PokerStars Poo-Poos Boycott
Last week saw around 2,500 (publicly announced) players boycott PokerStars for three days, protesting the changes to the poker site’s VIP program that are to go into effect on January 1st, 2016. On Wednesday, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Amaya Inc. and PokerStars Eric Hollreiser commented on the protest and the complaints about the changes.
In a nutshell, the boycott didn’t help and PokerStars is forging ahead. Wrote Hollreiser, “The recent three-day boycott by some players that disagree with our announced VIP changes did not have a significant impact on PokerStars, as traffic actually spiked through the period as a result of the start of our long-planned holiday promotion.”
On Monday, November 30th, the day before the boycott began, PokerScout reported PokerStars’ peak cash game as 24,544. On December 1st, the first day of the boycott, that peak shot up to 37,758, 54 percent higher than the previous day and 65 percent higher than the previous Tuesday. Traffic dipped back down the following two days, but was still up from both Monday and the same days the week before.
The promotion to which Hollreiser was referring is the Christmas Calendar portion of the Christmas Festival. During each day of the promotion, players will be greeted with a new offer – the first one just so happened to be a Milestone Hand promo. Milestone Hands always create spikes in traffic, as players at a table that is dealt a certain milestone hand – say, every millionth hand on the nose – receive special cash prizes, win or lose (though the hand’s winner receives more). PokerStars also typically gives prizes to everyone at tables that match the game type and stakes of the milestone table. Thus, thousands of players flock to PokerStars and multi-table to try to get dealt into the lucky hands.
While the Christmas Calendar promotion was already scheduled, it is entirely possible that PokerStars purposely made the first promo a Milestone Hand promo, as it knew it would be able to counteract any possible effects of the boycott.
Hollreiser spent much of the blog post explaining that players were warned several times throughout the year that the VIP changes would be made and that Amaya even decided to both delay the elimination of Supernova Elite for a year and not reduce upper-tier VIP benefits as much in 2016 because the company realized it was handing customers a tough pill to swallow.
Near the end of the blog, Hollreiser once again said that the boycott didn’t accomplish much of anything:
As we have in the past, we will continue to make changes to ensure our ecosystem is healthy and vibrant. We know and understand that players won’t always agree with these changes. We’ll do our best to communicate them early and with as much transparency and frequency as possible.
In that spirit of transparency, we can tell you that we did see effects from the recent boycott that give us even greater confidence that our strategy is on the right track to improve the health of the ecosystem. During the three-day boycott we recorded the healthiest consecutive three-day ecosystem results of the year with steady net gaming revenue, even though our net-depositing players lost at a much lower rate than they have all year. As we have seen with Spin & Go’s, which have higher retention levels than cash games due to the increased winning experiences provided to all players, we believe this decreased loss rate will result in those players’ deposits lasting longer and retention rates improving, resulting in more deposits and more money in the system because players are enjoying their time at the tables more. This is the right foundation for us to build upon.
PokerStars insists that more promos, games, and features are coming next year that will improve the experience for recreational players, including four $1 million freerolls.
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