Last night, hundreds of players participated in a boycott organized by a group of high stakes poker players to protest against PokerStars’ decision to reduce rewards for MTT players.
The boycott was led by a Belgian player “girafganger7” who along with over 250 high stakes MTT players decided not to play the $5200 buy-in Turbo Series tournament featuring a $750,000 guaranteed prize pool.
“The nonstop rake increases and unbeatable formats they have been pushing on all of us, with the latest one pushing me over the edge, made me reach out to some of the highstakes regs to try and convince them to skip the 5k psko turbo as a protest,” wrote the Belgian player in a statement.
The protest got massive support from the high stakes MTT community, and within hours, the list of players who vowed not to play the $5K event or play its satellites grew to hundreds of players.
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Among the notable high stakes players to join the protest were “girafganger7” himself (who had earlier shipped two Turbo Series events in a single day), Niklas “lena900” Åstedt, Simon “C Darwin2”, Bryan “bparis” Paris, Samuel “€urop€an” Vousden, Mustapha “lasagnaaammm” Kanit, Mikita “fish2013” Badziakouski, Parker “tonkaaaaP” Talbot, Laszlo ‘omaha4rollz’ Bujtas, Calvin Anderson and several others.
“The positive feedback was overwhelming and it didn’t take long for a group to naturally form,” the statement continued.
It all started with PokerStars announcing a significant cut to rewards for MTT players sparking outrage from high stakes tournament grinders. Before the changes took place, tournament players were awarded 100 reward points for every $/€1 in rake they contributed. Now, players are being awarded just 45 reward points for every $/€1 in rake—meaning tournament players are now earning 55% fewer reward points. Other formats remained unaffected.
This obviously made the MTT players unhappy which led to the boycott. The Belgian player, in his statement, also pointed out other issues that players have been facing over the past few years. They include lack of communication from PokerStars, a constant increase of rake and a reduction in rakeback (rewards), and rake not being clearly visible.
Furthermore, he demanded from the room that there should be “direct and open communication with the company,” transparency in rake as well as a reassessment of the rake, and reduction on the length of the late registration period and the number of re-entries allowed in a tournament.
Did the Boycott Work or Not?
For a moment, it did look like the tournament would be impacted as close to the start time, only a handful number of players were registered.
However, once the late registration period ended, the tournament had attracted 160 unique players plus 27 re-entries creating a prize pool of $935,000 and easily covering its original guarantee.
To put into things into perspective, PokerStars had scheduled the same tournament a week ago. It drew 152 unique players and 42 additional re-entries to create a total prize pool of $970,000. So to conclude, the boycott may have had an effect on the field size, but if it did, it was likely very small.
PokerStars would have had the last laugh if the hidden goal of the protest was to cause a substantial overlay.
However, to be fair, had the boycott not been organized, the tournament could have attracted close to 300 players considering that it was the last day of the series with Main Events scheduled to give away $3 million in guarantees.
Even if we were to add 100 players out of the 250 players that took part in the protest, the tournament would have attracted close to 300 players meaning the total prize pool could have gone to up close to $1.5 million. In the end, the boycott may have actually costed PokerStars around $20,000 which is negligible given the size of the amount of overlay it was expected.
Meanwhile, partypoker, who has also been running an online tournament series, took advantage of the boycott by increasing the buy-in of one of its KO Series tournaments from $3K to $5K—matching the buy-in of PokerStars. The room also increased the guarantee to $1 million ($250,000 more than what PokerStars had guaranteed) and scheduled the tournament to run at the same time as PokerStars’ $5K event.
The tournament attracted 206 total entries to easily cover its $1 million guarantee.