As 2011 was coming to a close, PokerStars announced changes to its rake structure and rewards program for the year ahead. To say the changes were unpopular is quite an understatement. Resistance from the poker community resulted in protests as players demonstrated their dissatisfaction.
“I think PokerStars understands that they’ve got it wrong this time and are willing to negotiate a rake/benefit package that will be better for players, better for the game and ultimately better for PokerStars.”
Even though protesters were temporarily banned from the poker site for disrupting games, PokerStars kept the lines of communication open and invited the community to send a panel of representatives to its headquarters on the Isle of Man to discuss ways to appease its loyal customers.
The panel was decided upon by voters on twoplustwo.com and consists of five players representing a wide variety of interests and games including micro-stakes, full ring No Limit Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em cap games, Pot-Limit Omaha and Limit Hold’em. The players also span the entire VIP program range from its lowest level Bronze star to its highest Supernova Elite.
Player Panel member Joss Wood, representing the micro-stakes players, told pokerfuse: “The changes PokerStars have introduced have aroused an unprecedented level of protest from the players. I think PokerStars understands that they’ve got it wrong this time and are willing to negotiate a rake/benefit package that will be better for players, better for the game and ultimately better for PokerStars.”
One concern is a loss of rewards for high volume players as a result of the switch from dealt to the “weighted contributed” method of calculating rakeback. The highest levels of PokerStars’ VIP program can take a year to achieve with many of the rewards realized in the following year. Those that attained Supernova Elite status could see the rewards they worked hard for last year cut by as much as 20% before being able to enjoy them.
Other concerns include the impact of proposed rake structure changes and a perception that the ideas of what is best for the overall long-term health of the game held by the players are no longer aligned with those of the overwhelming industry leader PokerStars.
Some members of the community are skeptical. How can a small group of players achieve any significant changes by negotiating against the Goliath of online poker in its own back yard?“'The boundaries of negotiations have not been clearly defined, but many players believe there needs to be a significant reduction in certain rake structures to ensure the long term viability of some specific games’”Others believe that the common interests of both players and operators can be accentuated and built into a foundation that will support the interests of all parties.
Co-founder and editor of pokerfuse, Nick Jones, will be attending the meetings as a Player Panel member representing the Limit Hold’em community interests. When asked the nature of the concessions PokerStars was expected to make he replied, “the boundaries of negotiations have not been clearly defined, but many players believe there needs to be a significant reduction in certain rake structures to ensure the long term viability of some specific games.”
PokerStars has cited “regulatory difficulties” as the reason for the perceived divergence from common goals with the players. However Jones does not see the current efforts to realign objectives as a one-time affair. “We see the Player Panel as a low friction customer feedback process which will greatly benefit both the service provider which is PokerStars and the customers which is the 2+2 player base and beyond.” There are hopes that PokerStars will commit to engaging the Player Panel on a regular basis: a concept that began in 2008 but has since fallen inactive.
It is uncertain whether there will be any immediate response from PokerStars following the conclusion of the three day conference scheduled to take place from January 23rd -25th, but expectations are there will be concessions made that will address some of the more glaring issues at the very least.