Coverage And Reaction To PokerStars’ VIP And Software Policies Run The Gamut

November 4, 2015
Coverage And Reaction To PokerStars’ VIP And Software Policies Run The Gamut

Reaction to PokerStars’ announced changes to its VIP program and third-party software policy has been swift, venomous, and as is often the case in poker, overdramatic. At the same time it was not unexpected, nor was it entirely misplaced.

The poker community was blindsided by these changes.

Not because PokerStars did a poor job preparing and communicating the announcement (the site had been foretelling major changes for a year), but because most poker players and most members of the poker media don’t follow the industry side of things. They don’t go to trade shows or speak to operators, and they don’t pay attention to changes happening within the iGaming world.

The writing was on the wall, and had they paid a bit more attention, they may have been able to make contingency plans.

Because these changes sort of snuck up on them, mainly due to a lack of attention, the reaction of the poker community has been largely visceral. And because they haven’t had time to work through the numerous potential outcomes these changes could bring about, they, as players, see their bottom line being impacted (in some cases drastically) and are predictably lashing out.

Most of the reactions have been somewhere between the above tweets and Daniel Negreanu’s:

Industry reaction

For the most part, the poker media has decided to take a “straight news” approach to the story, preferring not to upset the professional players it covers, PokerStars, or other online poker companies that have either made these changes or are considering making them.

PokerStrategy, PokerNews, and most other sites simply detailed the changes and threw in a few quotes from PokerStars’ press release. Other outlets, from CalvinAyre to PartTimePoker, included some commentary on the changes.

From what I’ve seen on social media and in the forums, and based on the private discussions I’ve had, the poker industry has the widest range of views when it comes to the changes.

Some dislike them. Some dislike the way they were carried out. Some are applauding them. And some are ambivalent to them, preferring to wait and see what happens.

Here are a few examples of the varied opinions from the poker media and industry types:

Players fuming

The player reaction is more harmonious.

Imagine you went into work on a Monday morning and found out your company had cancelled your health insurance and 401K; chances are you wouldn’t be thrilled with the direction your company was heading. This is essentially what professional poker players were told by PokerStars, and they didn’t take the news sitting down.

Dani “Ansky” Stern wrote several detailed blog posts criticizing the changes, and went on Joe Ingram’s podcast to continue the discussion.

There were a few players who were more amenable or at least understanding of the changes.

One of the most measured responses I’ve seen was authored by Todd Witteles on his forum, where he said, “I think Amaya/Stars is overall doing the right thing… First and foremost, I want to say that these angry grinders need to get over themselves.”

Witteles also criticized PokerStars for potentially devaluing FPP’s when they convert them to StarsCoins, and shaving off some potential Supernova Elite earnings in 2016, saying PokerStars “is also being somewhat unethical here.”

Several other professional poker players I spoke with felt the changes will be beneficial to all players in the long run, but the vast majority of professional players are irate. The few pockets that felt the changes were necessary for online poker’s sustainability are largely being drowned out by the players who feel (rightfully in some regards) slighted.

The end game

The initial reactions to the changes, especially the ones rooted in speculation and hyperbole, are largely of no consequence. What will matter is how these changes fit into PokerStars’ larger business model, and what kind of impact they will have six and twelve months down the road.

A big part of this will be dependent on PokerStars’ ability to reengage with recreational players and reach new players. If the changes help improve the online poker ecosystem and the games improve, the loss of rewards will be forgotten in short order.

If there is one fundamental truth in poker it’s this: good games trump good rewards all day every day.

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