High-volume player exodus anticipated as online poker market leader implements latest price hike.
PokerStars, the world’s largest poker site, will soon launch a new rewards system for the entire Rest of World market, effectively eliminating all remnants of its popular VIP Rewards Club, and upping its fees by as much as 40 percent for high-volume customers.
A far cry from the days of VIP Scotty, customized concierge service and pro-friendly outreach, the new scheme is expected to further impersonalize a system that has consistently veered away from the interests of perennial rake contributors since Amaya Inc‘s June 2014 acquisition of Rational Group‘s assets.
“The current monthly volume-driven rakeback model will be retired and will be replaced with one that rewards a variety of factors, such as volume, stakes, how often players play, and net deposits,” stated PokerStars Director of Poker Room Operations Séverin Rasset in an official April 3rd blog communication. “We recognize that change can be challenging, but we believe that now is the right time to deliver a new way of rewarding play.”
The move comes roughly 18 months after the company’s notorious refusal to honor cashback payments to its Supernova and Supernova Elite players, and at long last brings Amaya’s corporate online poker vision to the forefront of real money Internet gambling.
Industry Braces for High-Volume Player Movement
Information posted on the Two Plus Two News, Views & Gossip Forum in recent weeks suggests that a significant amount of dedicated online poker players — many of whom have been loyal PokerStars customers for years — will indeed make the move to a competing site as a result of the changes.
Partypoker appears to be the early favorite to capitalize on the shift and has already experienced unseasonal growth since mid-May thanks to its own revamped player rewards system which incentivizes high-volume play, according to Poker Industry PRO.
READ: Partypoker Traffic Soars as Site Welcomes Back High-Volume Players (June 5, 2017)
However, it remains to be seen whether an influx of former PokerStars grinders will in fact represent a benefit to other sites (as this writer believes) or instead, relieve the world’s largest poker site of a demanding customer base its executives claim negatively affects the industry as a whole.
Will Rake Debate Finally Be Resolved?
The controversy over whether increasing rake and shunning pros is the correct line to bring more recreational players to online poker sites is likely to continue playing out on forums, podcasts, and a handful of poker media sites throughout the summer… only now with the community more focused than ever on traffic trends, tournament entry pools, quarterly earnings reports and player feedback.
In September of last year, Two Plus Two Publishing chief Mason Malmuth along with several high profile contributing members of the forum opened a dialogue to brainstorm potential solutions to the diminishing state of online poker. However, a lack of concrete operator data eventually resulted in the thread becoming inactive.
Moreover, growing concerns of a federal online poker ban in the United States along with a failed legislative push in the state of California and steep lobbying costs make online poker’s prospects even dimmer in key jurisdictions; leading some in the industry to believe that another round of online gaming Mergers & Acquisitions could be right around the corner.
Still… the life blood of any poker operation continues to be attracting and retaining actual players, which will make for an interesting second half of the 2017 calendar year as individual poker sites and their high-volume patrons decide how feasible it is to accommodate one another.
David Huber (known as “dhubermex” online) has been involved in the poker industry for more than a decade. He currently assists several poker and gaming entities as a researcher, writer, and consultant. Former Editor-in-Chief & Head Moderator of online tournament rankings site PocketFives (2006-2011).