Every week, tournament poker players from around the world wait for Sunday. All the major tournaments on all the major sites run on Sundays.
After PokerStars launched in Pennsylvania last week, Pennsylvanians once again felt the anticipation of the Sunday grind. We know when a big tournament series happens in New Jersey, Pennsylvania poker players tend to make their way across the border to play in the Garden State.
But if there are conflicting tournament series on the calendar, will New Jersey still benefit from cross-border traffic?
It’s hard to imagine considering in the few first days of online poker in PA, there were more players in the Keystone State than here in NJ.
Additionally, how will poker in PA impact the Sunday majors in New Jersey? Let’s take a look at the first Sunday where both PA and NJ held a similar slate of tournaments.
Grinding Sunday’s online poker tournaments
We compared the Sunday majors in PA and NJ to see if we can spot any trends.
PokerStars NJ has had a pretty standard series of tournaments on Sundays for quite a while now. It was good to see PokerStars PA roll out a similar schedule of events in PA.
We looked at the following tournaments in both states:
- Sunday Warm-Up
- Sunday Storm
- Sunday Special
- Sunday High Roller
- Sunday Supersonic
Here is how New Jersey’s online poker tournaments compared to that in PA:
|Sunday High Roller|
What do the online poker numbers tell us?
There is a lot of information hidden in the tournament data from online poker’s first Sunday in PA. The New Jersey poker market has seen many ups and downs over the past six years. Honestly, it has been mostly downs, lately.
We would expect PokerStars PA to make adjustments to their offerings as the market gets some footing.
For now, though, the numbers are telling us a lot. Mostly they are telling us PA online poker is new and PokerStars PA wants you to come play.
1. New Jersey Sunday tournaments have higher buy-ins
The first noticeable difference between the two online poker tournaments is the buy-ins. Except for the Sunday Storm, the buy-ins were higher in New Jersey.
The main reason for the discrepancy is likely that New Jersey is a mature market. Players have established accounts that are already funded. And if the accounts are not funded, players certainly have their preferred deposit methods in place.
The opposite is true in Pennsylvania. Besides the need to fund accounts, players need to create a new PokerStars PA account.
Someone with an existing account on another platform, like New Jersey, can log in with those credentials. Once they do, though, they will be prompted to create a new account.
The lack of available money available in PA online poker because it is so new, and the need to entice players to make their first deposits, could explain the lower buy-ins in PA.
2. New Jersey online poker tournaments have lower guarantees
The other noticeable difference between New Jersey and Pennsylvania tournaments from Sunday is the guarantees. New Jersey had a lower guarantee in all five of the Sunday majors.
One might think that having higher buy-ins would generate a higher guarantee. Well, obviously that is not the case.
In fact, in a few tournaments, the New Jersey buy-in was nearly double that of PA and yet the guarantee was close to half.
PokerStars has become very good at coming up with a number in New Jersey that minimizes their risk to contribute to the prize pool in the form of an overlay.
Pennsylvania, however, is a brand new market. NJ tournament guarantees are based on historical data that Pennsylvania doesn’t have.
What PokerStars does know is Pennsylvania has been waiting a long time for online poker.
Bigger guarantees will likely entice players to create an account and deposit funds, both possible barriers to entry if the guarantee wasn’t big enough.
3. The excitement for online poker in PA is on display
Looking at the number of entries and re-entries clearly shows the excitement for poker in PA. If you total up the entries and re-entries from both markets, PA is responsible for nearly 70% of them.
Of course, the lower buy-ins and higher guarantees helped drive the excitement.
New Jersey online poker usually benefits from Pennsylvania players crossing the border.
This week, however, it makes you wonder if some New Jersey players ventured into the Keystone State to partake in the opening weekend festivities.
What the Sunday online poker tournament prize pools tell us
The one black mark on PA’s first online poker weekend is it generated the biggest overlay for both states. The Sunday Supersonic in PA missed the guarantee by $676.
PokerStars NJ, on the other hand, missed two guarantees for a combined total of $188.
Playing online poker for real money is big business. Overall, New Jersey and Pennsylvania generated prize pools totaling $126,451 for the five tournaments listed above. Of that, 62% of the money came from PokerStars PA.
In the tournaments where PokerStars NJ surpassed its guarantee, it did so by a smaller margin than PokerStars PA.
What this tells us, as mentioned before, is PokerStars is really good at what it does.
A cautionary tale for players in PA, though. The buy-ins and guarantees will only remain at the current levels provided players continue to show up. PokerStars NJ has a history of changing guarantees, sometimes on a weekly basis.
Undoubtedly, there is a lot of excitement around the launch of online poker in PA — and rightfully so. It’s the first signal in a long time that online poker is making its way back to the US.
For quite a while now, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have been holding down the fort. The result is a less-than-enthused customer base. It’s too early to tell just how much of an impact online poker in PA will have on NJ online poker sites, but surely there will be one.
Who knows, with a sense of renewed hope for growing online poker in the US, maybe PA online poker can help light a fire here in New Jersey.