Carbon/Aced Poker and Merge Gaming made a few changes on October 1st that have been met with much dislike and overall unhappiness despite a rather nice silver lining. Carbon Poker/Aced Poker gutted their VIP program, trimming it down to just three tiers. The highest tier is “invite only” and there is no indication of how you would actually achieve this level. All of the freerolls that used to be a mainstay in the client have also been eliminated and Merge Gaming has decided to ring-fence SportsBook and Players’ Only multi-table tournaments, with the exception of three large tournaments a day.
The first major change that will affect the largest number of players is the fact that the VIP system now only has three tiers and the highest rakeback that a player can reach without getting invited to the highest tier is only 15%. This is a steep decrease from the 35% offered last month to the biggest grinders, the 25% to the 2nd tier, and the 19% offered to the 3rd tier of players raking the most money. The “invite-only” level of the new system does offer 35% rakeback, but there are no guidelines on how to reach that level and contacting customer service doesn’t yield any more indications about how a player would reach this tier. This essentially takes away most of the rewards for players and shows an overall decrease in money back to about 75-80% of players, on the conservative side.
The second move was to remove all the freerolls that had been a mainstay of the schedule for a lot of smaller stakes players who tried to build up bankrolls on Carbon Poker/Aced Poker without depositing. There haven’t been any announcements about why this happened and support seems to be fairly elusive as to why they were removed as well. There was some indication from Merge that they would take a look at putting them back into the client, but no timetable was given. This may sound small, but considering that many changes at Merge Gaming take a significant portion of time, there is no real indication of when it will actually take place and could realistically be months before they are added back in. It’s something that any player interested in seeing them returned in a timely fashion should contact support about and make their voice heard.
The last negative move was actually something that Carbon Poker/Aced Poker had to endure, rather than an active bad choice by their management. Players’ Only and Sportsbook have decided to segregate their player pools even further by only offering a very limited amount of tournaments. They had previously segregated their cash game and sit-n-go pools in previous months, so it is not a completely unprecedented move, but it also lacks a lot of explanation. The reasons for removing your players from a certain pool is typically because you don’t want them to lose too fast as can happen in cash games, but tournaments don’t allow that to happen as much and making sure that they can never hit a huge score can cause some major problems in enticing the players to even play at all.
All of this comes on the same day that Carbon Poker/Aced Poker officially rolled out a new MTT schedule. They added about 80% more MTT’s and substantially increased their offering to micro and low-stakes players. The guarantees are lower than what many players are used to, but it has been reiterated many times that everything will be monitored and adjusted as things become clearer. This will allow for players of all buy-in levels to have plenty of tournaments to play, unlike on other U.S.-facing sites such as Bovada. A further bonus of the new schedule is that all blind levels and procedures are now standardized. There no longer will be a question of what the rules are for a particular tournament as everything should have roughly the same rules across different stakes.
Carbon Poker/Aced Poker, and Merge Gaming to a greater extent, are having many problems right now that casts at least some doubt on what the direction of the network truly is. While they took a huge step forward by offering a new MTT schedule that really standardized everything and offered new levels to players, they also took steps backward by gutting the VIP program and eliminating freerolls. The decisions made over the next few months will shape the future of the network and it’s really hard to gather what those decisions will actually be.