedule for the third annual NJSCOOP, which at first glance appears to favor the interests of net depositing players.
PokerStars NJSCOOP 2018
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To little surprise, PokerStars NJ has raised the bar once again, this time with the largest MTT series ever in the New Jersey online poker market.

Less surprising still, the third annual NJSCOOP sees another incremental shift in focus, with low skill edge “fun” events now more the rule than the exception.

Running down the NJSCOOP

The NJSCOOP, slated for April 14 – 30, will feature a $1.3 million guarantee across 40 events, with each event split into a high and low tier. The guarantee slightly exceeds that of last year’s series, which promised just over $1.2 million and vastly exceeded that benchmark.

However, last year’s series only featured 35 events, so the average guarantee per tournament is down moderately.

Event highlights include:

  • Event #4H: NLHE Sunday Special SE — $300 buy-in, $75k guarantee. Runs on Sunday, April 15.
  • Event #9H:NLHE Super Tuesday SE — $250 buy-in, $30k guarantee. Goes off on Tuesday, April 17.
  • Event #27: NHLE High Roller [6-Max] — The High portion of the event will see players ante up $1,000 each for a shot at a guaranteed $65k prize pool. Smaller stakes players can buy-in to the Low version for just $100 ($30k GTD).
  • Event #37: NLHE Main Event — This two-day Main will distribute at least $200k to players who buy-in to the High event ($500 buy-in), while Low players can buy-in for $50 to try and claim a piece of a $40k prize pool.
  • Event #38H: PLO [6-Max] — One of the biggest non-Hold’em events on the schedule will boast a $15k prize pool.

Generally speaking, the guarantees for most of these top-tier is down a notch (or two), which is likely both the increased number of tournaments, but also the shrinking size of the market. However, the Main Event High guarantee is the same as it was last year, and the Low guarantee is up $10k.

The “Main” incentive

In addition to their cash prizes, the winners of the Main Event (both High and Low) will receive a Platinum Pass package, valued at $30,000. The package will consist of the following:

  • A $25,000 buy-in to PokerStars NL Hold’em Championship, scheduled for January 2019
  • Six nights accommodations at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, The Bahamas
  • Paid expenses

The NL Hold’em Championship stands to be one of the biggest live $25k events in history, with Stars offering its international players multiple avenues of entry.

The fact that the operator is offering packages to Main Event winners comes off as a pleasant surprise, especially considering that the package’s value will vastly exceed the actual prize money for winning Main Event Low.

Players can win their way into the Main Event via:

  • Special $4 buy-in Spin & Go satellites
  • The NJSCOOP Main Event Freeroll — Complete simplistic challenges to win freeroll tickets. First place wins a ticket to Main Event High, while places 2 – 9 win tickets to Main Event Low. Freerolls will run every Friday at 6:00 pm, from April 6 – 27.
  • $8k satellite ticket giveaways — Players that participate in any one of qualifying five events (Events 3, 6, 16, 21 or 24, Low or High), will win All-In Shootout tickets. Winners will receive $10 or $100 satellite tickets, which can be used to play in any NJSCOOP Main Event qualifiers with those respective buy-ins.

Some questionable decisions

Regulars on the site may notice that the NJSCOOP has taken on a somewhat new direction, with numerous events featuring what we believe PokerStars preceives as net depositing player-friendly formats.

  • There are a total of eight KO or Progressive KO events on the schedule, or 20% of the total events.
  • Five events will feature a hyper-turbo format.
  • Other “fun” formats include Win the Button (three events), and Bubble Rush (one event).

Factoring in the mixed games events, and there just aren’t too many traditional NLHE high-skill edge tournaments, which may dissuade some regulars from participating.

In addition, the odd timing of the NJSCOOP makes it so fewer regulars are likely to participate. For one, the partypoker Millions North America will be running from April 24 – May 2 at the Playground Poker Club near Montreal. Party NJ is awarding 30 $5,000 packages to the event, meaning 30 less players participating in the NJSCOOP.

That might not sound like a lot, but in the smallish NJ market, it’s material.

Not to mention, the Borgata Spring Open runs from April 10 – 27, directly overlapping with the NJSCOOP. While it’s plausible that players stationed at the Borgata for the Open will double dip, there’s really been no tangible evidence that brick & mortar MTT events facilitate a rise in online play in New Jersey.

Whether or not the timing of the NJSCOOP was designed with the intent to limit registrations from pros is unknown. Just as likely, the unfortunate timing was an oversight.

#lessrakeisbetter in New Jersey, for now

Recently, PokerStars rolled out a highly controversial pricing increase for all tournaments $20 and below in its international markets.

From what it appears, the rake on micro- and small-stakes tournaments in New Jersey has not been increased, at least not yet. Nor does it appear that PokerStars has unveiled its revamped (and also controversial) Stars Rewards program in the New Jersey market.

We don’t know if the decision not to incorporate these changes in New Jersey is due to mere disinterest in the market, regulator delays, or simply because PokerStars views the current NJ model as acceptable. Either way, it does appear that NJSCOOP Low players will pay the same percentage rake they paid last year, and that’s a welcome relief.

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