PokerStars boycotters, it appears, may have shot themselves in the foot.
Two and a half thousand high-volume and high-stakes players staged a three-day sit-out last week in protest at the forthcoming changes to the Poker Stars rewards program, which will be tweaked to favor recreational players to the detriment of Supernova Elite, Supernova and Platinum Star players.
The boycott aimed to draw attention to the fact that PokerStars would miss their big players, who are also their biggest customers and grind a high volume of rake, but according to PokerStars, this wasn’t the case.
In fact, VP of Corporate Communications at PokerStars and Amaya Eric Hollreiser said that the presence of fewer professionals on those days had improved the poker ecosystem and merely reaffirmed that the company was doing the right thing.
“During the three-day boycott we recorded the healthiest consecutive three-day ecosystem results of the year with steady net gaming revenue, even though our net-depositing players lost at a much lower rate than they have all year,” Hollreiser wrote on the PokerStars blog.
PokerStars argues that for too long online poker sites have been weighted in favor of the high volume, profit-making player, and, as a result, online poker is cannibalizing itself, swallowing recreational players up too quickly and driving them away from the tables.
As well as skewing its rewards program towards the recs, the online poker giant has imposed restrictions on third-party software, another thing, it argues, that is scaring off new players.
“Changes are needed and we are making them,” wrote Hollresier. “The funds that previously went to these rewards will be placed in more and bigger online promotions, more consumer marketing campaigns to attract new players and research and development of innovative new products and features.
“A tremendous amount of analysis goes into making these decisions by PokerStars. Our poker room management team is staffed with many former poker pros. And we have examined all possible scenarios. We are making these changes for the long term health of the poker ecosystem and to put in place a system that is sustainable.”
Hollreiser did, however, take time to apologize to players over the suddenness of the announcement of the changes, and especially to those who may have chosen not to participate in the rewards program had they known it wouldn’t be running in 2016.
The announcement came on November 1, 2015, outlining changes would be implemented on January 1, 2016.
“Although we did not publicize it at the time, we did recognize that players might not be expecting as severe a decrease in awards, so we provided a higher level of reward in 2016 than originally planned and delayed implementing the full decrease in rewards until 2017,” he said. “This was explicitly in recognition that players were grinding in 2015 in order to reap the maximum benefit for 2016.”
PokerStars is more convinced than ever that it is doing the right thing.