PokerStars stunned the poker world on Tuesday when it announced that it is capping the number of simultaneous cash game tables at which one can play at just four. This number, down from 24, applies to “regular” cash game tables. Zoom Poker games and tournaments are unaffected.

PokerStars liked what it saw in tests

The decision comes after a test in Italy in which PokerStars limited multi-tabling to six tables. The poker room said that it wanted to see what impact it had both on players who usually played more than six tables at once and those who only played a single table at a time.

It was thought at one point that these table limit tests had to do with pace of play, but PokerStars supposedly found that average pace of play didn’t vary much when people multi-tabled. What multi-tabling did affect were the peak delays; when a multi-tabler slowed down to make a big decision, he really slowed down, holding up all the other tables.

Goal is to be more rec-friendly

But yesterday’s announcement had very little to do with slow downs. Instead, it had to do with protecting recreational players:

Without careful management, we risk ending up with an environment where the majority of players find themselves at tables disproportionately populated by multi-tabling players. This can lead to a difficult playing experience. Action at the tables can be regularly interrupted, and many players can feel outmatched and that their chances of winning are diminished.

The announcement explained further:

We want to maintain a sustainable poker ecosystem and a platform that players of all abilities are excited to play on well into the future. Attracting and retaining new poker players is crucial to the future of the game. By reducing the table cap from 24 to 4, we are reducing the number of multi-tabling players and increasing the number of more casual one-table players at each table. This should lead to increased win rates on any individual table for the strongest players, while increasing the likelihood that single-table players will meet others like themselves. As a result, they’ll have more chance of experiencing winning sessions and continue to play in the longer term.

So the idea here is that multi-tablers are usually pros or very strong amateur players, which makes sense. They are trying to maximize earnings and playing lots of tables at once gives them more volume with which to add up even small win-rates. Rakeback amasses more quickly, as well. But the more highly skilled players there are, the harder it is for recreational players to win.

Poker world reacts negatively

The poker community, for the most part, is quite upset with this. PokerStars has historically been the best place for pros to grind, but with these new restrictions, many cash game grinders are going to look elsewhere unless they want to play Zoom Poker.

PokerStars certainly understands the concern, but it is ultimately making the decision it thinks is best for its bottom line.

“We’re poker players ourselves,” PokerStars said. “We understand that this change will have a very real impact on many players, particularly those of you who rely on multi-tabling as professionals. We haven’t taken this decision lightly, and we are confident this is the right thing to do for the future of the game.”

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