Sunday, 29 November 2015

Strike Against the Pokerstars 2016 Changes 1st - 3rd December

There will be a strike on December 1st to 3rd abandoning all games at Pokerstars during this period. It would be much appreciated if you joined the strike by signing up here with your username and stake/games you play in. We will all be making cashouts simultaneously so do this with an amount that your comfortable with. So far over a thousand players has agreed to join the strike.

What Is The Strike About?

My last post here described the changes that were announced for Pokerstars in 2016. In summary these are;
  • Supernova Elite to be phased out and gone by 2017 
  • Concierge service, Super Quarterly Freeroll, Steller Awards and Milestone Credits all removed. 
  • StarCoins to be introduced in place of FPPs. All FPPs will be automatically converted into StarCoins with a 25% decrease in value. 
  • Supernova Elite rakeback capped at 45% from 60%, Supernova capped at 30% from 40%, PlatinumStar reduced by 10% 
  • ChromeStar laughably increased by 10%, which is 30 cents a month 
  • Earning VPPs abolished in cash games with blinds of 5/10 (1000NL) 
The main ones are that Supernova Elites have their rakeback capped at 45% when it is advertised otherwise. Supernova Elite is a 2 year reward status, and to announce changes for it to be changed next year instead of 2 years later is unacceptable. Verging on fraud, as they have advertised on their site what it is.

High stakes cash games without VPPs is essentially killing off those games, and making all those players move down in stakes of which VPPs would be rewarded. This in turn makes those lower staked games harder, more crowded and full of regulars, better players and then have others move to lower stakes as well.

Amaya wants CasinoStars, not Pokerstars

Pokerstars has always been known for its great support and communication with its players. But since Amaya's acquisition for an unprecedented overpriced $4.9 billion this reputation has disappeared quite quickly.

And as another side note of which I will be blogging about soon, this buying out of Pokerstars is an offer Mark Scheinberg cannot refuse, and typical of capitalist culture where big eats small, taking over with no idea how things work with no experience in the field, and throws money at it hoping that more will be made. If not, it fails, doesn't matter. Shareholders and profits over workers! Long term sustainability? What is that?

Anyways, as I said communication used to be amazing with Pokerstars. They even had two plus two meet ups with Poker players and would invite them to their headquarters in Isle of Man! Ah, how times have changed...

Since last year, changes has happened where there are no formal announcements (increase in currency exchange transactions which happened overnight as an example), no communication or feedback, and pretty much posts on two plus two forums filled with corperate jibberish language.

It really does seem to me that Amaya is thinking that Pokerstars should be a betting site instead of a poker site. If anything it incorporates the idea that real life Casinos do, get the recreational poker players in, and after a while they will go wander about and lose some money at blackjack or roulette.

This is interesting because it is backwards from other betting sites where they have started as that, and then added poker in on the side. Maybe this is the dream that Amaya is looking for?

Online Poker the Video Game

With the signings of JCarver and Jamie Staples, I was quite hopeful that this was the direction that they would go in.

Twitch has really shown the world that you shouldn't underestimate what people will want to watch.The idea of watching other people play video games live was laughable, and now this has exploded to becoming one of the top visited sites.

One of the biggest draws to watching someone else play games, is because you might also play that game too, and be interested in learning or seeing how that streamer fairs in the same situations that you might too.

Someone might also just enjoy watching a streamer because he's a good entertainer, there's something interesting about him/her. You might also want to watch a stream to check out the game itself, maybe it is a new release and watching would help you decide if you would like to buy it or not.

Whatever the reason, Twitch really helped developers into promoting games, which helped get more people interested in it. Esports became more popular, and competitions started getting streamed too, some getting over 100k viewers watching.

Now some new games have integrated the ability to watch your favourite player play live within the client. PS4 and XBox One has streaming options as a standard now, allowing any gamer to broadcast themselves playing.

All this increase in the cycle of promotion in the gaming scene makes me think that there is no reason why online poker cannot be the same too. It wouldn't be a 2nd boom which players are hoping for, but more of a slow steady increase in new players to the pool.

Some ideas that would support this direction;
  • Having a friends list.
  • Then an instant messaging service with those friends whilst your online.
  • Advertising when a Pokerstars Pro is streaming.
  • More customisation integration, "skins" as its called in the gaming world. Use StarCoins to buy cool new themes or card backs etc. Make it more fun. 
  • Could have daily tasks and milestone achievements for StarCoins. More trophy style stuff like the 1M VPP badge which is added to your avatar.
  • Widgets like in Full Tilt are pretty good.
  • Bring back leaderboards! 
  • Durr Challenge style stuff that the Pro's do. There's nothing like good self promotion when people talk about a competition.
  • High stakes tables highlighted and featured in the front page or something. Railbirds are wanted in my version!
  • It would be cool if WSOP was streamed live on twitch and advertised on Pokerstars.


Will this make any difference?
We are not sure. But we should try something and see what happens. These days capitalistic ideology is very much against strikes because they effect the profits which they call disruption. It is the true democratic way of trying to open up a conversation.

How much do I cash out?
Anything comfortable. Doesn't have to be your whole bankroll. The point is to give Pokerstars an unprecedented amount of transactions to deal with on Dec 1st - 3rd.

I am a recreational player. This wont effect me.
This will effect you. The lower staked games will be harder and more reg filled. The lower stakes will not have as many casual players like yourself there anymore. You will not get as many rewards like before. Most casuals will lose quicker and probably move down even more. The cycle continues...

If the worse regs lose and quit then there will be more space for recreationals.
The regs that have a lower winrate will move down stakes and then the lower stakes will be harder. It will increase regs at lower stakes and recreationals will lose faster at lower stakes.

This is Capitalism. Deal with it.
Whilst this is true that Amaya is a company where it will take steps to doing whatever they want if they think it will serve their shareholders and increase profits, there is no excuse for not listening to their customers and doing any market research whatsoever. This is a typical case where a company/new manager gets put in with no experience in the field, dictates changes and expects everything to be ok.

Also, no company in their right mind would see number of current subscriptions (the regs), new sign ups (the new players) go down (traffic) over the years... and then think, man we really need to take away the perks of the current subscribers, and also make subscriptions even more expensive! The most logical thing would be to make subscriptions cheaper, ie Lower The Rake for the love of God!

Critics of the strike keep saying that Amaya has probably done statistical analysis of the numbers etc etc. Really it looks like they are literally trying to everything they can to not decrease the rake.

Anyways, I'll leave you with this inspirational video by filmmaker Casey Neistat. I've been really addicted to his youtube channel recently!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Longest Spin and Go Ever?

The Death of Poker Blogs

Since my one year hiatus from blogging, I had decided to make a conscious effort to start again. It has been quite sad to see my bloglist look like this;

Note: Not my bloglist lol. I cleared mine out a while ago...
It seems that a lot of poker blogs have died out, my theories being that;

  1. They cant be arsed.
  2. They don't play poker anymore or are losing and don't want to blog.
  3. They, like me thought about doing it and literally procrastinated forever?
  4. There's no topics to blog about that are positive. Poker has been taking a battering over the last few years since Black Friday (The overnight no-warning banning of Online Poker in USA), so that makes people not want to blog if its always going to be negative posts.

My goal was to do one post a week, not too difficult right? Well, the problem with me is once I do one I feel I have to do it right. Being too much of a perfectionist means that I have to write stuff I'm interested in, in a way which is understandable to all. I end up making sure I have everything in there, then it ends up being stupidly long, then that makes my newer posts have to be comparatively as good, creating a weird unnecessary cycle of competition in my mind.

There are a lot of positives to doing a blog. You have a pretty cool diary of stuff to look back on, I read back on my past blogs and its interesting to see what I was thinking at the time etc. It can also be quite therapeutic in that you can get your ideas out there instead of bottling it up.


Some P-YAN Bloggin' Tips;

DON'T Post Mass Hand Histories - Too many times I've seen poker players post up mass text of hand histories and talk in great depth in poker jargon, but hey, if that's your thing and your only targeting that type of audience then fine, but most casuals have no idea what your talking about.

DON'T Complain Continuously at Bad Beats - No one likes a Negative Nancy. Well, at the very least have a balance for your complaining with some celebrating! Most people remember the bad beats but never really the times when they get lucky to win.

DO Use Paragraphing - For the love of God please don't put all your stuff in one massive block of text. Space that stuff out. You don't talk in one massive sentence do you?

DO Add Pictures/Media - Make it look pretty! Add some YouTube vids too if you want. Poker graphs are probably the most common.

DO Talk About Other Stuff - You have other things on your mind apart from Poker surely?

Most of these things seem to be pretty common sense but I cant tell you the number of times I've seen some pretty bad blogging. Anyways, I hope some of you guys do some good postin's, I kinda wanna revive my bloglist so if you have one I'll be happy to add it, just gimmie a message or leave a comment below.

The Longest Spin and Go Ever?

A very strange thing happened to me the other day. 2 of my Spin and Go's was stuck at the first blind level. Since I 4 table, I didn't really notice til like 15 mins in! Normally each blind level lasts 3 minutes.

The fact that it was a 6x drove me nuts. I'm pretty sure I lost concentration in my other games at the time. One of the things I hate about live poker was the fact that it was so sloooooooow. That's why I like online, its faster and you can play multiple games. But there's nothing in comparison to that then a game where the blind levels never rise, and your playing heads up for 6 times the normal prize. Oh, 187 hands of pure bliss...

What is even worse is that I was two cards away from winning. My opponent started tilting which is what I was waiting for and started overjamming. Just needed that A9 to hold vs QJ but it didn't and then we were back to slowville :(

The chat was quite funny. Quite nice to talk to someone actually these days as the games are so quick its not that common;

puyan said, "is it me or are the blinds not moving up O_o"
puyan said, "been on this blind level for 27 min!"
puyan said, "blinds are not moving up!"
puyan said, "LOL"
Sjostyy said, "help?"
puyan said, "how long can u stay :D"
Sjostyy said, "long hahahah"
puyan said, "dammit"
puyan said, "me too"
puyan said, "haha"
puyan said, "we r going to be here for hours"
Sjostyy said, "we can get help?"
*puyan said, "i tried :(" 
Sjostyy said, "we can do split pot"
puyan said, "i would"
Sjostyy said, "i don t now how"
puyan said, ":("
Sjostyy said, "than we need help"
puyan said, "LOL"
puyan said, "i let u win the other one, u let me win this one ok? :D"
Sjostyy said, "hahahahahah"
puyan said, ";)"

*At the time I had pressed the button for the Chat Moderator, fully knowing that they only dealt with Chat related problems and was hoping that he would pass on the problem to someone else. He turned up, I explained what was happening, he said he only dealt with chat problems and promptly disappeared. #NotMyProblem

Anyways, GG. Well played, Ms (or Mr in disguise?) "Sjostyy"!

However, after emailing Stars I did get a refund for those two games. I argued that they were advertised at 3 minute blinds, and due to their software bugging this didn't happen, so essentially it was fraud. #Freeroll

I don't know if this is the longest game ever but it must be right? I've had a few games reach the t150 level as my highest, which is 12th blind level which is 36 mins? There would be arguments that this wouldn't count as it was bugged, but seems like a fun thought anyways?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Pokerstars Changes 2016 Announced... (Hold onto Your Hats!)

Back From Hibernation

Wow. Its almost been a year since my last post. Admittedly this has been due to laziness and motivation, but I'm back! I tend to write stupidly long posts which take ages which also had added to the excuses to not post. However I do miss it, because it is in some ways quite therapeutic to get things off my chest.

Its kinda sad to see this being a trend amongst my fellow poker players that also did some blogging. Circumstances in the poker world has really hit everyone hard and its easy to understand the lack of motivation for continuing blogs when so much negativity and struggle is apparent within the community. And as much as I hate that I start again with something like that, I feel its important so here we go...

The Fumblings of Announced Changes

It has been a long time coming that Pokerstars was going to announce some changes for 2016. An announcement of an announcement was posted in August, saying it would happen mid October.

October came and went, and only rolling tumbleweeds from Pokerstars. Every Supernova Elite or player who was thinking about potentially going for it waited nervously.

Then October 31st, someone noticed that a post was announced on the Russian site;

No response from Pokerstars. So whilst the community was wondering whether this was a fake or not, the announcements did not look pretty. In fact they seemed so drastic that it didn't seem out of the question that it was a fake. But shortly after I linked it to someone I know in Pokerstars, the official announcement came Nov 1st.

Now who knows what on earth happened there. The announcement was 1/2 a month late, and whatever the hell that was, it was messy, and seemed like some kind of mistake. Who even knows if Pokerstars was going to even do these announcements at all at this time, they could have been wanting to stall til Dec 31st? Who knows. Either way it was a complete disaster, lacked professionalism and just wasn't what a pre-Amaya bought Pokerstars was known for.

The Changes

This is a lot of information overload, the official posts are linked below, but here's a summary;

Sources - 2p2 Post, Statement of Intent Stars Post, Stars Official VIP Changes

• All rewards will be given in a new currency, StarsCoin, each of which will have a fixed value of $0.01
• All current rewards – FPPs, Stellar Rebates, and Milestone Rebates – will be consolidated into a single form of reward called StarsCoin earned via VIP Steps

2016 Average Rewards by Status
BronzeStar - No change
ChromeStar - Up to 10% increase
SilverStar - No change
GoldStar - No change
PlatinumStar - Up to 10% decrease
Supernova - 0%-27% decrease
200k+ - 44%-60% decrease (30% rakeback cap)

• VPPs will not be earned in high-stakes cash games. High-stakes cash games include pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5-$10 or higher, 8-game $10-$20 or higher, and other limit games with blinds of $10-$15 or higher (limit hold’em of stakes $15-$30 and higher).

• VIP Store
Cash Rewards will be offered as follows, and there will be no restrictions by VIP status:
- $25 – 2,500 StarsCoin
- $100 – 10,000 StarsCoin
- $1,000 – 100,000 StarsCoin

• VIP Freerolls
The Supernova Quarterly Million freeroll will be discontinued

• Supernova Elite VIP Status will be discontinued on January 1, 2017
The benefits cap for players who earn Supernova Elite in 2015 will be 45% in 2016.

• There will no longer be monthly maintenance requirements for Supernova and Supernova Elite statuses

• Concierge service for Supernova and Supernova Elite status to be discontinued

Mass Cutbacks, Maximize those Margins

This damning announcement of changes is the harshest that Pokerstars has done so far. It can be split into two categories, cutting back and getting rid of High Stakes Players.

The List of Cutbacks - Pokerstars seem to be furiously cutting back on the rewards system in order to maximise their profits.
  • SNE discontinued in 2017.
  • Concierge service, Supernova Quarterly Freeroll, Stellar Awards, Milestone Credits all abolished.
  • Starcoins to replace FPPs. All FPPs will be converted automatically in 2017 with a decreased value of 25%.
  • Supernova capped at 30% rakeback.
  • Supernova Elites capped at 45% rakeback.
  • PlatinumStar reduced by 10%
Other removals in the past year;
  • If a Step is not reached by the end of the month, half of that step's FPPs is lost.
  • Monthly TLB promotion for MTT players removed.
  • Battle of the Planets promotion for SNG players removed.

Blame The Regs, Blame HUDs, But Whatever You Do Don't Touch Dat Rake!

An awesome podcast with Ansky talking about these changes pretty much summarises why these changes are terrible and how Amaya has destroyed the reputation and direction of Pokerstars.

The way that things are presented through their statements are unfounded and just complete typical annoying corporate talk. What is shocking is how stupid they think the poker community is. Don't they know that this community has probably one of the highest concentration of smart people within one space?

Quotes taken are from the sources above, and the 2p2 thread.

Against Volume - The stance that Stars has taken is that there are too many players playing for the rewards system that they created. This rewards system was created in order to balance out the high rake that they have in the games. The higher the rake, the harder the games are to beat. Without one, there cannot be the other.

If that was true the most logical step would be to reduce the rake, make the games more profitable to play, and less of a reward system would be needed.

The "We have always believed..." stuff is so funny, making out that they never wanted high volume players to give them a lot of rake. Oh! What an accident you created!

What an unskillful easy thing it is playing a huge volume! Those regs didn't study hard, put dedication in to their games at all! Thank god!

The Two Percent - This absolutely must have been something that was included in some meeting telling everyone to promote the randomly arbitrary two percent "statistic" that they've been throwing around. Poker players wont tell the difference will they?

Don't worry guys its only two percent of players! Does that include all the dormant accounts? Are you only counting Supernova Elites and Supernovas that have 200 vpps+? Are you saying 2% of all existing accounts since the beginning?

The fact is that this is so far from the truth that it makes them look silly. Please stop saying 2%. Seriously. What will happen is that high stakes players wont play high stakes, so they will move down to the lower stakes and play there, therefore making the lower stakes harder and more reg filled. Cash games will be much harder at 3/6 since any higher then that will receive no VPPs or StarCoins at all.

Simplifying the FPPs into StarCoins is fine. But saying that its pretty much the same, making statements that "its very much in the same ballpark" is another outrageous claim. Lets be clear; PlatinumStar is reduced by 10%, Supernova is reduced up to 27%, Supernova Elite is reduced by 44%-60%  and the "receiving more" that they are referring to is ChromeStar getting 10% more, which is 30 cents a month.

Could it be two percent? Honestly this will effect everyone.

Lets Merge Two Announcements For Confusion! - It was also announced in their blog that third party softwares such a HUDs (Heads Up Displays) would be removed from next year. This being a different topic entirely, seemed to be thrown into the mix. In fact poor Mr Negreanu who is for this got a ton of stick for referring to this as a good change, without realising that everyone else is talking about the VIP changes. He has said that he will make a statement in the next few days after assessing the whole situation, if anything he is in a very tough position, as the "People's Champ" and Poker Ambassador.

RIP High Stakes Cash - The death of railbirding those nosebleed stakes is upon is for the new year. Dispite the huge rake that it gives to Stars, they don't want it. So what amazing excuse did they make up for it? Well apparently its too expensive to run?

Riiiight. Wow those transaction costs must be awful... wonder what % they have to pay... possibly 2%? xD. Come the new year, 3/6 cash games will undoubtedly be the toughest level and any higher then that will be abandoned.

Another Dark Day for Poker

Pokerstars had spent years gaining the reputation of being the best online poker site out there. It was great at communicating and listening to the community, open minded, and had impeccable support. But since it has sold its soul to get back into the US market to Amaya for 3x worth its value, this has all gone. And what is worse is that it own Full Tilt, and all other rivals are inadequate and just not stepping up to the plate. It has the feel of an unfair monopoly, that can do what it wants because it is the only competitor out there.

Every announcement they make takes away, and treats us like idiots. Two great posts by "MeleaB" here explains what is really going on.

The PokerStars Model
Rewards Models

Amaya's direction towards making Poker feel more like casino games, getting that short term profit to show to their shareholders, and new "policies" is looking like it will be end of Pokerstars demise. However, they have a few years yet to see if things will change, but most likely it wont. It could be that the banning of Stars getting them to desperately want back in by selling their soul could be the most slow round about way of killing off this company lol.

Anyways welcome back Puyan, shame it has to start on such a downer. I will try and write more renditions of War and Peace in the future. I need an iced latte... for $2 cheaper! (Oh wait, its Nov in UK)