A planned “sit-out” protest by PokerStars’ regulars passed largely unnoticed yesterday. The protest had been organized on the 2+2 forums in response to numerous changes made on the world’s largest online poker site since Amaya Gaming purchased the brand earlier this year.
It has had little tangible effect, failing to even wring a statement out of the PokerStars PR team within the thread itself.
Protest Tactics Overplayed
Those participating had hoped to duplicate the awareness and limited success of a similar protest made against rake increases by PokerStars in 2012.
However, the online poker landscape has changed considerably since that time. With PokerStars holding an effective monopoly over viable options for online grinders, there is little incentive for the company to be concerned with the demands of high-volume players like it had been in the past.
This fact of the current state of the online poker economy is not lost on the community. The 2012 thread saw a large volume of activity and optimism leading up to the date of the protest. This time, it took a mere fifteen minutes after the idea was floated on the forums for user ‘413AceKing’ to write this blunt response to the idea of players forcing a change:
“Yea, that’s just not how things work anymore.”
NLHE CAP Players Follow Through
The only segment of PokerStars’ player base able to make noticeable changes in the client was those who frequent the mid-stakes and high-stakes CAP games, where the maximum each player has available to them at the start of any hand is twenty big blinds.
This was not entirely surprising given that the rake increase for this format is much more drastic than any other. Many regular players of this format are amongst the most vocal in arguing that the rake increase at PokerStars will make games unbeatable in the future.
At one point, many of the $10/20 to $25/50 CAP tables had more than 20 players sitting on the wait-list (see poker lobby image above) instead of generating rake through play.
However, although visually present, this mild following failed to make any tangible progress towards their goals.
The War on Regs Divides the Community
Perhaps the most interesting sub-plot to the rake increase drama that has unfolded over the last week is the lack of a unanimous condemnation by the community.
In fact, the criticism of PokerStars coming from high-volume players has actually been met with indignation on the part of online poker enthusiasts who do not necessarily play the game strictly for monetary gain. While high-volume players lament the perceived “war on regs,” many others in the playing community are, in fact, welcoming it.
This more casual segment of the regular player base is largely indignant at the tight, hyper-aggressive style that currently dominates the tables at PokerStars.
While it is probably a stretch to say that anyone is “happy” to see the price of poker going up, many are openly expressing satisfaction at the prospect of the rake increase causing a mass exodus of grinders who can no longer turn a profit.
Players Must Accept New Realities
Since “Black Friday,” PokerStars has had a virtual monopoly on the global liquidity online poker market.
Under the Scheinbergs’ ownership, the company did not behave like a traditional monopoly. It had remained largely open to player feedback, declined to increase prices, and even intervened to make good on the debts incurred by a competitor. However, those days could hardly be expected to last forever.
The failure of this recent protest to have any effect – or to even unite the community – shows, if nothing else, that they are now definitely over.