Dec 19, 2015
PokerStars Strike - The Good and the Bad
By RTR Dennis
Many online poker pros have not been happy with the changes made to the PokerStars VIP program. The overall effect for high-volume players is that their rewards will be drastically reduced starting Jan. 1, 2016. Given the outrage among many pros, a PokerStars strike was organized from Dec. 1-3 to show unity against the changes made by parent company Amaya Gaming. Well over 1,000 players participated in the boycott, showing that there are plenty of people unhappy with the VIP changes. But will the strike work in the long run? Let's discuss this matter below by covering some of the different aspects.
Pros stood up against Unjust Changes - While many complaints about Amaya's changes are relative to being a high-volume pro, few can argue that it was totally wrong of Stars to eliminate Supernova Elite (SNE) status entirely in 2016. After all, the PokerStars terms and conditions state that those who earn SNE status are supposed to retain this top VIP level the following year. Dani 'Ansky' Stern, one of the key influences behind the PokerStars strike, explained this by writing, "They have deceived SNE players about benefits they would receive, are discontinuing the SNE program, and they have completely removed all rewards for high stakes (5/10+) cash games."
Poker Players showed that they have a Voice - When well over 1,000 players join a boycott against the world's largest poker site, it shows Amaya that they're not just dealing with a group of scattered individuals. Of course, being a multi-billion dollar company, Amaya's key goal is to make profits in the end. But the strength of numbers in this strike will at least force Amaya to closely examine how the VIP changes will impact their overall business.
The Strike shed Light on what Changes will do to Rec. Players - It's commonly thought that the PokerStars VIP changes only impact high-volume grinders. However, this strike helped bring attention to the fact that the changes will also have an effect on recreational players. Many issues were discussed in a TwoPlusTwo thread entitled "Strike/Boycott of PokerStars December 1st-3rd," including pros moving down in stakes (no rewards for $5/$10 tables and above), increased micro stakes rake, and the poker-pro dream being tarnished.
A 3-Day Strike might not accomplish much - One of the most-floated strike complaints on TwoPlusTwo is that three days might not be enough to impact Amaya. As one 2p2 poster wrote, "Isn't it kinda stupid doing this and not visibly switching to another site or something? This way they know you'll always be back." However, the counter to this is that three days is only the beginning of what could be a larger exodus come Jan. 1; many players have suggested moving to 888poker.
Strike offers Preview of PokerStars with Fewer Pros - Over the past year, many pros have suggested that Amaya wants to drive off grinders and make PokerStars friendly to recreational players. Of course, if this is the case, there's considerable risk in doing so because pros are good at starting tables/keeping them going and filling out larger MTTs. But this 3-day strike at least gives Amaya a chance to see if games will continue running strong if they scare off most of the current professionals.
Pros from Other Sites took Advantage of the Strike - While we can't exactly measure how many players took advantage of a 3-day vacation by normal PokerStars regs, we can be sure that there were some opportunists during this time. After all, pros from smaller poker rooms likely saw this as a chance to jump in +EV games. Furthermore, some 2p2 posters wrote that they couldn't really afford to take any time off just to strike—especially in the last month that they get mid and high-stakes rewards at Stars.
The PokerStars strike isn't a matter that's close to the average player's heart. But for those making a living through online poker, taking a stand was definitely better than sitting back and letting Amaya make more changes that don't work in their favor. Whether the protest ultimately causes any reversal on the VIP program changes remains to be seen. However, it was certainly worth a shot for high-volume players who don't want to see their earnings diminished any more.