The other day I was browsing through some of my poker forum posts seeking to confirm a long-forgotten customer service response from PokerStars. I remembered a really great reply I once got to an admittedly unimpressive email shipped from “dhubermex” to Stars Customer Support back when I was a pro.
Sure enough, search engines worked their magic and I found what I was looking for.
The Back Story
In July 2007, with expectation as a full time online poker pro diminishing, I nearly had my first losing month. After frothing at the mouth, squeezing the shit out of some FPP-acquired stress toy and increasing my volume, I decided to lay an egg on PokerStars Customer Support.
My email was typical of any bad beater, laced with some obligatory frustration and questioning. My email received a response in less than four hours. Like any radically tight Joey Knish style pro, I was worried about risk of ruin as a Supernova in $20 Sit & Gos — with about $12,000 in my poker account. At the time, Supernova meant a minimum rake contribution of $20,000 to Pokerstars each year.
The thread containing the full exchange is linked below.
The Real Story
I probably just happened to catch Stuart W on a good day. He could have justifiably answered back with something along the lines of, “I see tons of bad beat emails every day, please let me concentrate on real issues and you get back to your thing.” Ironically that’s the line I used when dealing with bad beaters once I started moderating the PocketFives boards and it almost always got over the right way.
But Stuart W — armed with a genuine respect for a fellow poker player and loyal client along with a desire to provide clarity — came through with a Gem Mint Ten that’s rarely seen in the customer service realm.
His reply can be boiled down to a pleasant Introduction, followed by a Compliment, then Defining the question and pointing me in the right direction.
On top of that, I was not disrespected in any way for being a winning player on the PokerStars platform. Sure, things have changed in the last decade, but there’s no disadvantage to giving a thoughtful reply despite having fundamental disagreements with a specific portion of your customer base. (You might also notice that the replies in that thread were all positive towards Stars, so forum posters can play nice, too.)
After explaining how to calculate Risk of Ruin using Winrate and Standard Deviation plus recommending a few books authored by TwoPlusTwo “Top Dog” Mason Malmuth, Stuart ended with the following.
“You’re clearly a very good poker player, and clearly have better bankroll
management than most. Going on a 120 buyin downswing and not going broke
really is commendable. 120 buyin downswings are extremely, extremely rare
for a proven long term winner like yourself. I hope that you can put this
behind you and get back to winning ways soon. You have a statistical edge in
these games, and I imagine you have a bankroll which is giving you a
negligible risk of ruin. I’m beginning to rant myself now, so I’ll leave it
at that. I hope at least some of what I have written has been helpful.
Please do not hesitate to write back to us with any questions you may have.”
Getting such an “A++ would read again” response from an official representative of the world’s largest poker site may seem like an impossibility in 2016, but there’s no doubt the potential is there from a slew of Stars employees who continue with the company after years of service.
Over-Qualification in the Poker Industry
The mainstream use of massive platforms such as YouTube and Twitter have significantly shifted industries to lean on overqualified personalities to lead the way. Poker is no exception.
Winning poker players, especially those who have been around for years, are supremely overqualified. The same goes for those PokerStars reps we sometimes rant about (here’s looking at you, Daniel Negreanu, Lee Jones, Stuart W & Co). Even in “poker media” each personality has a range of topics that he or she is authoritative on.
Because of this, we are smack-dab in the middle of the Golden Age for Poker Media. There are more than enough resources (from poker forums to news sites and live streams) to get every knowable opinion on any industry-related issue in existence.
Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t a whole lot of punches being pulled in media reporting these days. If Joey Ingram can insinuate there are rampant online poker bot issues, if Jaime Staples can out Twitch Poker viewer bot schemes, and if I can get offers for people to pay me on the side for more David Baazov Jokes, all I have to say is daaaamn. (I told them no, but lol).
If you want my take on it, the tradewinds for floatin’ PokerStars a softie áre so strongly against at this point that I’m considering writing a fluff piece for how intriguing it could potentially be.
The Wrap Up
Luckily for me I went on the heater of a lifetime immediately following that archived email exchange. I may be one of the few who exited professional poker immediately following a bankroll boost. Good for me that I reached the conclusion that there was a beef in the numbers due to my decreasing skill level rather than typical variance I suppose.
As far as PokerStars and its relationship with the affiliates and high volume players it changed the rules on, a large portion of the poker community is able to distinguish the brand name from the high profile personalities who have waddled through the Public Relations mess that was 2015.
DNegs & Mister ToC didn’t make those decisions, and for whatever shortcomings they have as fellow contributors to the community, they’re highly authoritative in their areas. Perhaps that fact along with Stuart W’s Internet Gold can serve as a reminder that colleagues on the other side of fundamental disagreements are still cut from the same cloth.
The PokerStars veteran representatives are informed, and they are quite capable when they want to be… just like we all are. Poker industry interests may not be fully aligned like they were back in 2007, but that can shift swiftly in today’s instant feedback environment. All three branches of our industry (Operators/Players/Media) benefit from smoothing things over a bit, so there might be some positive surprises in store once a critical percentage comes to terms with that.
While you’re waiting for that to happen and discovering the GTO Metagame PvP Strategy for Dark Souls III, read over what Stuart W had to say and let me know if you think such an email would make it out of PokerStars HQ in 2016.