PokerStars Changes Continue to Elicit Top Pro Opinions

November 6th, 2014 | by Greg Shaun
Phil Galfond PokerStars rake increases

Phil Galfond was one of many high-stakes pros to speak out, and not in a complimentary way, about the recent rake increases at PokerStars. (Image: PokerFaceNews.com)

PokerStars changes seem to not only be ticking off average Joe players, but experienced pros as well.

The online poker site recently made a host of changes to its policies, including increasing rakes in many games and ending or reducing the value of promotions that have helped high-volume players.

Not surprisingly, many players have reacted negatively to such moves, while others have defended the company’s actions.

Now, a number of high-stakes online professional poker players have shared their opinions on the direction of PokerStars in detail.

In comments made to PokerNews, several prominent names gave their takes on the increased rakes, and most of the comments were negative, though some also understood where the poker site was coming from.

Unpopular Changes

“It’s important to understand that PokerStars is a business, and that they can charge whatever they please for their service,” said Phil Galfond. “I don’t like the changes thus far and more than that, I fear for what’s yet to come if this is an indication of Amaya’s business strategy.”

“I understand the outrage of some players,” said Nathan Williams, a small-stakes online pro who noted that the rake changes mostly wouldn’t affect his play. “However, I also understand the position of PokerStars. They are a business and therefore they have every right to adjust their pricing as they see fit.”

Other players were less kind, painting the move as one that was shortsighted and bad for the poker community.

“This is terrible for the players, especially those who play on a regular basis,” said Jonathan Little. “While this initial rake increase is fairly small, I can foresee other sites increasing their rake as well. Also, in the future, PokerStars may decide to further increase their rake, making the games unprofitable for even the best players.”

Shannon Shorr went a step further, saying that even the changes already made could end up killing the games that they’ve impacted.

“I think some of these recent changes do diminish the PokerStars brand,” Shorr said. “The changes are being made with the idea of increasing profits, but the reality to us insiders is that they are so obviously going to kill the games and actually hurt Amaya’s bottom line.”

Negreanu Defended PokerStars’ Actions

These statements are in line with those made by many players in the wake of PokerStars’ announcement of the increased rakes on Hyper-Turbo tournaments and some cash games,although perhaps more moderate and more understanding of the position of PokerStars. They’re also quite different from the comments made by Daniel Negreanu, who is a longtime member of Team PokerStars.

“While I get it, nobody gets excited over rake increases, I think it’s really important to note that PokerStars remains the cheapest place to play online poker,” Negreanu wrote at FullContactPoker.com. “The rake increases are still smaller than what the competition offer, and that’s before you account for the generous VIP programs.”

But those words fell flat with many poker fans who saw Negreanu’s comments as little more than a defense of his employers. And while some players agree with Negreanu’s assessment that PokerStars’ rake levels are still competitive, they also say it might be time for some new competition to step up and challenge them.

“Hopefully someone out there will finally get their act together in case this is just the first of many changes,” Galfond said. “The biggest reason I think this could be a misstep is that PokerStars has cracked open a door for other sites that had previously been dead bolted.”

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