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This time around, the company announced a significant change to the policy governing satellite tournaments at the site, limiting players to a single prize package for each live tournament.
On its blog, PokerStars made the following announcement:
“For the first time ever at PokerStars there is a limit on the number of packages and seats that can be won by an individual player. Players can now win only one full package and one seat. This limitation will, we hope, make sense to the majority of you and stand to reason as being fair.
We believe the change will create a more level playing field for all that want to visit our lower buy-in Festivals or experience the glitz and glamour of one of our bigger Championship events.”
The change has largely been met with positivity from the usual sources like PokerStars pros:
I think it's great – it stays with the purpose of running a satellite and will increase numbers at the target event.
— Adrienne Rowsome (@talonchick) August 30, 2017
But even the naysayers, including the opposition at PartyPoker, defended the policy change:
I think it's a good idea from Stars, makes perfect sense from ecology pov and protects amateurs who want to qualify for local tour
— Patrick Leonard (@plenopads) August 30, 2017
Still, some players are unconvinced and see the change as PokerStars’ latest slight against professional players.
Stars, behaving more like a psycho ex every day, casting shade on the grinders they used to court pic.twitter.com/avZm8Lv7X1
— Dara O'Kearney (@daraokearney) August 31, 2017
The argument against the change seems to be this: The pros mass-registering these satellites boosts the number of seats the site will give away, thereby allowing it to run more satellite tournaments.
As such, it’s similar to the argument for giving more rewards to high-volume players — quantity over quality. The theory being espoused is that liquidity and more games, no matter how “bad” they are or how skewed toward to the professional player they become, are better than the alternative.
The counterargument is that good games, and an environment that allows recreational players to have “winning moments,” will eventually lead to the creation of more games.
The new satellite policy seeks to recapture a part of the poker ecosystem that has shrunk in recent years.
In 2003, Chris Moneymaker famously turned a $39 satellite tournament at PokerStars into a $10,000 World Series of Poker Main Event seat. That eventually became a $2.5 million payday.
As it played out on TV, Moneymaker’s story inspired thousands of aspiring poker players to try and replicate his accomplishment. Thousands of people wanted to make a similarly small investment and see if they could get lucky.
Not surprisingly, in the years following Moneymaker’s victory, online satellites into major tournaments featured high numbers of amateur players.
That inevitably led to some professional players gravitating toward these satellite tournaments to take advantage of the softer fields. In doing so, they not only often won seats to big events on the cheap. They also won multiple packages to the same event.
Because there was no restriction on how many seats they could win, they would just cash in the extra seats for cold cash.
Even though it’s trying to argue against the change, the tweet below shows how problematic this practice was becoming.
The leaderboard is quite telling, since there were only 11 UKIPT stops during Season 4. Dara “SlowDoke” O’Kearney had won 87 packages.
Basically, as more and more value-hunting pros descended on these satellite events, fewer and fewer amateurs were winning seats. In turn, recreational players stopped participating as much.
[geoip2 region=NJarea][i15-table tableid=28407][/geoip2]
This isn’t conjecture. PokerStars claims it has seen a decline in recreational players trying to qualify for live events.
“While recreational players dream of winning the poker experience of a lifetime with PokerStars, a fortunate and skilled few win multiple packages and seats to our live events, when they can only use one of them,” PokerStars Operations Manager Mike Jones wrote on the company’s blog.
PokerStars’ new policy aims to stop this practice by accomplishing two things:
That being said, PokerStars will have to monitor this closely, particularly in low-liquidity markets. Drawbacks might include fewer entries into satellite tournaments and fewer total seats awarded.
However, if this occurs, it’s more likely to be a short-term issue that can be solved by running fewer satellite tournaments and converting most to mega-satellites with multiple guaranteed seats to entice players.
Additionally, just like when they moved on from satellites, recreational players will, over time, intuitively realize the pro-to-rec composition has changed, which should bring more recreational players back to these games.