For the last decade, PokerStars has been considered the number one online poker room in the world in just about any category one can name. Software, support, promotions, tournaments, game variety, micro-limit to high stakes action; this site has it all. Just months after Amaya Gaming’s acquisition of the colossal internet poker giant, things are changing, and not everyone is happy about it.
The first sign that alterations to the PokerStars budget were being made came by way of a tweet from 2009 WSOP Champion and (former) PokerStars Team Pro member, Joe Cada. It was previously revealed that Cada and PokerStars had parted ways, but no light was shed on the circumstances surrounding his departure until the American poker pro’s personal delineation via Twitter. “If everyone is wondering what happened with Poker Stars and myself it’s pretty simple. I asked for 100percent rake back, they said no.”
In the history of brand sponsorships, here’s how it generally goes. The company hires an elite user of their product to promote them, and in return, the elite user gets to use their products free of charge. That’s how sponsorships work in every sports-related business, from professional skateboarding to the PGA Tour. And that’s exactly what professional poker players expect to receive when they sign a sponsorship deal with an online poker operator.
Joe Cada has been a member of PokerStars Team Pros since 2009, when he won the WSOP Main Event for $8.5 million, and 100% rakeback was naturally part of the deal back then. But it seems that PokerStars is cutting costs, and refinancing their pro contracts is just part of the new budget plan. In the end, it wasn’t a sacrifice Cada, who asked for no supplementary payments from PokerStars outside of 100% rakeback, was willing to make.
Yesterday morning, another story surfaced in which the online poker giant is being accused of scrapping some of its oldest affiliates. Numerous posts have appeared across several forums, all complaining of the same issue, but Markus Sonermo, owner of Swedish affiliate website Poker.org (registered since 1997), gave the most enlightening outlook on the situation in a post on the forums of Poker Affiliate Listings.
“I would like to extend my “gratitude” to PokerStars for having closed down my affiliate account yesterday. The reason given was that they felt I had too many old players generating revenue to justify my monthly payment. As if we were on some sort of flat monthly deal,” Sonermo vented. He went on to give his summation of PokerStars’ whittling of affiliate accounts. “I believe they’re removing affiliates and “pro players” etc. to make their books look better for a potential sale. Or perhaps just to justify whatever the Amaya purchase was supposed to be about.”
Sonermo was adamant that he was not angry with the situation, calling himself a “happy” and “fortunate man”. He asserted that he doesn’t “care about their decision in a financial sense”, but that “what is right is right”. His sentiments were reflected by a multitude of other affiliates (albeit less amicably) who also appeared to be handed pink slips due to the fact that the majority of their players are of the old, high-volume sort, not newly generated sign-ups.
PokerStars has given no indication as to why it’s trimming costs, but it’s easy enough to speculate. When you consider the recent buy-out of the world’s largest online poker company, Rational Group, by a relatively small business, Amaya Gaming, you have to assume they will need to make up that $4.9 billion that was spent somewhere.