As the clock ticked down on Monday night to the start of the three-day PokerStars boycott, poker podcaster extraordinaire Joe “ChicagoJoey” Ingram hosted a Poker Hall of Famer and the public face of PokerStars, Daniel Negreanu (pictured), for a chat about the issues surrounding the poker room’s recently announced changes to its VIP program. Watch it.
As visitors of this site are most likely aware, PokerStarsrevealed sweeping changes to its loyalty program in November, most of which are set to take effect on January 1, 2016. Among the modifications are a new cap for VIP rewards, the elimination of Supernova Elite starting January 1, 2017, the complete removal of VPPs from high-stakes cash games, and a new VIP Steps system.
Many players are upset with the changes and concerned about the reduction in rewards, which many rely upon to bolster their poker income. Some players are so up in arms that they are boycotting PokerStars from December 1 to 3. Led by a group of Russian poker players as well as poker pro Dani ansky451 Stern, the boycott is an attempt to make players’ feelings known to PokerStars and to show the site, as Stern put it, that they are a “body of players, not just individuals.”
Ingram and Negreanu discussed these issues on the podcast, with Negreanu offering both criticism of PokerStars and an attempt to shed some light on what the site’s goals may be. One of Negreanu’s biggest points during the conversation was that he felt PokerStars butchered the communication of the VIP changes with its customers and, in turn, broke a promise.
“It is… a broken promise. It’s, you know, do ‘x’ in 2015, you will receive ‘y’ in 2016. Up until November 5 or 12, I believe, it said so in plain English on the website what value you’d get. So, to not honor that is a broken promise,” Negreanu told Ingram(pictured).
Negreanu, though, does not have a problem with the changes as a whole, saying, “These changes were inevitable. Absolutely inevitable and essential. Because if you look at the online poker economy, it has been shaped very differently than it was ten years ago. It’s not the same as it once was. So, changes were gonna happen.”
“My issue,” he emphasized, “is just honoring a promise.”
He criticized the vagueness of the initial communication by PokerStars when it announced months earlier that some changes were on the way, calling it “nothing short of junior high” and saying that PokerStars should have come straight out and said that VIP cuts were coming in 2016 so that players could at least start preparing.
Negreanu added that all players have heard about so far are the negatives. He said he knows of several changes that have not been announced that people will be excited about, but he is not allowed to talk about them yet. Of course, even positive changes that may truly benefit recreational players and help the poker economy might not make those hurt by the VIP cuts happy, but perhaps, if we can interpret what Negreanu is saying, they will at least help people understand what’s going on.
“I believe, regardless of what happens, in 2016 there will be more new players on PokerStars than there were in 2015,” Negreanu told Ingram and the viewing audience. “I genuinely believe that based on some of the ways that marketing and promotional dollars will be spent. How does that benefit the guys who are basically getting screwed out of Supernova Elite right now? It doesn’t.”
Negreanu said he believes that certain VIP changes and the like should have happened years ago, as too many rewards dollars are being distributed to the upper-level VIPs at the expense of recreational and lower-level players. He would prefer to see stronger rewards for those who deposit more often to encourage them to keep playing and, in turn, make the games more attractive.
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