Players protested PokerStars’ recent rake increases on multiple occasions early this month, hoping to show that customers were dissatisfied with the new policies. However, it seems as though those efforts varied in their effectiveness, and many players doubt that such protests will have any real impact on the site.
When PokerStars first announced that the rakes on many tournaments and cash games would be increasing, members of the poker community at the TwoPlusTwo forums suggested that players engage in some form of protest.
Ultimately, a thread in the News, Views and Gossip forum settled on the idea of an organized sit-out, in which players would take their seats at cash game tables but refuse to play, instead explaining to any other players who showed up why they were protesting.
Many feared that such as move would never be organized enough to work, and that seems to have played out in practice. On November 5, the sit-out went into effect, but it isn’t clear how many people took part or if any games were seriously disrupted. In fact, there’s data to suggest the protest had no impact at all: according to PokerScout, traffic at PokerStars was actually up during the protest, compared to a month earlier.
The failure of the action seemed predictable to many. In an interview with PokerNews, 888poker pro Sofia Lovgren said that while players might be sincere in their efforts, they were unlikely to have the numbers to spark real change through sit-outs.
“It would be very hard to organize and manage something like that in a proper way,” Lovgren said. “There are so many players playing at PokerStars, as at any of the other top rooms, and we should realize that the ones who discuss in the forums are actually a very small part of them. In the end, a room would probably not even notice a protest like that one.”
Still, that wasn’t the only protest planned this month, and other groups seemed to have a little more success by betting organizing their efforts. For instance, members of the Russian online poker forum known as GispyTeam made a targeted attempt to disrupt one very specific type of game: the high-stakes, heads-up cash games that saw rakes nearly double under the new fee schedules.
That protest led to long waiting lists and few active games at the $10/$20 heads-up tables, something that apparently didn’t go unnoticed by the PokerStars brass. According to at least one player, those who were participating in the efforts to block access to these games were being banned by the site, perhaps a sign that the protest was having a real impact.
The wider community of high-stakes heads-up sit-and-go players has also made a change in “policy” to protest the new rakes at their favorite PokerStars games. At many of the top stakes levels, regular players have reportedly made commitments not to play against each other. Considering how many of these games were started by these high-volume players, it’s no surprise that the number of heads-up SNGs is reportedly down significantly in recent days.
The protests are meant to highlight player frustration with a variety of rake increases at PokerStars. While those changes alone still leave the site with competitive rake levels compared to their competitors, they are among a series of changes that players believe are hurting the site, with many blaming the new management of Amaya Gaming for a culture shift in the brand.