It’s been over seven years since Black Friday rocked the United States online poker landscape. To say it’s been a slow climb back to anything even resembling a respectable online poker marketplace would be a bit of an understatement.
With the tri-state compact between New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware opening the door for a shared player pool on WSOP.com, for those online players fortunate enough to be located in those states, some semblance of a brighter future for US online poker seems possible.
In fact, one look at the August online results of New Jersey professional poker player Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano, known by most in the poker world simply as “Gags”, and it is hard to believe he didn’t achieve his recent scores by playing in a worldwide player pool. No, the Borgata ambassador ran up a more-than-impressive string of victories right from him home in the small but expanding, New Jersey marketplace.
“I’m sure it’s a combination of running well and playing well. Obviously, there has to be an amount of run good just to win tournaments,” Gagliano said of his recent results.
Those results include over $100,000 in cashes and six outright victories in August to date. He has two scores of $30,000 or more during the month and, in total, he has recorded 10 scores of four-figures or more in the month.
Gagliano, a seemingly perennial contender for the top spot in the New Jersey PLB rankings, admits that prior to his current heater, he hadn’t been playing much online. He had been focused on producing results at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.
“It was a mediocre series overall. I didn’t have a ton of success. The last couple years I did alright, I made some money but it was one of my weaker years overall, I guess. I think I played well and I played a bunch of tournaments and that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
While he fired up the WSOP.com client to play in the online bracelet events while in Las Vegas during the summer he “was definitely not grinding.” But once the series was over, Gagliano was ready to get back to business.
“I think after the World Series it’s always good to come back to online. I think everyone’s pretty burnt out, I mean a month and a half at the Series play live is just tiring. Physically, mentally – it’s exhausting. So it’s nice to settle back in and be able to play like six, nine, ten tables at once. You get the feeling ‘I miss this online poker, this is good’, you know?”
Apparently, online poker missed him back. As soon as he returned to the online tables in late July, the results for ‘Gags30’ began to pour in. By the time August began, and the Coast To Coast Classic II WSOP.com series was underway Gagliano found himself in contention for scores that rival what he could earn by playing in a worldwide player pool. Roughly one week into the month, he’d booked himself a win in Event #9 of the Coast To Coast II for $36,000. Two days later, he took first in Event #16 for another $32,000.
“Some of the wins, the Six Max’s, the fields are pretty small. I’m used to playing those smaller fields, I think I do pretty well in those. When it comes to some of those larger [WSOP.com] scores, those are pretty big fields. I think my style works well, just the way the WSOP structure is. I feel it tends to be shorter stacked and I think I just have a lot of experience playing those spots for big money late. People tend to maybe let their nerves get to them sometimes. I able to really excel in those types of situations.”
But just because the player fields have been growing, doesn’t mean the competition in New Jersey is getting softer. Gagliano has needed his years of experience navigating those late-stage spots to close out the tournaments.
“Fields are larger and there’s more recreational players but there’s also more good players. So it’s like this weird combination where like, yea it’s larger but when you get deep in tournaments it tends to be tougher deeper because there’s more good players around.”
Galliano is currently reaping the benefits of those larger player pools. However, he’s of a mind that with some tweaking the prize pools could be even better.
“I think they’ve done a rather poor job overall with their tournament schedule. For some reason they seem to be under the impression that they have to cater to the West Coast market. The New Jersey start times are really late for a lot of tournaments. So you’re seeing large fields but I think if they had a better schedule you would see even larger fields.”
Prior to Black Friday, like many professional grinders, Gagliano put in a full tournament schedule, up to 6 days a week. Nowadays, he’s cut back to roughly two days a week of online tournaments. Even though shared liquidity has helped the New Jersey marketplace, it’s not nearly the same.
“It’s just different. The Sunday starts much later and it’s even later now that WSOP.com has decided everyone needs to be West Coast time. It used to be an afternoon kind of grind on a Sunday, now it’s more of an evening grind,” says Gagliano. “There’s definitely stuff to play but it’s not the same. I don’t think it will ever be the same even with multiple US States. The market is just different and it’s different without the European players filling in different gaps.
“Now, you just get more people that are just throwing money on for certain tournaments and then there are the guys that are your regulars that play a lot. You don’t have as many of those low, low, low stakes grinders you used to have. And maybe that will come back as it grows. You can’t have that, there’s not enough liquidity for that, it doesn’t exist in these smaller markets. I’m not sure, we’ll have to see.”
With the sate of Pennsylvania set to go live with online poker offerings in the as-of-yet undefined future, Gagliano is hopeful that more positive change in on the horizon.
“I hope they open with a lot of different software providers and operators to have some competition in the market. I’d like to see more of a schedule suited for the East Coast especially if Pennsylvania is planning on pooling with anyone. I don’t know exactly where that stand now, Pennsylvania seems to be doing their own thing for right now.
“Obviously growing prize pools and as the market gets bigger I think you’l start seeing more things like Sit & Gos which used to be popular. You know, they run in New Jersey but they’re not super popular. I think those will start coming back as we just get more liquidity.”
In the meantime, “Gags” will continue his current poker grind. Online tournaments, some online cash sessions a couple days a week and traveling the East Coast live circuit including the upcoming World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open on September 16.