PokerStars Pennsylvania isn’t quite one year old, yet this Saturday marks the beginning of its second annual Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP).
PACOOP at a glance
The PACOOP series will consist of 50 events over 17 days, and guarantees a total of $1.5 million in prize pools, a record for the state. The Main Event, with a $300 buy-in and $200,000 guaranteed, will take place on Sunday, Oct. 4. As usual, there are numerous satellites running, including a Main Event freeroll for those who deposit $30 or more using code “PACOOP.” There are also second chance freerolls for players who bust out of any PACOOP event without cashing.
It’s the fifth series for the site. Since 2018, the pattern for PokerStars New Jersey has been to run series on a quarterly basis. Its larger, championship series take place in the spring and fall, separated by smaller summer and winter series. It seems that PokerStars Pennsylvania will follow a similar schedule, though its series don’t typically run over the same range of dates as the New Jersey site’s.
PokerStars launched its Pennsylvania site in November last year after months of delays. It ran the inaugural, $1 million guaranteed PACOOP just weeks later. Like the launch itself, PACOOP proved unexpectedly popular. In a rare move, PokerStars bumped the guarantees for the remaining events halfway through the series.
That first run took place more than a month after the equivalent series in New Jersey, NJCOOP. In that case, the relative timing of the two series was due to the fact that the Pennsylvania site wasn’t even live yet by the time NJCOOP ran. Since then, PokerStars has experimented with running series in the neighboring states simultaneously, consecutively or partially overlapping.
There has, as yet, been no announcement for this year’s NJCOOP. If it runs at the same time as it did last year, in mid-October, there will again be a month between the two, though with the order reversed this time.
PokerStars won’t change a successful formula
The schedule for this year’s PACOOP is nearly identical to the inaugural edition. That, in turn, was modeled very closely after NJCOOP the month before. For the most part, then, it looks like PokerStars feels it has found the right formula. There have, however, been a few minor tweaks.
Here are some of the key features of the schedule, with changes from last year noted.
- Buy-in range: $50 to $500. Identical to last year, save for the removal of a $30 rebuy.
- Game mix: 41 Hold’em, 6 Omaha, 3 other. That’s one fewer Hold’em event than 2019, which was replaced by a new Pot-Limit 5-Card Draw event.
- Progressive KO events: 8, up from 4 last year. All of these are NLHE events.
- Removed formats: Rebuy, Zoom, Big Antes, Escalating Antes.
- New format: Phased.
Aside from these tweaks, the biggest difference is of course the increase in guarantees. This is no surprise, given last year’s exceptional performance. For the most part, the new guarantees resemble those of last year’s after the mid-series increase.
Though there were a few small overlays after that increase, there should be no problem meeting the guarantees this year. Online traffic remains higher than usual, given the continued lack of live poker options due to COVID-19. Pennsylvania casinos reopened in late June after closing in March, but the mandatory safety precautions include keeping their poker rooms closed.
In fact, PokerStars could have probably gone bigger this year because of that. However, compared to some of its competitors, PokerStars is notoriously conservative in setting guarantees. That said, it did take a bit of a gamble with the main event guarantee, raising it to $200,000 when last year’s prize pool was just $179,200. Given the self-fulfilling nature of guarantees, however, it should manage to hit that target.
Why Pennsylvania first?
It’s an interesting decision to hold PACOOP so early, and to place it before NJCOOP this year. It makes sense considering the different situations in the two states, however.
New Jersey players are likely suffering from tournament fatigue at the moment. The market there is crowded, with PokerStars, partypoker and WSOP all competing for a limited pool of players.
The latter has been going full throttle over the summer with multiple tournament series to capitalize on the surge in online traffic and compensate for the cancellation of this summer’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. In particular, the US portion of its online bracelet series created record turnouts, and wrapped up at the end of July.
In Pennsylvania, however, PokerStars still holds a monopoly for the time being, but possibly not for long. Partypoker could launch as soon as its partner, BetMGM receives its license, which might be as soon as next month. By running PACOOP in September, PokerStars avoids the risk that its players could wind up distracted by the launch of a rival site.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania players are likely starving for big tournaments, having been forced to sit out WSOP’s bracelet events unless willing to cross state lines to play. The last series in the state was PokerStars’ Summer Series, but this was a minor affair with just $750,000 in combined guarantees.
Conversely, last year’s December PACOOP wound up too close to Winter Series, which may have hurt the latter’s performance. Moving it up to September creates better spacing between series, as well as staying a step ahead of the competition.
Full PACOOP schedule
|1||NLHE (Nightly Stars – PACOOP Warm-Up), $50K Gtd||$100|
|2||NLHE (8-Max, PACOOP – Warm-Up), $30K Gtd||$50|
|3||NLHE (8-Max, Turbo, Deepstack), $35K Gtd||$100|
|4||NLHE (6-Max), $20K Gtd||$50|
|5||NLHE (8-Max, Progressive KO), $30K Gtd||$150|
|6||NLHE (Sunday Special SE), $100K Gtd||$100|
|7||PLO (6-Max), $15K Gtd||$100|
|8||NLHE (8-Max, Sunday SuperSonic SE), $10K Gtd||$50|
|9||NLHE (6-Max, Hyper-Turbo, Progressive KO, Battle Royale SE Progressive KO), $30K Gtd||$50|
|10||PLO8 (8-Max), $12K Gtd||$75|
|11||NLHE (Super Tuesday SE), $40K Gtd||$200|
|12||NLHE (Mini Super Tuesday SE), $15K Gtd||$20|
|13||NLHE (8-Max), $15K Gtd||$150|
|14||NLHE (6-Max, High Roller), $50K Gtd||$500|
|15||NLHE, $15K Gtd||$150|
|16||NLHE (Progressive KO, Thursday Thrill SE), $40K Gtd||$200|
|17||NLHE (Progressive KO, Mini Thrill), $20K Gtd||$20|
|18||PL 5-Card Draw (8-Max, Turbo), $10K Gtd||$100|
|19||8-Game, $15K Gtd||$200|
|20||NLHE (6-Max, Turbo), $20K Gtd||$150|
|21||NLHE (8-Max, Deepstack), $35K Gtd||$100|
|22||NLHE (Saturday Speedway SE), $15K Gtd||$50|
|23||NLHE (8-Max, Turbo, Marathon), $35K Gtd||$100|
|24||PLO (8-Max, Turbo), $10K Gtd||$100|
|25||NLHE (6-Max), $25K Gtd||$150|
|26||NLHE (Sunday Special SE), $100K Gtd||$100|
|27||NLHE (Progressive KO), $35K Gtd||$200|
|28||NLHE (Sunday SuperSonic SE), $12K Gtd||$75|
|29||NLHE (4-Max), $25K Gtd||$200|
|30||PLO (6-Max, High-Roller), $25K Gtd||$500|
|31||NLHE (Hyper-Turbo, Super Tuesday), $40K Gtd||$250|
|32||NLO8 (8-Max), $10K Gtd||$100|
|33||NLHE (6-Max, Turbo), $20K Gtd||$30|
|34||NLHE, $30K Gtd||$200|
|35||Stud Hi/Lo, $10K Gtd||$100|
|36||NLHE (Progressive KO, Thursday Thrill), $40K Gtd||$250|
|37||NLHE, $20K Gtd||$150|
|38||FLHE (6-Max, Turbo), $10K Gtd||$200|
|39||NLHE (Hyper-Turbo), $15K Gtd||$200|
|40||NLHE (6-Max), $40K Gtd||$300|
|41||NLHE (6-Max), $20K Gtd||$75|
|42||NLHE (Turbo, Progressive KO, Deepstack), $25K Gtd||$100|
|43||NLHE (Main Event), $200K Gtd||$300|
|44||NLHE (Mini Main Event), $40K Gtd||$50|
|45||NLHE (Progressive KO), $30K Gtd||$100|
|46||PLO (6-Max, Hyper-Turbo), $10K Gtd||$100|
|47||NLHE (Sunday SuperSonic SE), $10K Gtd||$75|
|48||NLHE (Nightly Stars SE – PACOOP Wrap-Up), $35K Gtd||$100|
|49||NLHE (8-Max, Phase 2), $50K Gtd||$50|
|50||NLHE (6-Max, Hyper-Turbo, Deep Hyper Turbo), $15K Gtd||$100|