A boycott of PokerStars has been planned from Tuesday to Thursday by players upset with the site´s changes to the higher levels of its VIP Program.
Earlier this month, we reported how changes to PokerStars´ VIP program to be introduced in January would cull top end benefits for many of the site´s high volume and high stakes players. There was plenty of angry words exchanged via social media at the time about the “recalibration of the rewards system” but now action is being taken in the form of a three-day boycott.
The boycott was instigated by Russian PokerStars players on the gipsyteam.ru poker forum, many of whom will suffer financially due to the removal of the Supernova Elite rewards level, and brought to the attention of the English-speaking world by Dani “ansky451” Stern – a high stakes poker pro from New York, who emigrated to Mexico after Black Friday to continue playing at PokerStars.
Testing the Level of Support
Stern started a thread of the 2+2 forum explaining that the boycott was being staged to test the level of support among high volume and high stakes PokerStars players. He wrote he was under no illusion that a three-day boycott of PokerStars would bring the company down, but asked for an effort to show PokerStars that there was a body of players opposed to the changes and not just individual discerning voices.
The boycott is planned to start at midnight tonight and run for 72 hours until midnight on Thursday. Players are also being asked to withdraw a small portion of their bankroll tomorrow (between 10 percent and 30 percent), which could lead to millions of dollars being removed from PokerStars accounts if a significant number of Supernova Elite players joined in with the effort.
Stern Receives Incredible Response
Despite the obvious temptation to play in what are likely to be much softer games over the next few days, there has been an incredible response to the proposed boycott. Stern initially said that the boycott would only go ahead if it was supported by more than one hundred players. At the last count on Sunday night, more than eighteen hundred players had committed to boycott PokerStars from tonight.
Many well-known names are among those who have committed to boycott PokerStars. Phil “MrSweets28” Galfond, Justin “ZeeJustin” Bonomo and Doug “WCGRider” Polk were among those to post on a dedicated 2+2 thread that they would refrain from playing on PokerStars between Tuesday and Thursday, while other well-known pros used Twitter as a mechanism to show their support for the boycott.
. @TheRealAnsky thanks for being the voice the poker community needs. In for the strike and making a large cashout.
— Max Silver (@max_silver) November 28, 2015
— Shawn Buchanan (@shawnbuchanan1) November 29, 2015
— Timothy Adams (@Tim0theeAdams) November 29, 2015
Not Everybody in Favour of Boycott or Boycotting Players
Among the various threads that have sprung up on poker forums, it is clear that not everybody is in favour of the boycott, or supports the players taking part in it. Criticisms of the players and their motives have been fairly common along with claims that the boycott will only achieve what PokerStars are (allegedly) trying to do anyway – recalibrate the poker ecosystem in favour of recreational players.
In terms of the effect that the boycott might have, the combined number of real money cash and tournament players online last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, was 22,939, 23,081 and 22,980 respectively. Assuming that the 2+2 boycott reaches two thousand signatories, that will represent about 10 percent of the player database going AWOL this week.
However, considering that many of these are the highest value players on the site, PokerStars is going to lose more than 10 percent of its income over the next few days; and – if thousands of players make substantial withdrawals from their accounts tomorrow – quite a lot of their reserves. It will be interesting to see how well the boycott plays out and what the long term consequences are for VIP Rewards on PokerStars.