PokerStars spent Christmas Day playing Santa Claus in various corners of the poker community.
But will its last-ditch effort to send a group — including some of its harshest critics and various social media influencers — to its massive public relations ploy in the Bahamas be enough to erase years of Grinch-like behavior the world’s largest poker site has displayed since the once-benevolent Scheinberg family sold out to Amaya Gaming?
PokerStars has been giving away $30,000 Platinum Passes including entry into the $25,000 PokerStars Players NL Hold’em Championship all year long. However, none of its efforts have received anywhere near the kind of attention this latest one has.
Get Ingram to the Bahamas
It all started with the final challenge in a series of labors for Run It Up Ambassador Arlie Shaban. He was asked to complete these labors to earn a Platinum Pass of his own.
Essentially, Shaban had to convince popular poker podcast host, social media influencer, and calls-it-like-he-sees-it PokerStars critic Joe Ingram to accept a Platinum Pass.
Poker Twitter weighed in, suggesting everything from accepting the Platinum Pass being a no-brainer to it amounting to Ingram selling out. There was even one crazy conspiracy theory. It suggested Ingram and PokerStars cooked up the whole idea together as a PR stunt. One aimed at taking over the poker community social media sphere during the holidays.
In the end, Ingram upped the ante. Ultimately, he said he would accept the offer on Christmas Day just as long as it was also extended to the poker community’s newest social media flavor of the week, Jeremy Hilsercop.
The Jeremy Hilsercop story
Earlier, Hilsercop’s wife, Randi, posted a video on Reddit. It featured Jeremy tearing up as he accepted her gift of a trip to the 2019 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, Nevada. The video appeared to give the professional poker playing community a little perspective. It made people realize how lucky they are to be living out other people’s dreams every day. As it made the rounds on social media, various offers of help poured in. Ingram’s was just the latest and greatest.
In the end, PokerStars accepted Ingram’s counter. Now he, Shaban and Hilsercop are all headed to the Jan. 6-10 tournament at Atlantis, Paradise Island. Plus, PokerStars decided to extend its generosity, and likely increase its reach. It also handed Platinum Passes to Poker Twitter guru Kevin Mathers and First Lady of Poker Linda Johnson as well.
Slick PR moves
It was a series of great Christmas Day moves by the company. In fact, these are just the kind of moves that may remind people of the generosity often displayed by PokerStars founder Isai Scheinberg. However, these are also a slick PR moves designed to get the company’s harshest critics on its side and help the community forget its biggest sins.
The problem is, those critics, and the poker community as a whole should be much too smart to buy into it all.
They know the money for all these $30,000 Christmas gifts had to come from somewhere.
The truth is, it likely comes from the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Supernova Elite benefits PokerStars ripped away from its highest volume players at the 11th hour in 2015. It canceled a program those players worked for all year. But perhaps even worse, it forced the community to endure an excuse from Lee Jones. The one including a vague and barely understandable explanation of how a poker ecosystem works.
It also comes from the millions of dollars PokerStars has earned from a couple of rake increases. The increase which PokerStars apologist Daniel Negreanu told us was somehow good for the game. Plus, the one he readily admitted was straight-up just good for PokerStars.
It might also come from all the money made from the rake traps PokerStars has trotted out as innovations lately — the ones that are attempting to turn a game of skill with an element of luck into a casino game.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great PokerStars is doing something like this for the poker community. I think its equally important to remember why. It’s still a public relations stunt aimed at pulling PokerStars out of what was several public relations nightmares. No matter how effective it is.
So, will this Santa act be enough to make the community forget PokerStars has been playing the Grinch lately? That’s up to you to decide.