The calendar page has flipped to a new year and with it comes a new boycott by PokerStars players. At the beginning of December 2015, about 2,500 players refused to play on the world’s largest online poker site for three days in protest of the VIP program changes that were scheduled to take effect on January 1st. Players got to organizing a second boycott shortly thereafter; this one was more ambitious, as it started on New Year’s Day and is scheduled to run for a week.
The boycott stems from the early-November announcement of the VIP program changes, changes which have stripped the higher stakes, higher volume players of many of the benefits of being that kind of player. The Supernova and Supernova Elite VIP levels were eliminated, benefits in 2016 for the players that earned those status levels in 2015 were reduced, VPPs are no longer awarded at high stakes cash game tables, and FPPs were converted to StarsCoins at an exchange rate that hurt their value. On top of all that, because the announcement of the changes was not made until late in 2015, players who had been grinding for the upper rungs of the VIP program were left swinging in the wind and felt, frankly, betrayed.
The first boycott ran from December 1st through December 3rd and was a bit tough to gauge. It happened to coincide with a Christmas-time promotion at PokerStars and therefore the influx of players to the site wanting to take advantage of the promo far outstripped the number of players who boycotted. As a result, cash game traffic actually went up at PokerStars during the boycott. PokerStars also said that the boycott didn’t really do any damage and just confirmed to the site that the VIP changes will be for the best.
The current boycott is being organized across several poker community sites such as Two Plus Two, tiltbook, and a boycott-specific site called weareallin.com. On Two Plus Two, one of the boycott’s organizers cited the goals of the protest:
a) Common goals and coordinated actions by all protest groups (Wearepokerplayers, Tiltbook, twoplustwo, other leaders, local communities)
b) We’ll grow our protest over time (we start small and eventually include as many players as we can).
c) As the numbers of our supporters grow, we’ll move our goal from attracting interest and attention to making a real financial hit to Amaya in order to make them negotiate.
He also listed out a number of demands and suggestions for PokerStars, all apparently agreed upon by boycott leadership:
rewards for all games and stakes offered
a rewards review in games that have a low percentage of winners
promised SN and SNE rewards for 2016
regularly scheduled meetings with players from the community
table starter rewards and happy hours
lowering microstakes rake
The plan this go around is for the protesters to refrain from playing at PokerStars from January 1st through January 7th as well as withdraw at least 10 percent of their PokerStars bankrolls. A second boycott is in the works, tentatively planned for February 2nd through February 11th.
Participation numbers a little hazy at this point, as boycott registration is scattered amongst different sites, as mentioned. About 2,200 players have officially registered on tiltbook and wearepokerplayers.com, but there might be some overlap. Many players have announced their intentions on Two Plus Two, but there is no official tally and again, there could be overlap with the other sites. It does appear, especially since some other poker community websites are involved, as well, that this boycott should at least match the numbers of the first one.
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