New Jersey online poker surging amid coronavirus lockdown

It is not an easy time for the New Jersey sports betting industry. With the major sports leagues the world over on indefinite hiatus, the state’s sportsbook revenue for March will take a hit. There are some sports bets still on the boards, however, and NJ online casinos and poker rooms are enjoying a spike in activity.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey gamblers are staying at home and playing online. This is especially the case in the tri-state area, where there is an indefinite “shelter in place” mandate to help halt the spread of the coronavirus. This has led to a surge in online poker in New Jersey and around the world.

WSOP Online Super Circuit Series

A prime example of the increase in online poker activity in the last couple of weeks is the ongoing World Series of Poker (WSOP) Online Super Circuit Series, which is made up of 18 events with a guarantee of $1.24 million in prize money. By the eighth event, almost $1.5 million had been won.

Almost every event in the series has tripled what the posted guarantee was. For example, the first event was a $320 No-Limit Hold’em Double Stack that had a guarantee of $50,000. There were 570 players in that event, boosting the prize pool to $171,000. By comparison, the first event for the previous WSOP Online Circuit Series had 387 players, a buy-in of $200 and a prize pool of $73,917.

The bigger buy-ins for the WSOP Online Circuit events are showing player participation figures that are normally seen in tournaments that have low-limit value. The $215 No-Limit Hold’em Event #2 had 941 players for a prize pool of $188,200, which is almost four times the initial guarantee of $50,000. The $1000 No-Limit Hold’em High Roller 6-Max also greatly exceeded its initial guarantee with 290 players making up a prize pool of $276,950, dwarfing the initial guarantee of $75,000.

PokerStars New Jersey Sunday Boost

PokerStars New Jersey has also seen a big surge in its player base. Sunday is usually the busiest day of the week for online poker operators, but recent participation rates have greatly exceeded expectations.

The main weekend tournament at PokerStars NJ is the Sunday Special with a $200 buy-in and a guaranteed prize pool of $25,000. On March 8 there were 152 players in the event and that pushed the prize pool to $28,272. One week later, on March 15, there was an increase of 43% with 216 players and a prize pool of a little over $40,000.

Because of the increased player participation, PokerStars increased the guarantee to $40,000 for the following week. The prize pool still was bigger than expected, rising to $49,290 with 265 players and a first prize of $10,079. The total growth over only two weeks was a little under 75%.

The PokerStars NJ Sunday Storm also saw a big spike. There were 399 players for the $10 buy-in tournament on March 1 and only three weeks later there were 937 players, increasing the prize pool from $5,000 to over $8,500.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that total online poker revenue for February was $1.8 million, which was on par with the previous month. Other forms of online gaming had enjoyed increased revenue for the month.

Online cash games and their rakes have also seen a spike. So while New Jersey sportsbooks will take a significant hit in March and months beyond, the New Jersey online poker market will be one to keep a keen eye on.

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