The top rooms on the Merge Gaming network, including Carbon Poker and Aced, have radically reduced the number of levels in their VIP program.
The new scheme replaces the former six level program. The lowest VIP level now requires players to accrue 500 player points per month to maintain access to benefits. The middle level is open to those earning 5,000 points a month.
Effectively there are only two levels of VIP which can be earned, the top Elite level is now invitation only. The impact on players at most levels will be a reduction in benefits.
The previous “Wind” level was achieved with just 100 points a month and entitled the player to exchange points for cash at a rate of 10%. The “Water” level required 1,500 points but the points to cash exchange rate was almost double at 19%.
Under the new plan, the Wind level player does not earn enough points to qualify for a VIP level and the Water level player will have to exchange points at the reduced rate of 10%.
Merge Gaming cash game traffic took a big hit after it raised the rake on mid stakes cash games in March this year. This graph from pokerfuse PRO Data shows a how Merge traffic has performed over that time compared to the other sites which still accept US players—excluding the regulated Nevada market.
Data provided by GameIntel
The first decline against the market followed the departure of Lock Poker an other skins from the network. The second decline followed the increase in rake.
It is apparent that Merge is trying to change its player ecology by discouraging some high volume grinders, to make the site more attractive to more recreational players.
Reaction from players posting on 2+2 has unsurprisingly been negative. Carbon poker closed their sponsored support thread last week, having angered players the previous week by allowing tournament tickets to expire.
Anger now comes from players who were saving their player points to exchange at a higher VIP level and will now have to accept an exchange rate much lower.
Merge skin PokerHost appears to have retained its five level VIP program.