PokerStars publicly addressed the recent boycott held by online poker players upset over recent changes made by the company. Their response? You failed. Here’s some freerolls to compensate.
On Wednesday, PokerStars VP of Corporate Communication Eric Hollreiser issued a press release titled “Four $1 Million Freerolls Planned for 2016.” After an opening paragraph announcing four $1 million freeroll tournaments in 2016, the presser addresses the recent boycott and essentially claims victory for the PokerStars brand.
Sorry for Not Communicating Clearer, But We’re Not Changing a Thing
Over the next few paragraphs, Hollreiser admits that PokerStars failed to properly communicate their intentions. Per the presser, “In hindsight, we could have communicated to players more often that significant changes were coming in 2016. We could have been more explicit that these changes would be significant and would take effect in 2016. And we could have noted this on our VIP web pages that gave details of the program.”
The next section we did find interesting. He starts by stating that they sincerely apologize to players not expecting significant cuts in 2016. He continues, “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. This was explicitly in recognition that players were grinding in 2015 in order to reap the maximum benefit for 2016.”
This raises a question of why didn’t they publicize it? Why did they instead bump up rewards and then let players work things out later? This seems like something that regular customers need to know.
After all the apologizing, players were informed of what we already expected. “We will not alter those plans. The current VIP program is no longer fit for its purpose. When combined with the increasing skill gap in the online poker market, the result is an increasingly poor experience for recreational and new players.”
Boycott Had “No Significant Impact” and “Gives Greater Confidence” They’re Right
Early in the presser, PokerStars reaffirmed what most of us already know. The boycott staged by players earlier this month had “no significant impact” as traffic spiked due to the holiday promotion.
Hollreiser drove this point home near the end of the presser. He claims that the company saw “effects from the recent boycott that give us greater confidence that our strategy is on the right track to improve the health of the ecosystem.”
According to Hollreiser, the company 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.”
Boycott against PokerStars is on. Dec 1st – Dec 3rd. Please avoid playing and withdraw at least $1 from your account. Join the fight!— Justin Bonomo (@JustinBonomo) November 30, 2015
Hollreiser claims that the decreased loss rates from players will ultimately result in deposits lasing longer and retention rates among those players will improve. This means more deposits into the company. He called this “the right foundation for us to build upon.”
That’s not an unreasonable assumption. If players’ deposits are lasting them longer, there is a chance they will stick around, deposit more and try to win or at least have more fun while losing.
Would Better Planning Have Made a Difference? Probably Not
There are some, including myself, that have stated this boycott could have been planned better and should have been executed on a non-promotion weekend. Running such a boycott at the start of a major promotion had failure written on it from the start.
It was also interesting that this boycott was not done on a weekend or at least starting on a Sunday. Sunday is tourney day and a well-executed boycott on a major Sunday would have given a more realistic idea of how many players would actually stand against PokerStars.
Ultimately, I’m not convinced that even a well-planned boycott would have caused the company to change their minds. PokerStars has made their vision clear for the future and it does not include the high volume players that helped get them where they are today.
With that said, it is not PokerStars’ job to employ online poker pros or to pad their bankrolls. They are a business and will do what is needed to stay profitable. If they have to piss off some high volume players or lose a percentage of their former customer base, they will.
The loss will not force them out of business and they will find a way to recoup those losses in the future. The wheels will continue to turn with new cogs. Players now have to choose whether they can live with the changes or find a new online poker home.