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On November 30th, just hours before a player-based  boycott of PokerStars was scheduled to begin, Team PokerStars Pro Daniel Negreanu made a special appearance on the Poker Life Podcast, hosted by Joey Ingram.

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The 100-minute podcast began with a one-on-one interview segment between Ingram and Negreanu, and was later turned into a three-way interview segment that included high-volume PokerStars customer Dani “ansky” Stern.

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Stern, who is one of the PokerStars players who will be most severely affected by recent PokerStars VIP Club changes that will eliminate the SuperNova Elite rewards tier starting January 2016, is spearheading the current boycott of PokerStars which is taking place now thru Thursday, December 3rd. The PokerStars Boycott Thread he created on November 27th in the TwoPlusTwo News, Views & Gossip online poker community forum has so far received approximately 300 replies.

Negreanu Approves of Changes, Upset With PokerStars’ Communication

The elimination or reduction of player rewards for high-volume PokerStars players is a concept that Kid Poker Daniel Negreanu believes in. Calling the recent VIP Club alterations by the world’s largest poker site “inevitable,” the all-time leading poker tournament money winner has made it clear he believes PokerStars’ focus has historically been geared too far in the favor of high-volume players.

However, Negreanu repeatedly brought up his disgust with how the changes were communicated to players in the November 30th Poker Life Podcast interview with Joey Ingram. Although PokerStars players received a generic email notification from PokerStars back in October 2014 that there “might” be changes coming soon to the PokerStars VIP Club rewards program, the actual ramifications of that notice were practically dumped onto the poker world a month ago.

Daniel Negreanu

I see it as a broken promise,” Negreanu said. The 41-year old Canadian cited PokerStars players who may have decided to strive for the top SuperNova Elite rewards tier earlier this year, only to find out that the top-level rewards step would be eliminated altogether before 2016. Negreanu repeatedly expressed disgust with how the changes were relayed to players, but also remains adamant that they are necessary in order to improve the long-term viability of the online game.

Would Lower Rake Help Sustain PokerStars’ Player Pool?

This has been a contentious issue that has been brought up multiple times by “serious” online poker players who feel they are bearing the brunt of the criticism for gobbling-up a once-thriving recreational player pool. Chicago Joey asked Negreanu his stance on the potential of lowering rake to ensure inferior poker players are able to survive longer in an online poker environment that is dominated by informed players.

After making it clear that he is not the person who makes final executive decisions for the Amaya or PokerStars brands, Negreanu referenced his employer’s status as a public company, and it’s reliance on prioritizing its stock price.

In Negreanu’s opinion, lowering the rake might enable some smaller stakes players to remain in the online poker economy a while longer, but it would have a negative impact on the revenue generation of PokerStars. As an example, he offered that if PokerStars is receiving $240 million in annual deposits from new players and is paying out $252 million in player rewards to high-volume players, then that money “has to come from somewhere.”

*Note: There is no indication whether the numbers quoted by Negreanu are random or represent actual PokerStars figures.

Kid Poker Addresses Current “Player Strike”

Ingram broached the topic of the December 1st-3rd “Player Strike,” which an unspecified amount of PokerStars players are participating in. According to organizer Dani Stern, the aim of the strike is to persuade PokerStars to delay its elimination of the SuperNova Elite VIP tier until January 2017.

Both Negreanu and Ingram talked about the potential success of the strike, with the PokerStars player ambassador opining that it is unlikely to have any positive effect (although he did vehemently support all players’ rights to strike against or boycott any service).

Interview Reaches Impasse, “ansky” Joins Interview

Around the 50-minute mark, with Negreanu’s stance solidified, host Joey Ingram visibly appeared to to have reached an impasse with his guest. Ingram is clearly of the opinion that PokerStars’ changes will have a negative impact on the site’s online poker business in general, while Negreanu (along with his bosses at Amaya & Pokerstars) clearly disagree.

Joey Ingram

A few minutes later, Stern joined in the conversation and reiterated his thoughts on how devastating the PokerStars’ changes will be. Those thoughts are already documented and can be read in-full on the TwoPlusTwo forums.

Will The Player Boycott Change PokerStars’ Stance?

When Negreanu was asked by Ingram what the chances are that the player strike will result in changes on PokerStars’ decision to significantly reduce rewards for its high-volume customers, the $30.6 million live poker tournament winner seemed skeptical. “I wouldn’t say [I’m] all that optimistic right now,” Negreanu told Ingram.

What Happens Next?

Some of the players who are heavily involved in the current strike are considering extending their influence by “Sitting Out” at PokerStars tables during certain times and also boycotting PokerStars-sponsored events such as the European Poker Tour (EPT).

As far as the strike goes, it will take a few days (and some updated statistics from traffic-calculating website PokerScout), to determine just how effective or ineffective the boycott was. Affected players who are not part of the boycott, PokerStars, and poker media websites will all likely take a “wait and see” approach until the strike’s effectiveness can be measured.

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Final Thoughts

Kudos to Poker Life Podcast host Joey Ingram and his two guests, Daniel Negreanu and Dani Stern, for taking the time to give the poker community a real-time update on current events. Although the video interview is now archived, it was streamed live with thousands of fans tuning-in.

After watching Negreanu’s response to Ingram’s questions, it seems at this point that high-volume PokerStars will be fortunate to receive piecemeal solutions to their concerns that are nowhere in-line with their goal of maintaining most benefits for another year.

It’s worth noting that competing sites such as 888Poker and PartyPoker, which also offer online poker games to the Rest of World (RoW) market, aren’t exactly leaping at the opportunity to attract these high-volume players through large deposit bonuses. It could be that the ancient “network skin” online poker business model has already shown those sites just how quickly winning poker players can decrease a mostly recreational player pool, regardless of how much rake those “sharks” and “fish” pay.

What are your thoughts?

David Huber

David Huber has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade: initially as a professional online poker player and later as an editor, consultant, writer, and forum manager. Known as "dhubermex" online, David's poker-related work has been heavily published across numerous websites since 2004.

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