Online poker operators have spent nearly two decades trying to determine what specific elements draw players to the virtual felt. Theories have been splayed in all directions, from software superiority and promotional offerings, to customer support, a broad game variety and widespread tournament availability. In New Jersey, it seems the Party Borgata network may have found the answer.
In the last year since the Garden State launched its legal, regulated online poker market, player traffic has been disappointing overall. Two operating networks, Party Borgata (Party Poker and Borgata Poker) and WSOP NJ (Caesars Interactive), immediately took the lead and have held it ever since. While Party Borgata has maintained the front position for all this time, WSOP NJ was always on their tail, threatening to overtake the lead at any moment. In the last two weeks, however, Party Borgata finally began to pull away.
To figure out why the online poker network is suddenly bringing in more traffic – a total of 18% more than a month ago – we have to look at any changes that have been made across both networks. The only notable difference at Party Borgata is that, for the last 2-3 weeks, the online poker operator has been listening to – and more importantly, responding to – advice from their players.
New Jersey’s top online poker network took to the TwoPlusTwo forums last month and asked players to contribute suggestions to improve their current tournament structure and schedule. Players poured a throng of information into the network’s lap, and the majority of that counsel was taken to heart.
The operator designed a new schedule with more convenient start times for its biggest weekday events, tossed in more GTD majors and streamlined the roster to offer higher prize pools. The one thing players had been begging for month after month was a better payout structure, and they finally got that as well. Higher buy-in events now pay 13-15% of the field, while lower buy-ins ($20 and under) pay 18-20%.
WSOP NJ did see an increase in traffic over the last month of 8.33%, and if we look at that online poker room’s recent modifications, we find a superfluous promotional campaign has been issued for December. Compared to the 18% increase at their top rival, however, it becomes clear what New Jersey players really want in an online poker room – an operator that takes their complaints and counsel seriously.
It makes sense, after all. When a network listens to its players and fixes the areas found to be at fault, it results in an overall superior product. Thus all of the categorical theories listed above pertaining to what makes one online poker room better than the rest, fall right into place when the network simply makes its players the focal point of the operation.
According to the online poker tracking data of PokerScout, since Party Borgata implemented the requested alterations, 7-day cash game player averages have jumped from 130 to 160 at Party Borgata. WSOP NJ’s numbers rose from 110 to 120. Relatively speaking, Party Borgata held an 8.34% lead over its nearest rival a month ago, increasing the vanguard nearly twice over to 14.28% in the last month alone.
They say the proof is in the pudding. Players on the Party Borgata network will get to taste that dessert a month from now when the Garden State Super Series II – the primary motivation behind the network’s appeal to players – takes place. The first GSSS was a huge disappointment after a server crash ended in the cancelation of several events, including the main. The second edition of the online poker series, featuring all of the player-imposed improvements, could very well be the defining moment for the network.