Cash game player traffic in the online poker industry dipped 2% last week, matching the results from the previous week that followed four consecutive weeks of gains.
Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that the global market is 18% lower than the same time one year ago. Part of the reason for that huge decline may be that Full Tilt had just relaunched in early November of last year, putting millions of dollars back on the virtual tables.
Players who had not been playing online poker were likely looking at hole cards on computer screens at Full Tilt in large numbers once again toward the end of last year. But since that time, many of those players have likely either lost their reimbursed money to more-skilled players or cashed out.
Speaking of Full Tilt, PokerStars’ sister site was the only poker room among the top ten to lose its ranking from the week before. Full Tilt is now in fourth place as tracked by PokerScout, losing 5% of ring game action following the conclusion of its Big Bonus promotion. 888poker benefited from Full Tilt’s decline, taking over third place and is now right on the heels of second place iPoker Network.
As of this writing, the seven-day average of cash game players among the poker rooms and networks slotted second through fifth shows each trailing the site directly ahead by 100 players. To be more specific, 2,400, 2,300, 2,200 and 2,100 are those weekly averages, with PartyPoker looking up at the others.
Industry leader PokerStars has more than 2 and 1/2 times as many cash game players as those four rooms and networks combined despite a second straight week of less action. The Rational Group’s bread and butter just kicked off a December Festival with a bunch of different promotions scheduled during the month that are designed to stuff the Christmas stockings of loyal players to the tune of $27 million.
The first promotion on the PokerStars’ Christmas calendar goes to Sit & Go players, who stand to gain $500,000 in bonus cash awarded to random SNGs on the average of one every couple minutes. This will likely prompt a number of cash players to transition to the Sit & Go stage for a week, so next week’s online poker player traffic update will almost certainly include the third consecutive week of declining cash game numbers at PokerStars.
Over in New Jersey, where PokerStars has not yet been approved (or denied), the Garden State’s hard launch has been up and running for a week. PartyPoker has taken the lead in market share via their partnership with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. The Party Borgata poker site averaged 170 cash players in the first week, which accounts for nearly 50% of the market.
The Borgata enjoys the distinction of having achieved the greatest success among Atlantic City casinos, so replicating that feat on its Internet poker offering does not come as a surprise. You’ll recall that PartyPoker was also the most successful online poker site in the world before the UIGEA forced its departure from the U.S.
PokerStars did not feel forced to exit, continuing to cater to Americans and taking over worldwide dominance as a result. PokerStars is now watching online poker in New Jersey from the rail as a result, at least for the time being, and is seen by some players and industry stalwarts as the bad boy of Internet poker. But bad boys often get the girl, and you can count on PokerStars getting into the online poker market in the U.S. sometime in the future. It may take months or even years, but it will likely happen eventually.
Right behind Party Borgata in New Jersey is WSOP, who clocked in with 130 cash players on average for the week. On the strength of its powerful brand name that has been hosting the most distinguished live poker tournaments for more than four decades, you can expect WSOP to make a run at industry dominance in New Jersey, just as they did in overtaking Ultimate Poker in Nevada.