In late 2015, PokerStars received its approval to prepare its online poker and gaming sites for the New Jersey market. It was ready by March 2016, and after several days of soft launch activities and testing, the Division of Gaming Enforcement gave the final okay.
On March 21, PokerStars NJ was up and running for anyone of legal age located within the border of New Jersey. In partnership with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, PokerStars officially returned to the United States.
It was a fairly easy process for most players. Those who had never played on PokerStars before simply downloaded the new software and created an account. Players who had accounts on PokerStars before Black Friday were able to log in, click a few buttons, and play. Well, most of them.
There were a few snags, as is the case with any software launch.
My Experience with @PokerStars NJ thus far: Attempt #1 – PC Crash Attempt #2 – PC Crash Attempt #3 – PC Crash Attempt #4 – PC Crash.— James Guill (@compncards) March 18, 2016
However, as Lee Jones mentioned in his launch post on the PokerStars blog with regard to problems during the soft launch, customer service people were at the ready. “The people on the project simply solved the problems, tracked down the glitches, corrected the mistakes, and fixed the bugs,” he wrote. “One bug at a time, one customer issue at a time.”
For the most part, it seems that players’ concerns were addressed and problems resolved. One oddity, though, was the existence of a PokerStarsNJ Twitter account that seems to be official but is locked and protected, so the general public cannot see the tweets and followers must be confirmed.
Games at the Ready
As soon as the site went live, there were numerous options for players, including a $25K freeroll.
Over 2500 players registered for the #PokerStarsNJ $25k freeroll with 4 hours to go. Good luck & see you there!— Jesse M. Herschbein (@HerschbeinCPA) March 27, 2016
Players could access the site from their desktops, tablets, and mobile phones. And they had the option to play on the casino site where games like blackjack, roulette, and slots were available, or the online poker site. There were play-money and real-money game options, as well as the VIP program from which they could start accumulating StarsCoin and Frequent Player Points (FPPs).
From the online poker lobby, there were numerous games available, including variations of Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Draw, and mixed games. No-limit and pot-limit games started at $0.01/$0.02 and worked up to $5/$10, and limit games ranged from $0.02/$0.04 to $10/$20. SNGs started at $0.25 and produced options all the way up to $500 buy-ins.
For the first time, players located in the US were able to participate in Spin & Gos, the lottery-style sit-n-go games that were not introduced on PokerStars until after Black Friday. Those were available at $1, $2, $5, and $10, and the latter of those is now linked with a promotion as well.
Tournaments were running for NLHE players, with everything from freerolls up to $500 buy-ins. And for the first round of Sunday majors last weekend, there was a solid lineup:
- $50 Sunday Warm-Up with $10K GTD
- $10 Sunday Storm with $5K GTD
- $200 Sunday Special with $50K GTD
- $500 Sunday High Roller with $15K GTD
- $75 Sunday Supersonic with $5K GTD
It didn’t take long for PokerStars to garner big numbers with regard to cash game traffic. Online Poker Report compiled some numbers from PokerScout to show how quickly PokerStars surpassed its competitors.
Within the first day of operation, PokerStars overtook PartyPoker/Borgata’s numbers. And in less than a week, it was ahead of 888/WSOP as well. While PartyPoker’s sites lost 20% of their traffic and 888’s platform lost 30% to the new kid in town, the overall online poker traffic number did jump 20% in total. PokerStars has clearly brought a significant number of new players to the industry, though it remains to be seen how many of them came in to play temporarily and how many will stay.
Time will tell how the numbers will even out and how the players will feel about PokerStars once the initial euphoria wears off. But for now, there are quite a few happy online poker players in New Jersey.
First session @Pokerstars in the US since 2011 is a success. Won $2 in my first spin n' go! Woooot— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) March 26, 2016