Online Poker on the Uptick?

Garden State Super Series marks a return to positive directions

by , Sep 13, 2014 | 6:08 pm

GSSS-partyBelieve it or not, I’m playing online poker again. I’ve bought in three times already, so yay, it works (and is super-easy to play for real money), but cannot yet report on the cash-out process, because you know … damn river.

But now that we have online poker in Nevada definitively running and here to stay, I’ve started paying a little more attention, and it seems a lotta eyes are on New Jersey right now. Not only do you have Gov. Chris Christie making an aggressive, courts- and DOJ-challenging push for fully legalized and legitimized sports betting inside his borders, but also you have poker-loving state senator Ray Lesniak committed to making the state a global leader in online gambling (sports betting included) and start welcoming international players into the virtual borders of the Garden State without having to show a passport. Sure, Atlantic City may be closing down casinos, but sometimes you gotta get rid of the chaff. And that’s kinda what we could be seeing as two big poker tournament main events in New Jersey — one live and one online — coincide with all the semi-related New Jersey casino-world buzz.

The live tournament is the WPT Borgata Poker Open — a poker-world stalwart that has been serving up big-time televised final tables since Season 2 of the World Poker Tour. (They’re now in Season 13.) This year’s main event is a $3,500 buy-in, with $3 million guaranteed. They expect a good turnout based on preliminary events and online qualifiers that have been running on partypoker in New Jersey as well as partypoker worldwide.

But also going on simultaneously is partypoker’s Garden State Super Series — an online event open to anyone within New Jersey borders that’s shaping up to be the largest online tournament series in New Jersey history, and for that matter US history of the licensed and regulated sort. Both main events kick off on Sunday, with the GSSS guaranteeing $250,000 in prize pool — it’s a $200 buy-in — and $50,000 minimum for the winner.

Now for poker players, we realize these are not knock-your-socks-off big numbers. But they represent growth. Not booming growth, mind you, but more the slow, smart and sustainable type. It’s significant enough money in play for Mike Sexton (and presumably others) to be consciously choosing to play Day 1B of the WPT Borgata Poker Open main event so they can also play in the main event of the Garden State Super Series (without being distracted by an iPad at the table). Though I’m a little too far removed from Atlantic City to know if there’s an online-poker refugee or commuter culture sprouting up, we do know with events like the Garden State Super Series that the players are indeed showing up online, and this has everything to do with cooperation with a live casino such that both operations are ready to serve their players wherever they are seeking certain action.

The GSSS has already paid out more than $250,000, and has another $400,000 in guarantees starting Sunday. So far they’ve hit 14 out of 15 guarantees, so while not ridiculous, mind-blowing sums, it does give a sense of the significant and reliable American cash circulating in the New Jersey online poker economy.

A few other notable indicators you can see this weekend and beyond:

  1. multiple events, not just no-limit hold’em
  2. multiple buy-in levels
  3. multiple ways to qualify for all players
  4. converging live and online events
  5. chance to make a final table and end up on TV
  6. seats won through social freerolls
  7. hitting guarantees

Add it all up and you’re seeing a new era, with players who are ready, and both online sites and brick and mortar casinos doing the right things to integrate social players, recreational weekend warriors, and grinder pros alike … mixing it up for a vibe that in some ways isn’t too different from what partypoker was going for in the earliest days of poker coming of age.


  • Karl

    yolo