Following another policy change that has raised the ire of some of their players, PokerStars seems to be taking the same approach to pulling off a Band-Aid that my mother advocates: Grab it and rip it off with one quick, painful yank.
The handful of controversial changes/decisions the company has recently made have come in rapid fire succession, culminating with Thursday’s announcement of rake increases and the termination of the Battle of the Planets Sit & Go Leaderboard. This latest announcement has unsurprisingly sent the pokersphere into a tizzy.
The new changes are set to begin next week, November 3rd. The Battle of the Planets promotion will end November 1st.
Who Will be impacted
These new rake changes will mainly impact heads-up cash game players, high-stakes cash-game players, and Sit & Go players. Most other players will not even know a change has occurred, with the exception of MTT players who play Knockout tournaments.
Still, for the players impacted these changes are severe.
Impact on Cash Players
The rake hike will be especially impactful for high-stakes cash game players who will find the rake cap on $25/$50 tables with 5+ players increased from $3 to $5.
This is obviously a significant increase.
Even though the pots are huge in these games, the overall edge between the players is quite small, and variance can be brutal. A player putting in 100,000 hands a year and making a very tidy $200,000 in profit will take a significant hit, perhaps as much as $10,000 annually.
Further troubling for high-stakes players, the rake cap at heads-up tables will jump from $.50 to $2, an even larger increase.
Heads-Up players at lesser stakes will also take a hit, as they will see the rake cap increased from $.50 to $1.
Impact on S&G Players
Heads-Up Hyper Sit & Go and 9-Man Knockout Sit & Go players will also feel the pinch as the tournament fees were marginally raised across the board.
Even the new and extremely popular Spin n Go’s saw their rake increased, with a 1% increase on the $3 tournaments, a 2% increase at the $7 level, and a 1% increase in both the $15 and $30 games.
One of the bigger hits to top S&G players at PokerStars is the termination of the Battle of the Planets promotion, a long-running promotion that awards $2.5 million annually, in what is, for lack of a better term, a rake race for Sit & Go players.
PokerStars new rake structure compared to other sites
Disenfranchised PokerStars’ players will unfortunately not find the grass much greener elsewhere. PokerStars new rake structure is right in line with their competitors.
Here is a breakdown of how PokerStars new rake changes compare to their competitors at heads-up cash game tables:
- Partypoker has a $1 rake cap on Heads-Up cash game tables from $.10/$.25-$5/$10.
- 888 has a $1 rake cap on Heads-Up cash game tables from $.10/$.25-$30/$60; $2 on games at $50/$100; $3 on games at $100/$200 and higher.
- PokerStars new rake policy imposes a $1 cap on games ranging from $.25/$.50 – $10/$20, and a $2 cap on games $25/$50 and up.
- PokerStars also raised their cap on rake in $25/$50 games with 5+ players from $3 to $5. 888 imposes a similar $5 cap at their high-stakes tables with 5+ players.
PokerStars essentially increased their rake to the industry norm, not above. If you can’t beat the new PokerStars rake you can’t beat the partypoker or 888 rake either.
Statement from PokerStars
PokerStars Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser issued the following statement on the rake changes, and PokerStars other recent changes:
In recent weeks, PokerStars has made several changes which have upset some players. We’ve heard these complaints and are genuinely listening to the feedback. No one likes higher costs, particularly when times are getting tougher.
In recent years, we have heard many high-volume, professional poker players say that the games are tougher now and it’s harder to win than in the past. This is one of the reasons we’ve actually reduced rake, which helps the ROI of these players. But that’s not making the games any softer, which is what would *really* improve ROI.
Instead, we need to invest in new ways to improve the poker economy.
Our growth initiatives require significant investments in areas of marketing, promotions and product innovation. The funding has to come from many places and it is perfectly reasonable that some of it comes from the income we derive from providing the best online poker platform in the world.
If we can grow poker, everyone will benefit. Even our competitors will benefit, because in a rising tide, all ships rise.
Finally, it has to be said that our rake, our foreign exchange rates and our VIP program are all more competitive than those of our major competitors.
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