PokerStars Reduces Cash Game Table Cap to Four
PokerStars has long been the online poker site where the highest-volume cash game grinders plied their trade. Even after scrapping the Supernova Elite program, PokerStars was the place to play online poker cash games. This is no longer the case, so it seems.
On August 20th, PokerStars sent a message to its multi-tabling grinders informing them of drastic changes. Hours earlier, PokerStars players could sit at 24 cash game tables, the software would now limit them to four with immediate effect.
Director of innovations explains the changes
Severin Rasset, director of poker innovations and operations for The Stars Group wrote, “We understand that this change will have a very real impact on many players, particularly those of you who rely on multi-tabling as professionals. We haven’t taken this decision lightly, and we are confident this is the right thing to do for the future of the game. I hope that by focusing more on each table and winning more at those tables, you’ll find a way to adapt and continue as part of our community.”
The world’s largest online poker site had been trialling a six-table cap on its ring-fenced Italian market. PokerStars hopes the move would see players act faster. This trial happened last July and nothing had been said about it for 13-months. PokerStars’ high-volume players will be wishing the silence had continued.
Rasset explained on the PokerStars Blog that the data from the Italian trial had been extensively analyzed. That data revealed the optimum number of cash games tables per player was only four. Cash game players at PokerStars could play up to 24 tables simultaneously until this drastic cull.
“We want to maintain a sustainable poker ecosystem and a platform that players of all abilities are excited to play on well into the future. Attracting and retaining new poker players is crucial to the future of the game. By reducing the table cap from 24 to 4, we are reducing the number of multi-tabling players and increasing the number of more casual one-table players at each table.”
“This should lead to increased win rates on any individual table for the strongest players, while increasing the likelihood that single-table players will meet others like themselves. As a result, they’ll have more chance of experiencing winning sessions and continue to play in the longer term.”
Chances will slice winning players’ hourly rates
While Rasset has some valid points, particularly in relation to win rates, he failed to mention the massively reduced hourly rates. Professional cash game players will see their potential earnings plummet.
A $2/$4 online cash game player who wins at a rate of 3 big blinds per 100 hands while playing 12 table may see their winrate increase to 5bb/100 when forced to sit at only four. This means their expected winrate would be approximately $0.20 per hand. Playing four tables of 75 hands per hour would be 300 hands per hour or $60 per hour. Previously, being able to play in 12 tables, in this simplified example, they would be earning $108 per hour.
High volume grinders have already been stung by the removal what was a lucrative VIP scheme. Reaching Supernova Elite status was worth in excess of $100,000 and often more depending on the player. PokerStars scrapped their loyalty program and replaced it with Stars Chests worth a fraction of these payouts.
Is poker no longer important to PokerStars?
It does seem a strange move to make as a vastly reduced number of cash game tables will seriously damage the bottom line of PokerStars’ profits. The Stars Group only last week announced its weakest poker revenue in several years. Revenues dropped 12 percent to $191.5 million, the first time they were below $200 million since 2016.
Sceptics believe this may be a move to force cash game players to PokerStars’ Zoom Poker tables. Zoom is a “fast-fold” format that plays the same as a cash game, but players are part of a pool. They are whisked away to a new table with different opponents each time they fold; they can even fold out of turn. This leads to players able to play thousands of hands per hour.
The Stars Group’s focus does seem to have switched from poker over the past few years. The Group gives more attention to its sports betting and casino operations these days. Sky Betting & Gaming was acquired in April 2018 for $4.7 billion and it seems the new group cares more about these products than online poker that made them what they are today.