Through eight of the World Series of Poker’s nine online bracelet events this year, there were more than 12,200 entries. The WSOP has so far nearly doubled the number of online poker tournament buy-ins from 2018, when there were 6,300 entries across four online bracelet events.
There were about 6,400 entries across five online bracelet events between 2015 and 2017.
The WSOP has made a much bigger commitment to its online bracelet tournaments, as poker players physically located in New Jersey can enter and compete from the Garden State. Nevada and New Jersey began pooling online poker liquidity before the 2018 WSOP kicked off.
In the ballpark of 15% of participants in the online events are coming from within NJ. That may seem like a small percentage given NJ’s population advantage over NV, but most serious poker players head out to Las Vegas during the WSOP, meaning that many of NJ’s top poker players are not home while the online events are running. Still, NJ participation is having a meaningful impact.
Remarkably, two of the seven completed events have been won by players physically located in NJ (not simply calling NJ home). We’re assuming here, of course, that the non-NJ resident winners weren’t in NJ when they won, which of course isn’t impossible.
Results from the first seven online bracelet events
Overall, participation has held steady for the online events in terms of average entries per tournament (about 1,500). It would be fair to say that the online bracelet events are stuck in neutral in terms of popularity, even though the number of tournaments has ballooned.
There were effectively four events this year that also ran in 2018, and participation in those contests gives a more accurate look at how the tournaments are performing.
Here’s a look at the results of the first seven online bracelet events this year:
Event no. 7: $400 NLH
2,825 entries were made, with Yong Keun Kwon capturing the gold and $165,263.
Kwon won from New Jersey. Four other NJ residents made the top 20.
This event was more or less the same as the $365 NLH online event in 2018, which generated 2,972 entries. The slightly higher buy-in this year gave the total number of entries a haircut, but it wasn’t a meaningful dip in participation.
Event no. 24: $600 pot-limit Omaha six-handed
1,216 entries were generated, with Las Vegas resident Josh Pollock winning for $139,470.
The highest finish by an NJ resident was 19th place.
A $565 buy-in online PLO event in 2018 drew 1,223 entries. With a slightly higher price point, the number of entries was effectively flat year-over-year.
Event no. 38: $600 Knockout NLH
1,224 entries were had in this event, which was won by Sri Lanka’s Upeshka De Silva for $98,263.
A pair of NJ players made the final table.
Event no. 46: $500 Turbo Deepstack NLH
1,767 entries were made in this event, won by NJ resident Daniel Lupo for $145,273. Lupo won it from within NJ. Five of the top 15 finishers were NJ residents.
Event no. 55: $1,000 Double Stack NLH
1,333 entries were recorded, with Texan Jason Gooch as the last man standing. He pocketed $241,493.
The highest finish by an NJ resident was 32nd place.
Event no. 68: $1,000 Online NLH Championship
1,750 buy-ins were ponied up in this event, won by New Yorker Nicholas Baris for $303,739.
NJ resident Jason Lawhun finished fifth for $70k. A handful of other New Jerseyans made deep runs.
Last year’s schedule had just one $1,000 buy-in online event, and it was the tournament that the WSOP dubs the Online Championship. The 2018 Online Championship drew 1,635 entries, so there was a solid 7% growth in year-over-year participation, despite the addition of a second $1,000 event to the online bracelet schedule.
This is solid evidence that increasing the number of online bracelet events won’t, at least for the foreseeable future, cannibalize the WSOP’s flagship online tournament.
Event no. 74: $3,200 NLH High-Roller 8-Handed
593 entries were made, with Floridian Brandon Adams taking the gold for $411,561.
NJ resident Vladimir Alexandrov took third for $173,241.
This event also ran in 2018. It drew 480 entries last summer, translating to impressive 23.5% year-over-year growth. The WSOP may be inclined to experiment with even higher buy-in online events.
Event no. 76: $800 NLH 6-Handed
1,560 entries were recorded, with Canadian Shawn Buchanan taking home the top prize of $223,119.
An NJ resident finished ninth, with 10 others making deep runs.
Event no. 88: $500 Summer Saver NLH
Has not started
Pennsylvania entering the fray
Effectively, the WSOP’s online bracelet events are only going to see incremental growth under the status quo with liquidity sharing. That’s nothing to write home about if you’re hoping for a U.S. online poker resurgence. If you look at the NV and NJ online poker markets over the course of an entire calendar year, which includes cash games, you won’t be impressed.
For example, NJ’s online poker market of $9 mm through the first five months of 2019 was down 3.4%. NJ online poker revenue has been stuck in reverse for quite some time. NV appears to be holding steady, but the state doesn’t give a breakdown between live and online poker rake.
On Monday, the state of Pennsylvania will kick off its era of online casino gaming. That will include traditional, peer-to-peer online poker. Pennsylvania has plans to eventually share players with NV and NJ, but it’s very much up in the air when that could happen. It painfully took more than 620 days since PA legalized online poker for the first online casinos to launch.
It wouldn’t be surprising if PA isn’t sharing online poker players with NV and NJ during next year’s WSOP.
It’s worth noting that in NV the WSOP is the state’s only online poker platform, so other online poker operators in NJ and PA cannot pool players with the Silver State. Of course, even if they could, a player with only a PokerStars account, for example, couldn’t enter the prestigious WSOP online bracelet events. Operators don’t pool players.
PA is home to nearly 13 mm people. The WSOP’s online bracelet events would see a substantial uptick in participation with poker players physically located within PA added to the equation. The potential player pool for the online events would effectively double.