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PartyPoker's exit is PokerStar's gain

17 October 2006

By Ryan McLane

PokerStars.com Sunday Million set a new participation record and PartyPoker.com cancelled their Sunday Million tournament in the first weekend after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) became law.

PokerStars saw a record 6,157 players Sunday while Full Tilt drew a hefty 1,127 players for their monthly $500,000 guaranteed tourney. Even UltimateBet, the smallest fish in the big Sunday tournament pond, saw numbers on par with their regular showing, drawing a respectable 896 entrants for their $200,000 guarantee.

PartyPoker, the only online poker room hosting a major Sunday tournament to stop accepting American players, did not hold their most popular tournament for only the third times since June 4th.

The Sunday Million tournament appears to be on an indefinite hiatus because Party Poker can't clear its million-dollar guarantee without American players. PartyPoker refused to answer multiple emails on the topic. The poker room also cancelled the multiple satellite tournaments that feed players into the Sunday Million.

PartyPoker's competitors should acquire most of the 5,000 weekly players who normally play in the PartyPoker Sunday Million, said Ryan Peck, Media Director for InternetTexasHoldem.com, a site that tracks players and performances in major online tournaments.

"Players are going to play," Peck said. "They'll simply seek out other affiliates that have remained U.S. player friendly," Peck said.

Even before President Bush signed the UIGEA into law on Friday, the anti-gambling measure had a large effect on Sunday tournament participation levels.

In the week after Congress passed the act, PokerStars, Full Tilt and UltimateBet saw stronger or similar participation numbers similar or better to those experienced before the law's passing, according to Casino City analysis.

All three sites announced plans after the UIGEA's passing to continue accepting American players.

PokerStars drew a near-record 5,501 players for their $1 Million guaranteed on Oct. 8, cementing their presence as the Sunday-tournament leader.

On the same day, Full Tilt saw their second highest total when 1,336 players entered their $250,000 guarantee. UltimateBet did not meet their goal, drawing only 876 players. But that total was better than their Oct. 1 showing of 820 and similar to their Sept. numbers.

PartyPoker, which announced it was pulling out of the U.S. market, fell 409 players short of their typical Sunday Million guarantee figures, resulting in an overlay or more than $80,000. This figure gave a good indication that one of the most popular weekly events was doomed.

"Most definitely the legislation has played a huge role in recent PartyPoker overlays," Peck said. "PartyPoker acted very swiftly to the Congressional passing of the Unlawful Online Gambling Bill and shut out U.S. players indefinitely. This has skewed the number of entrants in an adverse fashion. (The Sunday Million averages generally over 5,000 players and last Sunday, following the bill, less than 4,600 played."

The Sunday tournaments became a staple on the major poker sites when PokerStars announced plans this spring to hold a weekly million-dollar guaranteed tournament.

PartyPoker followed suit on June 4, unveiling their version of the Sunday Million.

Full Tilt offers a Sunday $250,000 guarantee that averages around a 1,000 players a week. Their participation numbers have grown steadily over the summer, allowing the site to bump their original $200,000 guarantee to the current mark.

UltimateBet completes the weekly big-four offering, running a $200,000 Sunday Guaranteed that averages around 850 players.

All four tournaments saw player-participation spikes during and after the WSOP. Large advertising campaigns by PartyPoker, PokerStars and Full Tilt translated into prize pools well above guaranteed money.

"I spoke to a few online players in Las Vegas and many of them stuck to their regular online play (including Sundays) as much as possible while playing the WSOP," Peck said. "Some had to cut back, but no, I would not suspect the numbers were greatly diminished."

PokerStars is the clear leader in Sunday tournaments. In August, the PokerStars Sunday Million tournament's prize pool totaled $3,575,300 - $500,000 more than the guarantee.

The only time PokerStars missed their guarantee in this survey was on Father's Day.

PartyPoker's numbers followed a similar trend. After missing their guarantees on July 2 and July 9, PartyPoker went on a run during and after the WSOP, surpassing their guarantee for seven-straight weeks.

In three August tournaments, PartyPoker's Sunday player's created a prize pool of $3,258,000, more than $250,000 over the guarantee. PartyPoker matched the WSOP boost seen at PokerStars, drawing their second and third largest entry totals on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27.

Similarly, Full Tilt and UltimateBet saw large August increases. Full Tilt's participation rose so quickly that month that they held a $400,000 guarantee on Aug. 20. A tournament record 1,468 players competed for almost $500,000 in prize money.

While UltimateBet did not see August increases on par with the other three, the site did surpass their $200,000 guarantee twice, the first time that happened since June 4.

Peck said he expects that other sites will enter the Sunday tournament arena, offering large-guarantee tournament to attract American players.


Mucking McLane
PartyPoker's exit is PokerStar's gain is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.