Starting this morning, New Jersey online poker sites 888Poker and WSOP NJ have begun pooling some of their players across their dual-powered operations. According to the announcement, only certain tables will be shared, including some tournaments and low-limit cash games.
It was not revealed exactly which tournaments WSOP and 888 will pool their players for, but a statement from a WSOP NJ representative clarified that the network will share $130,000 in GTD prize pools each week. Based on that information, it’s easy enough to surmise that the largest weekly events will be included in the shared player pool.
It’s no secret that both online poker operations are powered by 888’s software, but when New Jersey first went live with iGaming in Nov 2013, these two chose to keep their operations separate from one another. So, why the sudden change of heart? And why have they chosen to merge certain tables and tournaments, while maintaining segregation in other areas?
Surely WSOP and 888 are looking to catch up to their rivals, Party Poker and Borgata Poker; collectively the Party Borgata network. Party has led in the Garden State from day 1, and in the last few months has extended its lead rather dramatically. The current average cash game player rankings are as follows:
Party Borgata – 160
WSOP NJ – 95
888Poker NJ – 90
By those numbers alone, a full amalgamation of player bases would result in WSOP/888 overtaking Party Borgata. However, we must also take into consideration dual accounts. That brings us to our next question of partial pooling. Preserving unique player accounts across both operators is the most likely reason for only pooling players in certain areas of the online poker sites. If there is a significant volume of players at mid and high limit cash games that frequent both poker rooms, combining the two could have a negative effect overall.
When asked about the ‘potential for duplicate players’, WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker, Bill Rini, told Steve Ruddock of OPR, “In reviewing data with 888 we both felt that there was more than enough uniqueness between our player bases that this was a win all around.”
This new form of fractional shared liquidity could have a profound effect on the average number of cash game players at New Jersey’s WSOP and 888 Poker, perhaps enough to catch up to or even overtake Party Borgata. However, we have to wonder how online poker traffic tracking website PokerScout will handle the reporting of bipartisan player pooling.
The highlight of the move will be for players, who can expect a remarkable boost in activity at low-limit cash games, as well as a substantial increase in guaranteed prize pools across shared tournaments. Presently, Party Borgata has by far the highest Sunday Major of $50k GTD, while WSOP NJ offers a $25k GTD and 888Poker NJ falls well short with just $10k GTD. The merger will give the two an opportunity to work together and increase their largest weekly GTD to something more akin to Party Borgata’s $50k GTD.