When PokerStars launched the first online poker room in Pennsylvania last month, it wasted no time in scheduling its first big tournament series.
The Pennsylvania Championship Of Online Poker (PACOOP) was, by all accounts, a success. Players showed up and guarantees were crushed.
More importantly, though, online poker was infused with a level of excitement and enthusiasm it hasn’t felt in a long time. It’s remarkable that one online poker room had the power to do all that.
What happens now that PACOOP is over, though?
Will the excitement remain? Will more online poker rooms open?
We’ll attempt to answer those questions and more as we look at what’s next for online poker in PA.
But first, just how successful was PACOOP?
PACOOP successfully launches PA online poker into the spotlight
PACOOP began on Nov. 30 with a $100 buy-in that exceeded its guarantee by $30,000. It concluded on Dec. 16 with two events plus the second day of the $300 Main Event.
The PACOOP Main Event produced the largest prize pool ($179,200) of the series and surpassed its guarantee by the largest amount ($54,200) of all 50 events.
In total, PACOOP events saw 9,032 players, 13,456 entries and awarded $1,559,767 in prize money. The total prize money was well above the $1,225,000 series’ guarantee that was revised, not once, but two times, from its original amount of $1 million.
Only 10 events failed to reach their guarantees, most of them just barely missing the mark. Overall, PokerStars coughed up just over $17,000 in overlays.
The one blemish, on an otherwise well-attended tournament series, was the Sunday grind on Dec. 8.
Sundays are as important to online poker as they are to the NFL. Four of the ten tournaments that failed to make their guarantees happened on that Sunday.
The Philadelphia Eagles playing at home that Sunday may have had an impact. One of the tournaments did have the second-largest guarantee of the series, but it didn’t seem like it was out of reach and the others were in line with other guarantees.
Honestly, it just seems like a weird anomaly.
What happens now that PACCOP is over?
Now that PA has poker, no doubt players are waiting for more rooms to open and that seems likely to happen sometime in the first half of 2020.
Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesman Douglas Harbach spoke to PlayPennsylvania about the growth.
“There are a half dozen other casinos besides Mount Airy with PokerStars which paid a fee to offer online poker, so it is anticipated that others will launch in 2020.”
To date, there is no indication that any of them have taken the next steps to open up their rooms. The success of PACOOP might be the kick in the pants they need, however.
Or maybe they are waiting for something more?
When looking at New Jersey, many credit big tournament series in New Jersey as the reason online poker has survived. NJ online poker also began with a big tournament series similar to PACOOP. It also began with a lot of enthusiasm and exceeded its guarantees.
A few years later, however, the online poker market in the Garden State is struggling. The biggest reason cited for the struggle is the limited player pool. The first month of online poker produced a promising $2 million in revenue. But, then again, New Jersey got off to a hot start too.
Just because PA has a higher population doesn’t mean a limited player pool won’t impact online poker when the excitement and enthusiasm wear off. The solution?
The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
What PA online poker really needs
The MSIGA currently combines player pools among three states:
- New Jersey
Only one operator, WSOP.com, operates in all three. And even so, WSOP didn’t see a lasting impact on its revenue. That is because Nevada and Delaware do not have the player base to move the needle.
Pennsylvania, however, is another story. The PGCB is approaching shared liquidity very conservatively. With the newest interpretation of the Wire Act still being debated, PA joining the MSIGA anytime soon is a long shot.
Until PA joins the MSIGA, players from both PA and NJ will likely be tournament series shopping. And that means NJ online poker will suffer when PA online poker has a big series going on and vice versa. Right now, PokerStars operates in both PA and NJ, making it the prime candidate to reap the rewards when (and if) PA finally does join the MSIGA.
Other PA casinos, especially ones with a presence in NJ like SugarHouse, Parx, and Caesars will almost certainly open their poker rooms sooner rather than later to grow their customer base in anticipation of PA joining the compact.
Poker players want PA to join MISGA before summer when the World Series of Poker takes place. For the last two years, New Jersey has benefitted from the MISGA when the WSOP came to New Jersey in the form of online bracelet events.
It would not be surprising to see WSOP.com launch before summertime. Don’t get too excited, though. In order for PA poker players to bracelet hunt, it will need to be part of the compact. That seems highly unlikely to be in place before summer. That means PA poker players will be crossing into the Garden State, much like last year, to take their shot at gold.
Looking ahead at PA online poker
PA online poker will settle in and find its normal. There is still a lot of excitement right now in the Keystone State because it is all so new.
Think about it. PACOOP began less than a month after PokerStars launched. That is not a lot of time to establish some baselines with which to evaluate the market going forward.
Cash games will certainly remain active and Sunday online poker tournaments in PA will be the place to be.
For now, though, we wait and see, mostly wait.
Wait for the next online poker room to open.
Wait for the Wire Act to be settled.
Wait for PA to join the MSIGA.