Since being bought out by Amaya, Pokerstars have undergone controversial changes. The removal of popular promotion 'Battle of the Planets' coupled with planned rake increases and other money saving initiatives, left many of their loyal customers feeling undervalued. Some of the changes were eventually reversed, but the simmering discontent took time to recede. The dust had more or less settled after those events, but has now once again been kicked up by new upheaval.
On November 1st, Pokerstars announced an overhaul of their VIP system, along with policy changes for third party software, and promotions.
New VIP System
The new VIP system will be implemented on January 1st 2016. VIP Club rewards will be capped at 30%, impacting substantially high-volume Supernova and SupernovaElite status players winnings. Players between Bronze and Gold star levels should expect little change in their rewards, but Platinum players can expect a 10% drop. Another change is that there will no longer be VPPs for pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5/$10 or higher, 8-game with limits of $10/$20 or higher, and other limit games with blinds of $10/$15 or higher. This hits the highest volume grinders very hard, along with high stakes players.
FPP's change into StarsCoin
Not content with dropping one bombshell, Pokerstars have also announced they are changing their FPP's into a StarsCoin currency. Reports suggest that this will lead to a 25% drop in value. To explain this from a critical perspective, Pokerstars currently may have USD$105 million worth of FPPs sitting in player accounts. If players (many of whom are dormant) don't cash out their FPPs in the next two months, Pokerstars effectively ends up seizing 25% of them during the currency switch, which frees up 25% of that money, and translates into a tidy profit.
Will high volume players quit PokerStars?
Pokerstars have spoken of regaining a balance, where recreational players are more valued and rewarded compared to high stakes players and those who grind out enormous volume. It is being marketed as redistributing bonuses to help enrich the playing experience of recreational players. The critics would of course point out that bonuses for Gold star players and below will barely change at all.
New advertising campaigns
New advertising campaigns are also being spoken of as a way to bring in new players, which will hopefully help reinvigorate the poker economy for the long term. But the main change which could genuinely help restore the core principles of the game, is the plan to ban HUDs. This is scheduled to be implemented through 2016 and will ensure that all the information a player uses to make a decision has been harvested by his own mind, rather than a piece of software which is invisible to unsuspecting recreational players. Rumours have suggested that Pokerstars may in fact give every player their own simple HUD to help them along, rather than banning them altogether, but it seems we will have to wait until next year for this picture to become clearer.
The drastic actions which hope to refresh the poker economy will be unpopular with many of the most loyal customers Pokerstars have, but to prevent online poker from stagnating, it seems necessary. The big concern being voiced by some players though, is that Pokerstars are simply grabbing cash in deceptive ways and attempting to disguise it as a necessary shift that will benefit non professional players. 2016 promises to be an interesting year for Pokerstars.
Discussing Pokerstars VIP changes with Dani Stern aka Ansky