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Oct 19, 2014

PokerStars Defends Harsh Criticism of Spin & Go's

By RTR Dennis

Spin go header Pokerstars Rake The Rake

spin-go-header Pokerstars RakeTheRake

In late September, PokerStars joined several online poker rooms in offering lottery-style sit and go's. PokerStars' version is called 'Spin & Gos,' and they play very much like any other turbo SNG - with the big exception being how prizes are dished out in these winner-take-all tourneys. A random number generator (RNG) determines a prize worth between 2x and 1,000x the buy-in.

The obvious appeal here - especially for recreational players - is that one could potentially win $10,000 for a $10 buy-in. The downside is that there's insane variance involved, with the chances of drawing the 1,000x buy-in prize being 4 in 100,000, or a 0.00004 chance. Because of this, coupled with the fact that 75% of prizes are worth just 2x the buy-in, many pros are visibly upset with Spin & Gos. Serious grinders also don't appreciate how lottery-style games are draining regular SNGs of recreational players.

The face of PokerStars, Daniel Negreanu, has already defended Spin & Gos. His argument is that professionals are ruining online poker by driving the fish away. Moreover, Negreanu believes that Stars is a company that needs to focus on bringing new players in, rather than catering to pro players' demands. Up until now, Kid Poker was the only one from Stars to step forward and defend these SNGs. But recently, Baard Dahl, the Ring Game Manager at PokerStars, also weighed in with his opinion.

Spin & Gos - a product that works

This isn't like the mid-2000s, when scores of new online poker players were filling up the cyber tables every day. And Dahl addressed this point on TwoPlusTwo, by discussing how Stars can't ignore a product that largely works just because winning players don't like it. Here's an excerpt from what he wrote:

Anyone who has followed the online poker market over the past few years will recognize the fact that it is more and more difficult to get new players to the tables. So when a new product comes along that captures the imagination of a wide range of players, it is not something that we can just pass on because we don’t want to upset the regular players. If we had decided to stand pat with the current offering for the next couple years, chances are that soon your games would have been far more reg-filled and running less often than you will see now due to the addition of Spin & Gos.

This is a Business and PokerStars needs to compete

Another point that Dahl made on this matter is that PokerStars is a business, not a democracy. They need to keep up with competitors, some of whom are are already offering lottery-style SNGs. Going further, the Ring Game Manager also points out that regular SNGs would likely become filled with regulars if Stars doesn't keep offering new products:

Another aspect of this is that we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are a business and that we do business in a competitive environment. And as a business, we need to provide the products that are pleasing to our customers. Clearly given the popularity of Spin & Go, we have many customers who like the format, are pleased that we have offered it, and based on the overall volume of play on our site it is clear that players are overall happier than they were before. We do need to keep adapting to provide the games that our customers as a whole prefer. If we don’t, someone else will.

Spin & Go's are NOT killing Poker

Some professional players have accused Spin & Gos of slowly killing poker. Their argument is that these SNGs will destroy the online poker ecology and reduce liquidity, especially at the mid and higher stakes. But again, Dahl points out that with the way poker sites struggle to draw fresh players, Spin & Gos are actually helping the game:

As mentioned earlier in this post, poker is increasingly struggling to attract new players, and Spin & Gos serve exactly this purpose. I think it is much more likely that in a few years we are going to say that Spin & Gos saved online poker than Spin & Gos were responsible for killing the game.

Above all, Dahl suggests that pro players need to adapt to the changing poker landscape, instead of arguing furiously against it. And while this may not be what pros want to hear, it doesn't look like Stars will be doing away with Spin & Gos any time soon.