This week over 2000 online poker players went through with a boycott against PokerStars. The boycott was for a three-day period from December 1st to 3rd. This was in response to recent changes announced by PokerStars, which would affect its VIP program starting on January 1, 2016.
Most of the outrage stems from the fact that the top tier loyalty players will be losing many of their rewards. Platinum Star status players will have a 10% reduction in total rewards, Supernova status players may receive up to 27% less, and the Supernova Elite status players will have their rewards capped at 45%. Supernova Elite members will also lose their 1 million quarterly freeroll.
While this alone could be considered frustrating, PokerStars failed to inform its players of the changes early enough. Both the Supernova and Supernova Elite tiers operate as a two-year plan. This means that many players who grinded hard during 2015 expected to receive benefits during the 2016 year. After finding out that this wouldn’t be the case, these players were less than thrilled.
On top of all this, PokerStars VIP players will no longer receive any loyalty points on pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5/$10 or higher, 8-game with limits of $10/$20 or higher, and other limit games with blinds of $10/$15 or higher.
Was The Change Warranted?
Overall, PokerStars has been very quiet throughout the entire boycott. However, past announcements have explained the mindset of PokerStars regarding these changes. PokerStars believes that adjusting the rates for high-level players, which only represent 1.3% of their total on a given day, will benefit the remaining 98.7%. So essentially, PokerStars is moving from the mindset of pleasing its high-value customers to that of siding with the majority of lower value customers instead. While it is still yet to be seen if this move was a good idea, it has proven successful in other industries.
According to data provided by PokerScout.com, PokerStars’ liquidity reached nearly 37,500 players on Dec. 1, which was an increase of nearly 65% over the previous week. While this seems odd given the circumstances, on closer inspection it is actually a win for the boycotters. The reason it’s a win is because the strike occurred during the first days of the milestone and promotions, a much-anticipated event at the start of the PokerStars Christmas calendar. In fact, if we compare against December 1 of last year, we will see that at that time liquidity had increased by 133% from the previous week. This means that the boycott certainly did have an effect. Also, throughout the whole period, high-stakes games hovered around only .67% instead of its normal 1.3-1.7%.
While it is unlikely that the strike will have any lasting change on the VIP club cutbacks, it is possible that it may cause PokerStars to consider a delay. This is because announcing changes to a two-year program only a few months in advance seems awfully unfair to many. Even team PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu, who tends to support the site, believes that these changes may not have been handled correctly.
Poker Pro Opinions
In a recent interview with Cardplayer Lifestyle, Negreanu said, “I’ve had some disagreements in terms of how information is released, but I realized that sometimes people and companies make mistakes. In this case, they’ve made several I think. I fully understand both sides of this. I understand the player’s side a lot more in terms of the VIP Program and having a promotion that starts on January 1st, that if you get to Supernova Elite you’ll get the benefits next year, and communicating the changes in November (the eleventh out of the twelve months), even though there were warnings, is not right.”
Dani Stern, the most vocal poker player behind the Boycott, tweeted on December 2nd: “For those wondering about my take on strike thus far: It’s working. Keep going. Believe me this is bigger than total players online. CASHOUT.”
While there is still no word from PokerStars pertaining to the upcoming changes, it is highly likely that we will hear a response over the coming weeks.