PokerStars has made yet another significant change to its online poker room policies, eliminating the ability for players to earn multiple seats into live tournaments via satellites. This is a massive departure from tradition, as many players (though not “many” relative to the total poker playing population) found satellites to be profitable endeavors past the initial tournament seat.
On the PokerStars blog, PokerStars Poker Operations Manager Mike Jones hearkened back to the 2003 World Series of Poker, which was famously won by amateur Chris Moneymaker, who also famously qualified for the WSOP Main Event via a $39 satellite on PokerStars. While satellites existed before then, they really weren’t all that popular as a means to gain entry into a bigger, more expensive tournament. Moneymaker’s success changed all that, though. Once amateur players saw what Moneymaker did, online satellites- not just at PokerStars – exploded. Now they are commonplace, woven into the fabric of online poker rooms.
Pokerstars, though, has seen the negative of satellites. Jones continued:
While recreational players dream of winning the poker experience of a lifetime with PokerStars, a fortunate and skilled few win multiple packages and seats to our live events, when they can only use one of them. These players have taken advantage of a system that allowed them to profit from winning against recreational or less experienced players. While this hasn’t been against the rules, it doesn’t make for as enjoyable experience as we would hope. The practice has, in fact, been off-putting for many, as we are seeing an increasing number of recreational players not even attempting to qualify for live events. This means that they are as a group less likely to experience the excitement that comes from playing live and the further investment in the poker world that comes from playing in a major live event.
The reason players continue to qualify for live events via satellites even after winning a seat is because they can convert the additional seats into cash. Say, for example, a person two prize packages for the WSOP Main Event via Stars satellites that pay for the $10,000 seat plus $2,500 in spending money for hotel and flights (I am just ballparking the prize package value). That player might use the first prize package to play in the Main Event, but since he is obviously just one person and can only occupy one seat, PokerStars gives him $12,500 for the second seat.
Many poker pros have taken advantage of this system over the years, often finding satellite fields to be softer than those of normal tournaments. Some pros win these things repeatedly, turning their seats into cash time after time.
PokerStars has seen the problem with this for recreational players, so starting with the satellites for PokerStars Festival Dublin, players can only win one prize package into the live tournament. No more playing in loads of satellites to win multiple seats.
“This limitation will, we hope, make sense to the majority of you and stand to reason as being fair,” wrote Jones. “We believe the change will create a more level playing field for all that want to visit our lower buy-in Festivals or experience the glitz and glamour of one of our bigger Championship events.”
PokerStars Festival Dublin runs September 25th through October 1st. Satellites are currently active at PokerStars.