PokerStars Cash Game Traffic Unfazed by Boycott
This week, PokerStars players staged a boycott of the world’s largest online poker room in protest of the announced changes to the site’s VIP system. The sit-out lasted three days – December 1st through December 3rd – and was, as Dani “Ansky” Stern put it, a “display of power” with the full knowledge that it would not put much of a dent in PokerStars’ traffic. It certainly didn’t, or at least it is going to be very hard to tell if it did.
On Monday, November 30th, the day before the boycott was to begin, PokerStars’ peak cash game traffic was 24,544 players, according to PokerScout.com. The boycott had somewhere around 2,500 participants that made their names publicly known, so if things went according to plan, one might naturally expect Tuesday’s total to be 22,000 or even much lower, as PokerScout counts one person playing on multiple tables as multiple people. We don’t know what the site’s average traffic was on the first day of the boycott, but the peak went in the complete opposite direction; traffic skyrocketed to 37,758 cash game players.
Now, that number is likely that high because a phase of PokerStars’ Christmas Festival promotion began Tuesday, so there is a good chance that players were logging in to check it out. It is entirely possible that the number would have been even higher without the boycott, but it would be very difficult to tell.
On Wednesday and Thursday, PokerStars’ traffic was still higher than it was the day before the boycott, but only very slightly, up five percent and two percent, respectively. When compared to the same day of the week a week earlier, Wednesday’s traffic was up 12 percent and Thursday’s traffic was up 9 percent. Again, perhaps PokerStars’ traffic would have been higher if players weren’t boycotting, but the protesters can’t like the fact that their sit-out at least didn’t appear to hurt at all.
As a guest on Joe “ChicagoJoey” Ingram’s podcast on Monday, Team PokerStars pro Daniel Negreanu expressed concern that the boycott could backfire. While he supported those who felt the need to boycott (he himself was not happy with PokerStars’ communication of the VIP changes, even if he did agree with their intended direction), he felt it had more upside than downside. “Imagine they go three days and numbers are up,” he said.
The boycott has certainly received support in the poker community, but it has also been criticized by some. Some people think the term “boycott” is misleading, as it implies that players would sit-out until some sort of demands are met, whereas in this case, there was a defined end to the protest, regardless of what happened. Additionally, the boycott did not take place on Sunday, the day of the week during which there are several popular tournaments, ones that upper-tier VIP players often play. Skeptics felt it was convenient that the protesters did not have to opt-out of those tourneys.
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