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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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High-volume players boycott PokerStars

3 Dec 2015

By Dan Podheiser
Several well-known and high-volume poker players banded together this week to boycott, the most trafficked poker site in the world.

The three-day boycott that started Dec. 1, organized on the Two Plus Two forums by professional poker player Dani Stern, came in response to changes announced by PokerStars on Nov. 1 that mostly affect high-volume and high-stakes players. Specifically, the site placed a cap on the number of VIP Rewards a player can earn, made significant cuts to the benefits for SuperNova and SuperNova Elite players (PokerStars' highest loyalty tiers) and eliminated loyalty point earning for high-stakes cash games. PokerStars also expanded its restrictions on data mining software, a common tool used by high-volume players.

"PokerStars stated in very clear terms what the value of (SuperNova Elite) and (SuperNova) were, delivered that message to their entire customer base, then altered the rewards after players achieved the volume required. This cannot stand," Stern wrote in another post on Two Plus Two.

PokerStars marketed the changes as a way to attract and retain more recreational player traffic to the site.

"We are confident that these changes will improve the playing experience for all PokerStars players and will drive increased play and more players to the ecosystem," PokerStars Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser said in a blog post announcing and detailing the changes.

The boycott, which also stipulated that participants withdraw funds from their PokerStars accounts on Dec. 1, garnered support from roughly 2,000 players, according to the Two Plus Two thread. But the impact of the revolt might have been muted, as PokerStars ran its popular "Milestone Hands" giveaway promotion that led to peak traffic of 37,500 players this week – a 65% increase from the week before, according to data provided by PokerScout.

Still, that spike in traffic was diluted compared to previous Milestone Hands promotions. As Online Poker Report's Robert DellaFave noted, the site saw a 133% week-over-week traffic increase on the first day of their $1 Million Milestone Hands promotion in December 2014. And PokerStars' traffic in high-stakes games was down 29% on Tuesday and again down on Wednesday, according to PokerScout (via Online Poker Report).

On Monday night, PokerStars Team Pro and company spokesperson Daniel Negreanu joined Joe Ingram on his Poker Life Podcast to discuss the changes at the site, and the two were joined midway through by Stern. Negreanu conceded that PokerStars did not do an adequate job in warning players of these changes.

Meanwhile, PokerStars is in the process of relaunching in the U.S. for the first time since Black Friday in April 2011, as it aims to go live with regulated, real-money poker in New Jersey in the first quarter of 2016. PokerStars' parent company, Amaya Gaming, received a license from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement on Oct. 1 to operate both PokerStars and Full Tilt in the state. Amaya purchased PokerStars and Full Tilt for $4.9 billion in June 2014.
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