Poker Pros Report on Meeting With PokerStars Reps

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Over the weekend, professional poker player Dani “Ansky” Stern posted a statement by him and fellow players Isaac Haxton and Daniel Dvoress on Two Plus Two to relay their thoughts on their meeting with Amaya Gaming and PokerStars representatives at Amaya’s headquarters in Montreal. The meeting was scheduled so that the two sides could discuss the VIP program changes that went into effect on PokerStars at the start of this year. As readers are likely well aware, when the changes were announced in October, many players, particularly high stakes, high volume players at the upper tiers of the VIP program, were outraged, as many benefits were removed or worsened. Benefits in 2016 for those who reached the Supernova Elite status in 2015 were decreased, Supernova and Supernova Elite were eliminated altogether, VPPs were removed from high stakes cash games, and more.

“Going into the meeting, our highest priority was to address PokerStars’ decision not to give the 2016 rewards they had promised to players earning SN and SNE statuses in 2015,” wrote Stern.  “We presented our view that the VIP program, as advertised on the PokerStars website until November 2015, was an agreement between PokerStars and the impacted players. We emphasized that failing to honor that agreement is not just a ‘miscommunication,’ but an ongoing breach of trust. We reminded them that it is not too late to make it right.”

PokerStars and Amaya reps apologized, but that was it. They weren’t going to backtrack on anything.

Ansky said that it appeared PokerStars wanted to convince the three players of two things: the current poker ecosystem has problems and that the VIP changes will be step in fixing those problems. Ansky admitted that PokerStars made a “compelling” case towards the first point, presenting “strong evidence” of the issues at hand. Because of a non-disclosure agreement, he could not divulge more.

“However, we did not feel that we were shown convincing evidence that any of the changes implemented so far would directly impact issues with the game ecology or the playing experience of recreational players,” he continued. “They did not offer any evidence to support the (rather counter intuitive) claim that taking more money out of the games would produce a benefit for any players. In fact, the only mechanism by which they even suggested that might be true was that it would free up additional money for Stars to devote to other initiatives such as advertising, R&D and player retention.”

The trio didn’t make much headway on any other issues, such as hyper Sit-and-Go rake and the elimination of VPPs in high stakes cash games. Ansky said later in the thread that they were at a disadvantage, as PokerStars/Amaya presented financial and other data that the players had never seen and for which they were therefore not prepared. They did their best to refute some of the evidence, but there was only so much they could do.

“We deeply regret that we are not bringing back any good news for the players. We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes,” Ansky wrote.

Amaya’s VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser issued his own statement on the meeting, basically saying what he has been saying, that the company regrets any lack of communication, but the changes are for the best.

He wrote, in part:

In considering changes, we believe we are successfully balancing our responsibility to recreational players, the game of poker, and the interests of our employees and shareholders against the expectations of our professional poker player community.

It is common for people to disagree on interpretation of data and the insights gained from this interpretation. As we expressed in the meeting, we are open to continued dialogue regarding our analysis and whether the changes will accomplish our goals. Although it’s very early, the initial data seems to confirm that we made the right decision with the VIP Club changes as player bankrolls are lasting longer in ring games and net deposits are up.

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