PokerStars‘ announcement earlier this month of new changes ahead that include revamping the player loyalty program has apparently prompted some players to already find a new online poker home.
Although the remake of the VIP program won’t take effect until January 1, 2016, cash game player traffic has tumbled 3.3% in the last 10 days since PokerStars released the details of the changes on November 1. The announcement has been met with a great deal of criticism from online pros who play for high stakes and high volume, as their expected incomes will take a beating next year as a result.
Pretty shocked that @PokerStars isn't honouring SNE for 2016 for those that earned it in 2015. C'mon Stars, honour what you advertised!— Adam Schwartz (@PokercastAdam) November 3, 2015
To briefly recap the changes effective in the new year: FPP’s will be known as StarCoin and be worth only $0.01; rewards for PlatinumStar players will decrease 10% on average, up to 27% for Supernova and up to 60% for Supernova Elite; capped rewards for the highest VIP levels; no VPPs earned at various high stakes games beginning at $5-$10 and up; and restriction of certain third-party software to be introduced.
According to PokerScout.com, cash game player traffic at PokerStars sat at a seven-day average of 15,000 on Nov. 1, the day of the announced changes. That number has dropped to 14,500 as of this writing. The iPoker Network and Partypoker may be among the poker rooms that benefited from PokerStars’ decrease, as both saw a boost in ring game player traffic.
Player Strike in Motion
Player traffic at the world’s top site may decrease further if a player strike that is currently being organized gathers any steam. A number of the most vocal players incensed at the loyalty program revamp are of the mind that “PokerStars is killing online poker” and used those very words as the heading of a new website designed to urge players to strike.
The website, www.theykillpoker.com, encourages players opposed to the changes to cashout at PokerStars and Full Tilt come January 1, 2016 and to not return until parent company Amaya relents. Players in favor of the strike are also suggested to state their concerns to PokerStars support via email.
Market Monopoly to Shrink?
PokerStars rose to the top of the online poker market after the UIGEA was enacted in 2006 and the previous market leader, Partypoker, departed. A stranglehold on the market has been theirs practically ever since, currently averaging more cash game players than the rest of the top ten poker rooms and networks combined. And four of those other top ten sites are poker rooms operated by Amaya: Full Tilt, plus the PokerStars sites in Italy, France and Spain.
The VIP program changes continue to be a matter of contention among a number of players, many of whom seem irate enough to perhaps take their business elsewhere. Whether the loss of 500 ring game players in the 10 days since the controversial changes were announced is a sign of things to come remains to be seen.