Forum Files: the Sky is Falling

Alex Weldon : November 2nd, 2015


Yesterday, PokerStars announced a set of changes to its VIP Rewards program, set to go into effect at the start of 2016. These changes are primarily to the detriment of exactly the sort of high-volume players who populate the poker forums, so needless to say, the forums community is up in arms.

The news was actually leaked on Saturday due to a page going up on, which someone found and ran through Google Translate. It’s unclear whether the intent was always to make the official English announcement on November 1, or whether that was forced by the leak, but either way, the forums rage machine was already primed and ready by the time the press release went out.

So angry are the forums posters about the changes at PokerStars that they’ve almost forgotten about the other thing they were angry about, namely that Justin Bonomo said that Daniel Negreanu should be nicer to Vanessa Selbst.

SupernovaElite is dead, long live SupernovaElite
Thread: Pokerstars VIP club changes plan removal of SNE

This is the thread that started it all, where news of the upcoming changes was broken due to it having been posted prematurely on PokerStars’s Russian site. Once PokerStars realized what was going on, the page was taken down, but nothing ever actually goes away on the internet, so the fire continued to burn and there were already 10 pages of outrage by the time the official announcement was made.

Unfortunately – though predictably – most of the posting in the thread is of low quality, just short one- or two-line posts expressing dismay and disgust with PokerStars, and grim predictions about the death of the site and/or of online poker in general. There are also a few trolls of the anti-multi-tabling variety, gloating at the misfortune of those who’ve relied on the VIP Rewards system to make their living.

Buried amidst all of that, there are a few good posts, however, by people actually putting some thought into the possible long-term consequences of this move. A few feel it will work out for the best, several others think that the changes will be disastrous enough for site traffic that PokerStars will reverse them as they did last year’s rake hikes. Still others are predicting a disruption of PokerStars’s near-monopoly, as pros search for better deals elsewhere.

HUDs are dead, long live HUDs
Thread: Bye Bye HUDs

Views are much more split when it comes to the part of the PokerStars announcement where it’s revealed that third-party software guidelines will be tightened even further. Essentially every thread ever produced on the subject of HUDs features the same spectrum of opinions: those who feel that they’re necessary for professional play in the modern online poker world, those who think they’re a cancer on poker, and those who think they’re unfortunate but unavoidable, and that attempts to ban them will therefore do more harm than good.

On top of those three standard positions, however, there’s a lot of speculation about the vagueness in PokerStars’s announcement, since it’s not clear exactly what will be banned. It may not in fact be the case that HUDs end up being banned entirely, only that their allowed range of functionality is trimmed a little further. Some posters speculate that PokerStars’s ultimate intent is to offer a simplified in-client HUD for all users, to put everyone on a level playing field. Others think that PokerStars may be moving towards anonymous play like some other sites.

Those darn buzzwords
Thread: The word and trend that is killing the industry is…

Here’s an interesting theory: The decline of the poker industry is not due to multi-tabling grinders, nor bots, nor third party software, nor the increasing caliber of play, nor a natural recession in the wake of a boom period. No, it’s because too many people are tossing about words like “economy,” “ecosystem,” and “environment.” The evidence for this theory is that PokerStars announced its changes under the headline “Comprehensive Plan for Enhanced PokerStars Experience,” and proceeded to mention the “poker economy” a few times in mentioning those changes.

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide how they feel about this hypothesis.

If it’s not the buzzwords, it’s the “SJWs”
Thread: Justin Bonomo – Daniel Negreanu – SJW Feud

The forums have a love/hate relationship with Daniel Negreanu. They hate him when he’s shilling for everyone’s most-and-least-favorite poker site, but they love him when he’s advocating for chauvinism. So, Justin Bonomo was basically begging to be put on blast when he did an interview with PokerNews last week, in which he expressed the outrageous opinion that if Vanessa Selbst tells Daniel Negreanu that she finds it sexist and unpleasant when he talks about her “playing with the big boys,” maybe he should not go out of his way to say it more. This of course makes Bonomo a “Social Justice Warrior,” one of the worst things a person can be, at least in the eyes of a certain pasty-faced, basement-dwelling segment of society.

The thread was eventually locked, but not before three hundred posts were produced on the subject of how terrible Bonomo is for thinking we should not offend people just because we can. If it had not been, Bonomo could have been on his way to stealing Brian Hastings’s title of Most Hated Man on the Forums. On the other hand, maybe the PokerStars changes would have distracted everyone and let Bonomo off the hook. Unfortunately, because the moderators stepped in, we may never know now whether online poker players’ hatred for the rake is greater or lesser than their hatred for political correctness.

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