In the summer of 2014, Amaya purchased PokerStars and since purchasing the online poker giant, Amaya has radically altered the makeup of the company, with no less than a dozen major changes in the past year and a half.
Some players feel these changes are very much to the detriment of the poker community, and believe Amaya is simply trying to squeeze every last bit of profit out of their longtime, and most loyal customers. Others have applauded what they consider to be long overdue, and much needed changes, that will have a positive long-term impact on the poker ecosystem.
Regardless of how you feel about the changes (singularly, or in sum) no one will accuse Amaya of sitting on their hands. Here’s a look at just how disruptive Amaya’s ownership of PokerStars has been.
September 29, 2014: Spin & Go’s are a true game changer
Love them or hate them, Spin & Go’s have proven to be a very popular product for PokerStars, and seem to be a focal point in the company’s marketing efforts going forward.
October 1, 2014: Amaya adds online casino games
Soon after they unveiled Spin & Go’s, Amaya added traditional online casino games to PokerStars’ list of offerings.
The move was long anticipated, as Amaya began as a B2B online casino game company, and even prior to the sale to Amaya there were plenty of signs and rumors that PokerStars, always a poker-only product, was headed in this direction.
October 14, 2014: The approaching storm
At the end of October, PokerStars sent emails to Supernova and Supernova Elite players warning them of significant changes the company planned to make to the site’s VIP Program in 2016. PokerStars also posted about these “significant changes” on the 2+2 poker forum, while making a relatively minor change to the program for 2015:
“There will be only one change to PokerStars.com and shared liquidity VIP Club rewards effective January 1, 2015: players earning 1 million VPPs will no longer be rewarded with $5,200 in WCOOP/TCOOP/SCOOP entries. Players who earn 1 million VPPs in 2014 will still earn this reward as advertised, in fact some have earned and used this reward already this year.”
As it turned out, the VIP changes PokerStars actually unveiled for 2016 ended up being far more significant than anyone imagined. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
October 29, 2014: The rec model shift hits its stride
Unlike the relatively minor change announced just two weeks prior, during this announcement PokerStars unveiled a litany of changes they planned to take effect by January 1, 2015.
Among the changes were some highly controversial rake increases in several games, many of which the poker community complained would make certain games unbeatable.
January 6, 2015: Rake changes rolled back
Following some serious pushback from the poker community, PokerStars decided to roll back most of their proposed rake increases first announced in late 2014.
The site also announced they had no intention to raise the rake in any games in 2015.
July 28, 2015: Full Tilt trials several major online poker changes
In the summer of 2015 Amaya made several significant changes to PokerStars’ sister site Full Tilt Poker.
A number of these changes that went into effect at FTP (including steps to limit table and opponent selection and the removal of heads-up tables) would later be implemented at PokerStars, signaling that perhaps Full Tilt Poker was used as a guinea pig of sorts for its big brother.
August 13, 2015: Amaya adds daily fantasy sports
After purchasing the existing daily fantasy sports website Victiv, Amaya quickly rebranded and relaunched the site as StarsDraft.
Since acquiring Victiv the DFS industry has been flipped on its head, and PokerStars has decided to take the most conservative approach possible (due to its previous issues with the U.S. market), and only operates in a handful of states where DFS’ legal standing is practically beyond reproach.
November 1, 2015: No turning back from rec model now
In November of 2015, PokerStars announced a slew of changes to their VIP Program, as well as to third-party software use that pitted them against the high stakes poker community in one of the nastiest and most drawn-out fights the poker world has ever seen.
Unlike the previous rake increases, PokerStars held firm on the VIP changes, which has caused an ever-widening rift between the company and the high-stakes poker community.
Without doubt, these are the most controversial changes the site has made, but in the grand scheme of things, they will likely have far less impact than some of the other entries on this list.
January 13, 2016: Amaya adds sports betting
In early 2016 Amaya added the final piece of their online gaming puzzle: a sports betting product to go along with their poker, casino, and DFS platforms.
February 12, 2016: Amaya says goodbye to most heads up tables
In early 2016 PokerStars followed in the footsteps of Full Tilt Poker (see above) and announced the removal of all non-Zoom heads-up poker tables.
Despite the impact such a change would have on many players’ ability to make a living at the online poker tables, the change barely registered among the poker community, perhaps a sign that they have started to grow accustomed to these types of changes.
February 11, 2016: Amaya launches heads-up app “Duel”
Following the removal of most of their heads-up tables, Amaya unveiled a new heads-up app called Duel.
The turn-based heads-up poker game is unlikely to be meant as a replacement for the removed heads-up games, rather it’s just the latest move by PokerStars that emphasizes their commitment to the recreational model they began soon after the sale to Amaya.
February 16, 2016: Full Tilt folded into PokerStars
The latest change announced by PokerStars is the end of Full Tilt Poker as a standalone online poker room.
According to Amaya, Full Tilt poker players will soon be migrated to the PokerStars platform, as the two independent sites combine their traffic for the first time.