PokerStars Changes Prize Rules for Satellite Tournaments

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PokerStars is trying to maintain its mass market customer base.

PokerStars made another rule change to its satellite tournament rules designed to help recreational players this week. PokerStars satellite tournament rules limited players to a winning a single prize package per live tournament.

For the first time ever at PokerStars, an individual is limited to a single prize and a single seat. The rule got mixed reviews from the online poker community, though the majority supported the policy.

That was expected. For the past 18 months or so, PokerStars’ executives have tried to change the general perception that it favors poker professionals or grinders over recreational players. Since the casual card player is much more abundant than the poker pro, the majority was going to favor the single-prize rule.

PokerStars Multiple Prize Rules

PokerStars’ statement read, “While recrational players dream of winning the poker experience of a lifetime with PokerStars, a fortune and skill few win multiple packages and seats to our live events, when they can only use one of them. “

“These players have taken advantage of a system that allowed them to profit from winning against recreational or less experienced players. “

Patrick Leonard tweeted his support, stating, “I think it’s a good idea from Stars. [It] makes perfect sense from ecology pov and protects amateurs who want to qualify for local tour.”

“Behaving More Like a Psycho Ex Every Day”

With the new rule in place, more recreational players will qualify through satellite tournaments. Since that was the original idea of a satellite tournament, it makes sense. The change makes business sense, given the fact PokerStars has been trying to maintain its amateur customer base over the past two years.

Not all of the professionals were happy about the adjustment. Dara O’Kearney, a grinder with 137 live money finishes and 3,877 online cashes, showed his displeasure with a quick zinger that might have hinted at his past dating life.

O’Kearney posted posted to Twitter, “Stars, behaving more like a psycho ex every day, casting shade on the grinders they used to court.”

Pleasing to Recreational Poker Players

Though Dana O’Kearney believes PokerStars is trying to punish professionals and grinders, the company’s original statement answered the reason for its decision. The rule change had more to do with pleasing the bulk of players, instead of the privileged few with the skills to consistently win multiple prizes.

The statement continued that the old system “…doesn’t make for as enjoyable experience as we would hope. The practice has, in fact, but off-putting for many, as we are seeing an increasing number of recreational players not even attempting to qualify for live events.”

“Excitement Which Comes from Playing Live”

PokerStars added that the less experienced or skilled players were less likely to enjoy “the excitement which comes from playing live“, though it might as well have added that PokerStars would not be able to offer as much prize money or the site would not generate as many revenues.

The fact is, PokerStars is a business. It needs to maintain its numbers in order to maintain the quality of its product. A policy which is deemed to be driving away large numbers of gamblers is likely to be changed, probably sooner than later.

Card players who think the new policy is designed to increase PokerStars profits might believe it is a greedy move, but changing the satellite tournament rules appears to be more of a maintenance move and not directly profit-driven. PokerStars needs to maintain its database of card players, which is good for itself and the wider poker community.

Popularity of Poker Worldwide

The decline in cash game traffic on PokerStars is real. The online poker traffic reporting site,, noted that PokerStars was at a 9-year low in the summer of 2016, around the time that new policies were being formulated. The 7-day average cash game traffic was at 11,500 players, which represented a 50% decline over a 6-year period.

That is a precipitous decline, whether PokerStars owns a 70% share of the world online poker market or not. When a business faces that manner of dropoff, wholesale changes are not only warranted, but expected. A combination of regulatory oversight and an overall decline in poker’s popularity are the main reasons for the dropoff. At the time, some speculated that that decline might be calculated to a certain degree, in order to shift to other areas of growth.

The widescale changes in poker tournament rules since might indicate a shift of focus to casual players, but it would seem to be a reaction to a market shift more than a new marketing strategy.