At the end of last week, Daniel Negreanu organized a meeting in Montreal between top players, Dani Stern, Isaac Haxton and Daniel Dvorass and the top management at PokerStars. Haxton refused to renew his PokerStars Team Pro sponsorship deal this year in protest at the changes.
The meeting aimed to reduce tensions over VIP scheme changes which have already led to two player boycotts, but PokerStars stuck to its guns saying that there would be no backing down from the new VIP scheme which reduces rakeback for players who put in high volumes or play at high stakes.
“We deeply regret that we are not bringing back any good news for the players,” Dani “Ansky” Stern wrote in a blog post reporting the meeting. “We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes.”
Yesterday, Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars and Amaya VP of Corporate Communications put out a statement regarding the meeting on the PokerStars blog.
“We provided substantial data to support that these changes were needed and expressed our regret that the changes have angered some high volume players. This was obviously not our goal, although it was anticipated given the nature and timing of the reduction in rewards,” wrote Hollreiser.
“In considering changes, we believe we are successfully balancing our responsibility to recreational players, the game of poker, and the interests of our employees and shareholders against the expectations of our professional poker player community,” he added.
Despite the strength of feelings that the changes have aroused in players, it is now clear that Amaya and PokerStars are determined on their new path. Rakeback for 2016 is effectively capped at an absolute maximum of 30%, although players who earned Supernova Elite status in 2015 will get up to 45%.
Supernova Elite status will disappear for 2017, and no limit and pot limit cash games at stakes over $5/$10 will not attract any VIP Player Points (VPP).
The changes make it look like PokerStars doesn’t want high stakes/high volume players, but the company argues that this is untrue. Such players remain welcome, but the share of PokerStars marketing budget which they will receive through rakeback is being permanently reduced.
Players looking for high stakes games, big guarantees on tournaments or an alternative to PokerStars Spin & Gos should try Black Chip Poker on the Winning Poker Network (WPN).
Both Winner Poker and Black Chip offer good levels of liquidity—enough games and tables running around the clock—to provide a realistic alternative to PokerStars, but at the moment there is no close competitor to the full offer available at PokerStars.
The good news is that PokerStars’ determination to reduce incentives for grinders means that casual players should feel the effects of the new environment. Their bankroll will last longer, and the experience at the table should be smoother with fewer mass multi-tablers.
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