WSOP Still Leads in North America. Can PokerStars Flip the Script? WSOP Still Leads in North America. Can PokerStars Flip the Script?

PokerStars and WSOP have been jockeying to be the biggest online poker network in North America for years.

But since the start of 2023, WSOP has been on a roll. Despite some perceived advantages afforded to PokerStars from the start, WSOP has seen more cash game traffic at its online poker rooms.

In the US, WSOP combines between Nevada and New Jersey. It has a partnership with GGPoker Ontario for action north of the border.

Meanwhile, in the US, PokerStars US is the shared liquidity network for its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey.

Reversal of Fortune for PokerStars Ontario

Things weren’t always this way for PokerStars Ontario.

The poker room dominated GGPoker Ontario (aka WSOP Ontario) in terms of cash game traffic for most of a nearly six-month stretch that began in December 2022. Conventional wisdom also held that PokerStars was a much more popular brand for poker, having operated online poker in Ontario's gray market for years before the province launched a segregated, regulated market in April 2022.

And with PokerStars in an upward trajectory at the time, there was nothing to suggest that it would yield the top spot to GGPoker anytime soon.

Data provided by GameIntel

That started to change last March. Cash game traffic data showed PokerStars ahead by an average of 80 concurrent cash-game players on March 1, with a tally of 302-222. Exactly three months later, PokerStars was up by an average of just seven players, 198-191.

PokerStars and GGPoker were essentially tied for most of June, with the lead changing hands several times. GGPoker finally took the top spot on July 7 and has held onto it ever since — except for a four-day period in mid-September.

GGPoker Ontario had an average of 306 concurrent cash game players on Sunday, the most recent day with statistics available. PokerStars Ontario had 264.

WSOP Also Ahead of PokerStars in US

Things haven’t been much better for PokerStars south of the border.

On paper, PokerStars US should be ahead of WSOP US. Both are in two states with multi-state poker. Both also have online poker rooms in New Jersey. But that’s where the market similarities end — WSOP is live with multi-state poker in Nevada, while PokerStars offers the same in Michigan.

Considering that Michigan is a huge market (10 million residents) compared to Nevada (3.2 million), it’s surprising to see WSOP ahead of PokerStars.

Data provided by GameIntel

Still, for more than a year, WSOP has drawn more traffic. Data from GameIntel show that on Sunday, the 30-day moving average of concurrent cash game players on WSOP was 320, while PokerStars averaged 235 players.

It was always expected that WSOP USA would dominate PokerStars during the summer months, considering they coincide with the annual World Series of Poker (WSOP), the world’s biggest and most popular poker tournament. But WSOP has been ahead of its rival since February 2, and was ahead for most of 2023, too.

WSOP had a peak of activity in early- to mid-March, when it offered special weekly satellite games for players on WSOP NJ and WSOP NV. The games offered players a chance at entry to the WSOP 2023 Main Event.

There’s more — WSOP also got ahead of PokerStars in September when it offered satellite qualifiers to its Nevada and New Jersey players for its new WSOP Paradise series it launched with GGPoker in the Bahamas last December.

Don’t forget that WSOP also lost access to Delaware in December.

All of which suggests that, despite its small size, Nevada provides fertile ground to bolster a multi-state online poker network.

How PokerStars Can Flip the Script

It will be difficult for PokerStars to take the lead from WSOP. The decision by its rival to hold a WSOP Circuit event in Toronto for the first time won’t make things easier, frankly, with its online satellites — but if PokerStars does a few things it could become the biggest online poker operator in North America.

The operator could lean heavily into series and promote them big time. PokerStars already appears to be doing just that — earlier this month it announced the return of its Bounty Builder series in all of its markets in North America and with $3 million guaranteed.

PokerStars has an ace up its sleeve — at some point it is expected to make its new loyalty program available to players in Ontario, and in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, too.

And PokerStars could also launch in West Virginia. Yes, it’s a small state, but the operator could use all of the help it can get to get ahead of WSOP.