After a string of successes at running appealing tournament series, PokerStars New Jersey appears to have overplayed its hand.
The Turbo Series 2018 – the rebranded successor to PokerStars’ Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) which has proven itself to be very successful in multiple markets – failed to perform as planned with a surprising number of overlays.
This proved welcome news for players that did participate in the events, as they were treated to a level of value typically not found on Stars.
Of the 28 events, nearly half of these failed to meet the expected number of players. While some of the events narrowly missed the mark and merely cut into the site’s buy-in fees, several drastically underperformed. Specifically nearly all of the middle events #9 through #18 lacked for sufficient players.
There were no announcements of any particular technical problems on Sunday February 24th through Thursday March 1st when these tournaments took place, and while that Sunday was the final day of competitor WSOP NJ’s New Jersey Poker Classic II (and the evening of its Main Event) the remainder of this troubled period was not in competition with any other tournament series in the New Jersey market.
The turbo events were expected to be very popular as they are fast-paced and draw a range of different kinds of players, and the days in question offered a wide variety of games with low-to-mid-range buy-ins. Unfortunately the site simply appears to have failed to muster the necessary interest during its middle act.
Late series rally
From event #19 onward the series managed to regain its footing, with only #23 and #24 coming up a little short. Fortunately PokerStars managed to attract a massive crowd for the Main Event, #26. With a $25,000 guarantee, this tournament drew 382 entries and 254 unique players, by far the largest amount of the series, and ultimately paid out a prize pool of $35,000 – overshooting the guarantee by 40%.
Events #20 and #28 also had particularly good turnout, each exceeding their guarantees by more than $5,000. Ultimately the series as a whole paid out over $305,000, beating its originally promised amount by a modest 13%.
Overlays can be a positive
While the series was by no means a loss, it definitely failed to meet the expectations of other previous tournament series in the Garden State.
The recent Winter Series PokerStars ran in January was executed perfectly with not a single overlay required. WSOP’s NJ Poker Classic II (which as mentioned partially overlapped with Turbo) also had incredible results with almost every event meeting its goals and paying out over $1.1 million in total (after a conservative total guarantee of $800,000).
So what happened with the Turbo Series? There are a few plausible theories:
- There was a stretch of unseasonably warm weather during the middle stretch of the series, driving players away from their computers.
- Players have tournament fatigue from all the series that have run of late.
- The guarantees were set aggressively, with many events requiring at least 100 entries to reach their guarantees, and several over 200.
The latter point warrants consideration. It’s possible that PokerStars set the guarantees uncharacteristically high on purpose, to make its new series attractive to players. Overlays are not necessarily a bad thing, especially when a site first rolls out a new series. Players that did participate will remember the added value, and may be more keen to participate in future iterations.
Overlays only become an issue when tournaments miss the mark by so much that operators feel compelled to shrink the guarantees of future series, stripping away that added value. However, one instance of mild disappointment doesn’t necessarily means that the Turbo 2019 will be more conservatively balanced.
A better marker of success is the raw number of entries, and in this department, the Turbo Series fared well, with 10 events drawing over 150 entries, and six over 200.
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