Information has now been released regarding last week’s sit-down between PokerStars/Amaya executives and three pro players who met in Montreal to discuss the changes to the site’s VIP program that went into effect the 1st of the year.
The three players, Dani Stern, Daniel Dvoress and Isaac Haxton, posted their statement on 2 + 2 on Saturday evening, January 23, while PokerStars followed with a post by VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser on the PokerStars Corporate Blog on Monday the 25th.
Those hoping to hear nitty-gritty details with regard to financial matters discussed at the meeting are s**t out of luck. The pros were required to sign non-disclosure agreements, as data shared by the PokerStars honchos was deemed confidential. The trio of players were privy to the kind of information that could cause a swing in share prices if revealed.
The biggest issue the pros wanted to address was the slashing of rewards for Supernova and Supernova Elite players in 2016. Players at those levels worked hard in 2015 in order to earn the promised rewards the following year under a two-year program. The pro representatives called it a “breach of trust” and pointed out that there was still time to honor the old rakeback percentages for this year.
Other issues discussed were the removal of VPP rewards at high stakes cash games, the inability to beat high stakes hyper Sit & Go games under the new rakeback scheme, and a player proposal to reduce rake in some games and increase it in others in order to better reward the players most impacted by the new VIP program.
The pro players admitted to being shown data that proved that the poker room ecosystem at PokerStars had some problems that needed to be addressed. However, the players were unconvinced that the VIP changes made will rectify those issues and make the game more enjoyable and palatable for the recreational players that PokerStars so covets. The pros summed up the result of the meeting this way:
“We deeply regret that we are not bringing back any good news for the players. We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes.”
The goals of PokerStars were shared with the players, as was a wealth of financial data and plans for the future. Hollreiser stated that it was never the company’s intention to so anger the high stakes and high volume players, and admitted to feeling regret in so doing. The players’ concerns were heard at the meeting and duly noted, and it is the desire of PokerStars to continue to listen and give the players a voice when disagreements arise.
It was again reiterated that the VIP changes were needed in order for PokerStars to remain healthy and grow. Recreational players are the lifeblood of a poker room, and the loyalty program was modified with that in mind. More depositing players who are able to stretch those deposits further and have fun in the process is crucial to the PokerStars ecosystem.
It was pointed out that VIP rewards are no longer structured as a two-year program. As is their right, PokerStars can modify the amount of benefits given to players at any time. Communication regarding such changes will in the future be both clear and consistent.
“In considering changes, we believe we are successfully balancing our responsibility to recreational players, the game of poker, and the interests of our employees and shareholders against the expectations of our professional poker player community,” Hollreiser stated.