PokerStars has reacted to the recent upsurge in high roller interest from partypoker by releasing an $11.4m GTD High Roller Tournament series in late November, early December.
I once heard of this barber who would cut your hair for $10. A local guy, the kind you find milling around in the penny arcade before going home to play checkers with his wife.
One day, a new salon opened up in town. The sign outside the shiny new door read:
“$5 per haircut.”
Over time, the customers from the old school barbershop began migrating to the new salon. Rumours spread of a cup of tea upon arrival and a free shampoo from beautiful people with hands made of silk.
“Why don’t you drop your prices?” said one valued customer.
The prices remained the same.
Then one day, the old school barber decided it was time to place a sign outside of his rackety-old door. It read:
“The place where you pay $10 to improve $5 haircuts.”
PokerStars and partypoker remind me of these competing barbers, only I’m not sure which is which.
The Battle for the High Roller Business
People questioned the longevity of the High Roller stratum. Those question marks have long been straightened out. That part of poker’s ecosystem is doing very well, thank you. Rather than fizzling and burning, it’s turned into a very profitable niche for the online poker rooms.
Not only do the poker rooms receive a decent chunk of change in tournament fees and rake, but there is also the hidden value that comes tied to being the service provider of the high rolling clientele.
Until recently, PokerStars owned the market, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels, both in live and online realms.
And then partypoker turned up the heat.
Initially, focused on removing PokerStars from the seat of live tournament
power with their revamped MILLIONS brand, somewhere along the way, it was decided to have a go at taking the high rolling regs away from the largest online poker room in the world.
Sam Trickett and Rob Yong began a series of High Stakes cash games that saw the likes of Patrik Antonius start taking the online game seriously again. And then partypoker signed Fedor Holz, another breakthrough moment when it comes to attracting the best poker players in the world all looking for high stakes action.
But PokerStars was never going to lie down and be tickled to death.
The PokerStars Reaction
The reaction from PokerStars is to create an online tournament series catered explicitly to the High Rollers. It’s a complete 180 from the recreational player focus, but one that’s needed if they aren’t going to lose an essential tranche of players to their competitors.
The series runs Nov 26 – Dec 4 and PokerStars is guaranteeing $11.4m in prize money. There are 22 events in total. The smallest buy-in is $1,050, and there are two $10,300 buy-in events.
Event #6: $10,400 NLHE, $1m GTD (Nov, 28)
Event #11: $10,300 NLHE Progressive KO, $1m GTD (Nov, 30)
UK PokerNews Editor, Matthew Pitt, has kindly drawn up the schedule. Check it out.
The Main Event is a $2,100 buy-in $2m GTD NLHE event beginning on Dec 3.
And the name of one of the first players to have his interest piqued by the announcement on Twitter?
Partypoker’s Fedor Holz.