A second boycott of PokerStars is underway. It began on January 1 and runs through Thursday, organized by WeArePokerPlayers.com, Tiltbook, Gypsy Team, and several high-stakes players. As the group put it in a thread on 2+2, “We refuse to play on PokerStars for those seven days and are cashing out at least 10% of our bankrolls on the first day of the boycott.” The strike is in response to a reduction in benefits to high-volume players.
In terms of overall cash game traffic on PokerStars, the boycott is not having a noticeable effect. According to data from the traffic watchdog site PokerScout, a peak of 23,081 players was recorded on January 1, the first day of the strike, compared with 24,745 on December 25, one week prior. Both days are holidays, but nonetheless cash game traffic site-wide on PokerStars dipped by 7% week-over-week.
On January 2, the reverse occurred. Peak ring game traffic on PokerStars reached 25,235 players, up from 24,971 one week before, or 1%. On January 3, the third day of the boycott, peak cash game traffic was 27,222 players, about even with the 27,195 recorded one week prior.
Monday marked the fourth day of the WeArePokerPlayers.com boycott of PokerStars. Peak cash game traffic reached 29,096 players, the second highest total recorded in the last two weeks. That number beat out the 28,170 players who logged in one week before and represented a 3% increase.
At the high-stakes tables, traffic was down on January 1 compared to the four previous Fridays. On January 2, traffic was higher than three of the four previous Saturdays, but lower than on December 26. On January 3, traffic nose-dived to 250 high-stakes cash game players, down from 408 the week before, or almost 40%. On January 4, high-stakes traffic was down from the previous two Mondays, but up from the first two Mondays of December.
High-stakes players who joined the strike this time around included Javier ‘MuckeDBoY’ Tazon, who plays Six-Max Hyper-Turbo Sit and Gos and is a Supernova Elite. Tazon won the Estrellas Poker Tour High Roller in Barcelona and can be found in the top 20 in terms of the number of VPPs earned in 2015.
Also joining the strike was ‘Rednaxela747‘, who plays 1,000NL and up cash games and, according to WeArePokerPlayers, has a win rate of over 3bb/100. Also not playing on PokerStars this week is ‘Masuronike‘, the founder of Tiltbook.
One week before the boycott began on January 1, there were 1,348 players registered. The current count on Tiltbook shows 1,566, while a thread on 2+2 shows 1,641 players signed up.
Organizers of the latest strike said its effect could be “absolutely massive, resulting in significant drops in the total [number] of games running,” if enough players stopped playing. They claim that 10,000 players participating could reduce PokerStars’ rake by up to 30%.
One of the main voices of the PokerStars boycotts thus far is Dani ansky451 Stern, who posted in the strike’s thread, “Taking away rewards specifically for [high-stakes] cash is an unfair attack on a specific subset of the poker community. It seems especially unbalanced and goes way beyond what would be a fair redistribution of rewards.”
Stern also added, however, that he might be part of a meeting with the PokerStars brass: “I am apparently going to get a meeting soon with some executives and I want to prove to them that the players can help move the game forward and adapt over time. I fully respect PokerStars’ right to run their own business, just as I expect them to respect our decisions as a community.”
The boycott comes in the wake of poker pro Isaac Haxton resigning as a sponsored pro of Stars due to the changes at the site. Haxton wrote on 2+2 on Monday, “I have a hard time believing that the people making these decisions sincerely believe that killing SNE does anything good for net depositors. I think the purpose of cutting spending on the VIP program is to cut spending on the VIP program and all the poker ecology mumbo jumbo is made up after the fact to rationalize it.”
Despite leaving the site, Haxton is heading to the Bahamas for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Jan Heitman and Leo Margets are also no longer part of the PokerStars pro roster.
The previous strike on PokerStars took place from December 1 to 3 and 2,600 players signed up for it. The strike went head-to-head with the first three days of PokerStars’ Christmas Festival, so overall traffic on the site was up considerably, but traffic in high-stakes games fell.
Despite the initial boycott, PokerStars announced that it would not alter its plan. The site explained, “An increase in the number of Supernova Elite, who are on average net withdrawing players, does not provide a financial benefit to us.”
Perhaps more damning was that the first boycott had the unintended effect of proving to PokerStars that making drastic cuts in high-stakes benefits was the correct move. PokerStars announced after the strike, “During the three-day boycott, we recorded the healthiest consecutive three-day ecosystem results of the year with steady net gaming revenue, even though our net depositing players lost at a much lower rate than they have all year.”
Amaya purchased PokerStars in mid-2014 for $4.9 billion – $1 billion more than Disney bought Lucasfilm for two years prior – and, since then, has made a variety of changes. High-stakes players say these changes, which directly affected them, were poorly communicated and seemingly came out of the blue. PlatinumStar, Supernova, and Supernova Elite players are the most affected.