PokerStars Delays Players Championship

Online poker room PokerStars has postponed the anticipated second season of its Players Championship due to the uncertainty around international travel. While the delay is further proof of the impact of the coronavirus on live poker events, the online poker industry has gone through a boom in recent months.

Four Aces cards lie on poker table beside chips.

The highly-anticipated second run of the PokerStars Players Championship has been postponed to 2021 due to health concerns and travel restrictions. ©Sprinter_Lucio/Pixabay

The PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC) was originally scheduled to take place in Barcelona this August as a part of the European Poker Tour. Citing the health risks posed by the global pandemic and travel challenges, the tournament has now been postponed to an unspecified date in 2021.

The European Poker Tour has also been postponed, along with related events such as the Road to PSPC Cannes, Road to PSPC Madrid Torrelodones, and Manilla Super Series 14. In light of the announcement, PokerStars has revealed it will increase the number of Platinum Passes from 320 to 400 for next year’s event.

The coveted Platinum Passes were first distributed as a part of the inaugural PSPC in 2019. Valued at $30,000, the passes include a $25,000 tournament buy-in plus $5,000 to spend on travel, accommodation, and other expenses. The tournament was ultimately won by a Platinum Pass holder.

The 2019 PSPC event was notable for lacking a rake and attracted over one thousand players to vie for a prize pool of roughly $26 million. The event was held at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas though it was changed this year after a tide of complaints surfaced about the venue.

The move to Barcelona was logical, as the location tends to draw the largest attendance of any EPT stop. The Tour Main Event of 2019 saw around 2,000 entries, and given the anticipation for the next event and the inclusion of the PSPC, 2021’s event is sure to bring record crowds.

Due to the change of location, PokerStars was forced to move the event from January until August to align with the city’s Summer season. This meant that a 19-month wait was already in place between the two events, and with the recent news, it will likely be a three-year wait between events.

The EPT and PSPC aren’t the only live poker events shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic. The World Poker Tour announced event cancellations and postponements earlier this year. The World Series of Poker has also limited certain events.

Online Poker Wins Big

While the coronavirus has had a detrimental impact on live poker tournaments around the country, online poker has seen a major spike in popularity in the US. These spikes have amounted to all-time records for operators in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, two of four states that offer legalized online poker.

New Jersey first reported the spike in March when it revealed it had earned $3.6 million in online poker revenues, topping the January 2014 record of $3.4 million. It was a huge 90.6 percent profit increase from March 2019, which generated $1.9 million.

According to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, April proved even more profitable for online poker. The month saw $5.1 million raised from online poker games, a staggering 42 percent increase from March’s record takings. Surprisingly, this figure was beaten by Pennsylvania.

Despite only offering legal online poker for seven months, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that Penn state posted a record $5.25 million of takings from online poker in April. This was even higher than the $3.13 million reported in March. For both states, PokerStars was the most popular operator.

In Pennsylvania, the PokerStars Pennsyl-MANIA tournament drew huge numbers of players. The two- day, five reentries poker event initially offered a guaranteed prize pool of $250,000 on a $200 buy-in. However, after five hours of late registration, the prize pool more than doubled to offer $516,000.

According to Valerie Cross, an analyst for PlayPennsylvania, the recent figures could signal a permanent change for online gambling as a viable market. While it is yet to be anywhere near as profitable as land-based casinos, it could inspire other states to take notice of the potential of online gambling.

“There will likely be long-term implications from this surge in online gambling interest. A behavioral shift that makes online gambling permanently more popular is likely to continue even after casinos reopen. But the reality is that despite the gains made at online casinos, the closing of land-based casinos left a revenue hole that can’t be made up.”Valerie Cross, Analyst, PlayPennsylvania

Although online poker has helped online operators to bring in some revenues from sportsbooks impacted by sports league closures, it has not made up for sportsbook losses. For example, Pennsylvania’s total sports betting handle betting was only $46 million in April this year, a huge drop from $348.4 million reported in January 2020.

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