Interstate Pooling Goes Live On May 1: What It Means For NJ Online Poker Players

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One day after the anniversary of Black Friday, online poker players in New Jersey awoke to the best news they’re heard in years: Interstate player pooling is coming, and it’s coming real soon.

In a presser released Monday morning it was announced that both WSOP.com and 888Poker.com will be going live with three-state pooling on May 1, several weeks ahead of the live World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The states involved are Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Nevada and Delaware have shared pooling since March 2015.

For New Jersey players, May Day will mark the single largest liquidity increase they have experienced since legal online poker first went live in November 2013, resulting in bigger prize pools, games running closer to 24/7, and yes, the ability to win online-only WSOP bracelets from a state that isn’t Nevada.

Not all NJ poker sites will benefit

Only operators with a presence in multiple states will be able to participate in interstate pooling. 888 Poker has just that, operating the following sites:

  • New Jersey: WSOP NJ and 888 Poker
  • Nevada: WSOP NV
  • Delaware: Delaware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway

Other existing sites in New Jersey, including PokerStars NJ, three networked sites operating under the Borgata iGaming license, and Pala Poker will be regulated to the sidelines, at least until they decide to open operations in Nevada. However, that will prove exceedingly difficult for PokerStars, as it’s currently considered a Bad Actor in Nevada, and barred from participation in that market.

In short, WSOP NJ and 888 Poker will become by far the most attractive sites for New Jersey players to grind on. Good news, considering that revenue on the network has stagnated of late, landing in third place (out of three) in 11 of the past 12 months.

One account to rule them all

For New Jersey players the transition should be a painless one, as they will not be required to create new accounts. Nevada and Delaware players, however, will have to endure a slightly more arduous process. As per the presser:

“The pact will require Delaware and Nevada customers of the two companies to download new software and create a new account to be able to participate. Existing Delaware and Nevada poker software from the companies will cease to operate after this process takes effect. New Jersey players with an existing account will not be affected.”

It is presumed that the process may cause confusion for some NV and DE players. For this reason, it was imperative that interstate pooling go live several weeks ahead of the World Series of Poker. Now, players will have ample time to get themselves up and running before the summer’s biggest online events.

News that New Jersey players would eventually be pooled with those in other states as part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Alliance first broke last October.

Heads-up displayed not allowed

One facet of the news that may come as a disappointment for more serious NJ online poker players is that the use of heads-up displays will not be allowed in the new network.

“Nevada expressly prohibits” HUDs, so it would give NJ players an unfair advantage if they were able to continue using their displays.

More here.

What can NJ online poker players expect this summer?

The impact of player pooling will be no more apparent than just a few weeks after it goes live. That’s because the live World Series of Poker in Las Vegas brings with it an influx of poker tourism to Nevada, and subsequently, a vast increase in both online poker playing activity and in the number of notable tournaments and promos.

Cash game uptick

Historically, WSOP NV undergoes a roughly 20-25% uptick in cash game liquidity during the first week of the Series, which this year debuts on May 29. This is followed by another surge around the time the Main Event kicks off in early July. By simply logging in, New Jersey players will gain immediate access to all of these players.

Conservatively speaking, online poker traffic on WSOP NJ/888 Poker will be more than double what it was during last year’s series. And that’s not factoring in the added hype that will inevitably surround the legal US online poker industry, now that interstate pooling is a reality.

Going for gold from the east coast

The benefits of pooling extend well beyond cash game liquidity. In fact, the most notable advantage of pooling is that New Jersey players will be able to participate in all four of this year’s online bracelet events.

Last year, the three online bracelet events awarded a total prize pool of approximately $3.3 million, with two shattering the elusive $1 million barrier. This years turnouts will inevitably be much larger, with at least an outside chance of the larger bracelet events supporting a $1.5 – $2 million prize fund. Even the smallest event ($365 buy-in) appears on track to award $1 million.

Full breakdown of this year’s online bracelet events as follows:

  • Event #10: $365 No Limit Hold’em — June 3rd, 6:30 pm EST
  • Event #47: $565 Pot Limit Omaha 6-max — June 22nd, 6:30 pm EST
  • Event #61: $1,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship — June 29th, 6:30 pm EST
  • Event #63: $3,200 No Limit Hold’em High Roller — June 30th, 6:30 pm EST

All online bracelet events will feature unlimited reentries, with the Championship event allowing re-entries for the first four hours. Suffice it to say, New Jersey players that run deep in these events are advised to call in sick for work the next day, because they might not end until after dawn.

A bigger WSOP.com Online Championships

In years past, WSOP NJ and WSOP NV have hosted the WSOP.com Online Championships in parallel with the live Series. To date, each state has run its own version of the series, with New Jersey players getting the shorter end of the stick.

No longer. In 2018, we suspect that the Online Championships will be merged across state lines.

Last year, the Nevada version of the Championships awarded over $860,000 across more than 100 events, with multiple events supporting $50,000+ guarantees. Expect that number to be blown away in 2018.

Already in the past several months, WSOP.com in New Jersey has hosted two high-profile tournament series (NJ Poker Classic I & II), with the most recent doling out roughly $1.1 million in prize money. We speculated then that the series was designed to increase brand awareness in the run up to shared liquidity. It now appears that was indeed the case.

A merged WSOP.com Online Championships is on track to be the largest MTT series players in the legal US online poker market have experienced to date, with the total prize pool likely to dip over the $1.5 million milestone.

Long term advantages of player pooling

The ramifications of player pooling will be felt long after the live WSOP closes shop. Going forward, New Jersey players can expect:

  • Increased cash game liquidity, and an increase in prime time playing hours on 888 Poker networked sites
  • A possible decrease in traffic on other NJ sites
  • Bigger tournament guarantees, especially on weekends. The prize funds for the largest majors may top out at $100,000+.
  • New formats — this is a longshot, but it’s possible we’ll see more non-Hold’em formats gain in popularity

In addition, interstate pooling between NJ/NV/DE paves the way for other states to join in. The most obvious new addition to the newly-minted alliance will be Pennsylvania, which is set to open its own regulated online poker sites later this year.

Adding PA into the mix will immediate double the available playing pool, finally making online poker feel like more than a glimmer of its former self, back before Black Friday ravaged the industry exactly seven years ago.

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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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