From PokerStars to GreedStars

TAGs: Amaya Gaming, Lee Davy, Meditor Capital, Online Poker, PokerStars, talal shakerchi

Talal Shakerchi speaks out against the recent cost cutting initiatives by PokerStars, and even rolls out a game plan for those looking to take action against the former darling of the online poker world.

From PokerStars to GreedStarsWhen you have become one of the most successful Hedge Fund managers in the world, then it’s safe to say that you know a thing or two about the way that great businesses tick.

It’s also safe to say that if you are one of the most successful Hedge Fund managers in the world, that you are not short of a few shillings, and that’s certainly the case for the founder of Meditor Capital Management Ltd., and former European Poker Tour (EPT) London High Roller winner, Talal Shakerchi.

So when Shakerchi – using his online pseudonym raidalot – reacted publicly to the recent cost cutting exercises conducted by PokerStars, you have to sit up and take notice.

“I think the problem is that players are seeing their favorite site transformed from PokerStars to Greedstars, before their eyes and they’re powerless to do anything about it. There are two issues: first, the changes themselves and secondly, the communication.

“The changes didn’t start with Amaya, this really started once PokerStars established its dominant market position. We began to see fewer promotions, less added seats in sats, encouragement of more profitable {for PokerStars} and less skillful poker, etc. They always seemed to be looking for ways to squeeze a bit more out of the system.

“In MTTs for example, they started to replace rebuys with re-entries, and replaced regular MTTs with turbos that were raked at similar levels. But since the takeover, the changes have accelerated to a previously unimaginable level, including cuts to the VIP programme, new FX charges and significant increases in rake. For some players those changes make a huge impact.”

If you are fortunate to spend some time in the company of Shakerchi, your thin slicing will pick up on three things immediately: he loves the game of poker, he is exceptionally smart, and he puts the interests of others ahead of his own, which sounds a lot like PokerStars; or at least it used to.

“We all used to respect PokerStars and they seemed to show respect back to the players, with the best and most genuine communications by far. As it became more dominant in the market, the attitude became a bit more arrogant and they started to listen less.

“For example they didn’t listen on issues of concern such as seating scripts and publishing real life names of players who final-tabled WCOOP. They put their own interests first despite player opposition.

“Again, it all got a lot worse under Amaya. The new formula for communication is: dump an announcement in the Internet Poker forum on 2+2; give no notice of the change; don’t bother to respond to hundreds of posts of feedback/concerns; give BS reasons for the changes like “its better for the players”, “improving the poker economy” etc. without ever admitting its just to boost their already absurdly high profits; make the point that they’re listening to the players – even though they’re clearly not; and worst of all, don’t send out any email or anything to the 95% of their customers who don’t read 2+2. The last is very serious imo – not telling most of the customers about significant changes is pretty underhand and shows that the players are not as important to PokerStars as it claims.”

The last point that Shakerchi makes is important because it gives you an insight into the mind of the PokerStars machine. If it is still truly an organization that puts their customers first, why then am I still waiting to be told about the currency conversion and rake changes? The absence of a simple e-mail makes me think that they don’t want me to know. I don’t trust a company that thinks that way.

So what’s going on? How could there be such a turnaround of opinion of such polar opposites?

“This is about a company which has achieved dominance in a market and is exploiting that position to maximize its profits. As its market share has grown PokerStars has accrued huge benefits of scale. Instead of using that to make good profits while offering their customers a decent deal, they’re using it to squeeze even more out of the beleaguered players.”

The level of vitriol aimed at the site is like nothing I have seen since the bad old days of Lock Poker, Full Tilt and Ultimate Bet. It’s worth pointing out that all of the spit is being fired from the mouths of the professional grinders. As a recreational player, I pay little attention to rake and currency conversions and this will be the same for most of them. They just want a place to play.

But if people do feel like they are being disadvantaged and they want to fight back, Shakerchi has a few suggestions.

“I posted some suggestions, on 2+2, for how players can fight back because I feel PokerStars are being very greedy and unfair. PokerStars have shown its hand and we now know clearly what their motivations are – despite their PR bluffs.

“Given that, the only way to see a sustainably better deal for players again is for another site to gain enough market share that PokerStars is forced to compete for customers again.

“That will only happen in one of three ways as far as I can see: (1) PS is excluded from the US when it opens up, (2) The anti-trust authorities step in, or (3) players switch a decent chunk of their business to one of the other sites (and a strong signal from one of those sites that they want to step up would help focus such a shift).”


What a turnaround.

It seems like only yesterday that the world was praying to the Poker Gods to pave a legislatory thoroughfare for PokerStars to return to US soil. Are we going to be facing a situation where players no longer want them there?

Shakerchi’s feedback in full can be found right here.

Now that’s what Talal Shakerchi has to say, what about you?


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of