After Getting Off To A Speedy Start, PokerStars New Jersey Traffic Levels Off

Posted By Steve Ruddock on April 15, 2016 - Last Updated on April 14, 2016

[toc]PokerStars came out of the blocks running in New Jersey, as the online poker giant needed only a couple of days to overtake its more established competitors in the online poker market, made up of the tandems of WSOP.com and 888, and Borgata and partypoker.

But following its quick rise to the top of the market, PokerStars, along with its competitors, have seen cash game numbers level-off, with PokerScout.com reporting two weeks of almost perfectly consistent average cash game traffic numbers from all three operators.

The ascent

On March 15, the day before PokerStars’ soft launch, average cash game traffic in New Jersey looked like this:

  • WSOP.com/888 New Jersey – 200
  • Borgata/partypoker New Jersey – 120
  • Industry-wide – 320

On March 28, just a week after PokerStars officially launched in New Jersey, average cash game traffic looked like this:

  • PokerStars New Jersey – 160
  • WSOP.com/888 New Jersey – 140 (30% decline)
  • Borgata/partypoker New Jersey – 95 (20% decline)
  • Industry-wide – 395 (near 20% increase)

This quick ascent was somewhat alarming, and at the time I wrote:

“The speed with which they’ve [PokerStars] risen to the top spot, and the fact that the market has only grown 20% should be troubling to the other online poker operators.

At some point 888 and WSOP.com will see their current traffic decline level off, and I’d be surprised if their average cash game traffic dips below 125 players… if traffic at 888 and WSOP.com does go below 125 players, they could be very hard hit.”

Traffic levels off across the board

But after its torrid start, PokerStars’ cash game traffic has evened out in the market. It appears that my concerns of slow, continuous cannibalization by PokerStars were misplaced.

Earlier this week (April 12) average cash game traffic numbers in New Jersey were identical to the numbers from March 28:

  • PokerStars New Jersey – 160
  • WSOP.com/888 New Jersey – 140
  • Borgata/partypoker New Jersey – 95
  • Industry-wide – 395

And April 13’s numbers show that PokerStars’ growing market share has not only stalled, but may be reversing ever so slightly:

  • PokerStars New Jersey – 150
  • WSOP.com/888 New Jersey – 140
  • Borgata/partypoker New Jersey – 100
  • Industry-wide – 390

Needless to say, WSOP.com, 888, Borgata, and partypoker are likely breathing a sigh of relief, as many of the people I’ve spoken with anticipated PokerStars grabbing 50 percent market share in short order. PokerStars currently possesses a little less than 40 percent market share, with 888/WSOP.com enjoying a 35 percent share, and partypoker/Borgata at 25 percent.

The even better news is that industry-wide, average cash game traffic is maintaining the 20 percent boost PokerStars created.

What caused PokerStars rise to stall out?

I think the main reason cash game traffic has leveled off in New Jersey is cross-platform play.

Think of it this way: If we remove all of the discerning, high-volume grinders from the New Jersey market we’d be left with a core group of players who are loyal to a particular site (this can occur for any number of reasons).

In this situation the Borgata and partypoker network have a floor of maybe 40 players, WSOP.com and 888 would have a floor of around 90 players, and PokerStars a floor of about 100 players.

So, if a winning, high-volume player who plays multiple tables wants to maximize his profit, he’ll need to play at two or even all three sites, as there isn’t a single site with a large enough player base to suit his needs. Even with peak traffic of 400 players, PokerStars isn’t going to have enough games at the same stakes to satiate a high-volume player.

And as long as each site is able to hang on to its core group of loyal players, this situation will likely remain unchanged, and grinders will continue to play across all three platforms.

Initially I thought players would limit their cross platform play to two sites, but it appears the heavy volume players might be playing a combination of all three throughout the day.

What to expect in the future

If all three sites maintain their current positions, we could be looking at a situation in which short-term fluctuations will be the norm, and likely predicated on the introduction of new promotions and tournament series, followed by a return to the mean.

For example, PokerStars will likely see a boost in traffic during its inaugural SCOOP series in New Jersey, and with loads of WSOP qualifiers on the schedule, look for WSOP.com to receive a traffic bump in the lead-up to and during the World Series of Poker tournament series this summer.

Upshot

Judging from the past two weeks, the fear of PokerStars’ dominance in the New Jersey online gambling market seems to have been overstated. Caveat: It’s still early.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.

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