PokerStars and Amaya Gaming’s Head of Corporate Communications, Eric Hollreiser, has followed in the footsteps of Dani Stern, Isaac Haxton and Daniel Dvoress by issuing a company statement with respect to the Montreal Player’s Meeting.
We have heard Daniel Negreanu’s point of view.
We have heard the point of view of Dani Stern, Daniel Dvoress and Isaac Haxton.
Now we have heard PokerStars’ point of view.
I am talking about the PokerStars players meeting that took place on Jan 18 at the Amaya HQ in Montreal. There have been players meetings before. However, this one was the most high profile of the lot.
On Monday, Eric Hollreiser, Head of Corporate Communications for Amaya Gaming and PokerStars, released a statement on the PokerStars Corporate Blog entitled ‘Statement on Montreal Player Meeting.’
Here are the main highlights:
Hollreiser talks about the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that was signed by both parties to protect the company’s interests. An NDA that has effectively hamstrung the players in terms of how much feedback they can give to those they represent.
The main meat on the bone related to the term ‘poker ecology.’ PokerStars management showed the players statistics and data to prove that this ecology was in danger of falling apart. This information is covered by the NDA.
The statement noted that PokerStars listened to what the players had to say. The conversation that has since ensued on 2+2 following on from the players statement, shows that the players didn’t feel they had adequate time to prepare.
This is an important point.
In my industrial relations experience (acknowledging this is not an official industrial relations dynamic), the staff side would be handed this information well in advance of the meeting, so staff side could provide adequate counter proposals.
If they didn’t receive enough time, then the meeting could only go one way. The player’s arguments would have been presented without any muscle behind them. PokerStars are making the changes to protect the business. If the players could have produced counter proposals that maintained this suggested status quo, or improved upon them, then the meeting would have been worthwhile. A win-win situation could have been forged.
“We listened to what the players had to say.” Said Hollreiser.
I would have preferred, “We went through the players counter proposals and have taken them away for more deeper analysis and thought.”
As we are aware, the VIP Rewards program – while not a ‘single magic bullet’ – is the main way that PokerStars are looking to rob Peter to pay Paul. Negreanu said it, the players said it, and PokerStars once again repeated it.
“We provided substantial data to support that these changes were needed and expressed our regret that the changes have angered some high volume players. This was obviously not our goal, although it was anticipated given the nature and timing of the reduction in rewards.”
Then there was a show of strength from Hollreiser. A paragraph that reminded everyone who was in charge.
“We noted that going forward the VIP benefit is a one-year program and we retain the right to change or eliminate the rewards at any time. We will ensure that this is communicated clearly and consistently.”
That paragraph reminds players that the only blood on PokerStars hands lies in their failure to communicate, and that the changes were theirs to make, and theirs alone.
This whole saga reminds me of a fabulous book I have just read called The Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. The story centers on the Spartans attempts to hold back the Persian armies attack on their country by sending 300 of their fiercest warriors to do battle at Thermopylae, while the rest of the army stays at home.
The 300 are the professional grinders. The rest of the Spartan army is the recreational players. The 300 are strong. They are the supreme beings in the Spartan ecosystem. But they are nothing compared to the might of the army in its entirety.
Eventually, the 300 all die, and it’s because of their valor, that the rest of Greece rises to protect their land, defeat the Persians, and live happily ever after.
PokerStars will always have the upper hand in these discussions, and the same would be true if they turned into negotiations, because nobody speaks for the recreational players except PokerStars. That’s quite a problem when you consider the 300 no longer trust them.
“This plan is aimed at increasing the number, frequency of play and total deposits of recreational players (who are the lifeblood of any poker economy) by continuing to make poker fun and relevant to today’s players whether they’re playing on desktop, smartphone or tablet.”
And just in case you felt PokerStars were driving the professional grinders out of the business.
“In considering changes, we believe we are successfully balancing our responsibility to recreational players, the game of poker, and the interests of our employees and shareholders against the expectations of our professional poker player community.”
Call me a cynic, but while these words may look meaningful, my gut continues to tell me this is all about money. The starting point is profit to shareholders – not recreational players, and certainly not the people that Stern, Haxton, Dvoress and co represent. As long as this continues to be the case everyone will have to get used to the fact that this once great relationship between Stars and the players has come to an end, and no players meeting is ever going to change that.