The 2018 Partypoker Powerfest was supposed to award $60 million in guaranteed cash prizes. But guarantees in several events were lowered unexpectedly in the middle of the series.
A report earlier this week out of the TwoPlusTwo forums reveals that Partypoker lowered total prize pool guarantees in several Powerfest events during Week 3 of its marquee online poker tournament series, without providing notice to players who had pre-registered.
Longtime cash game streamer Darius Wajda, known on Twitter as @KomodoDragonPkr, brought the issue to the official 2+2 Partypoker Feedback Thread late Wednesday Eastern Time. Wajda had noticed that Powerfest Event #43 (a $500+30 NLHE tournament he had previously registered for), had its prize pool guarantee suddenly slashed from $1 million to $500,000.
“What the hell,” posted Wajda. “PP Just lowered Powerfest #143-HR’s guarantee from $1M to $500k. It was $1M when I registered for it a couple days ago.”
Partypoker player liaison Colette Stewart quickly responded to the complaint, confirming that “unfortunately, our final week’s GTEs were based on us running alongside the final week of WCOOP and rather than cancel the 3rd week we decided to run the full schedule with a relatively small amount of amended tournaments, the above being one such tournament. Apologies for any inconvenience caused. Website and other content should be updated accordingly today.”
The Partypoker Powerfest tournament series (available exclusively on the site’s dot-com platform) was originally listed with a $60 million total guarantee. It represents one of the largest weeks-long internet poker series that players around the globe can compete in for real money each year.
There has been no further feedback on the issue within the 2+2 thread since that time.
iGaming Media Opens Partypoker Powerfest Twitter Discussion
The news was brought to Twitter Thursday morning by Pokerfuse co-founder Nick Jones, whose post likewise received a prompt reply from Stewart. It was then followed by two insights into why Jones believes the issue is of importance to the poker community.
@pokerprojones Thank you for feedback I believe transparancy is the way forward and we aim at all times to be as open and as honest with our players as we can be I am always on hand across social media to answer any queries (when possible) and help our players and the community
— colette stewart (@LittleDog78) September 20, 2018
It is “commendable that pp are honest with reason,” wrote Jones. “Excellent that [Stewart] has the latitude to write honest response to Qs like quick. Partypoker leading right now with direct community engagement. Partypoker revealed their full year MTT schedule way back in January  – with exact dates.”
READ: Partypoker Shows Its Hand: Full 2018 MTT Schedule (Poker Industry PRO — *Paywall*)
The Poker Industry PRO editor would go on to describe the strategic jockeying between online poker sites as a “cat-and-mouse” game, particularly when establishing schedules for showcase tournament series.
“That seemed a risky strategy at the time, given the apparent cat-and-mouse operators are playing.”
Main Issue — Lowering Tournament Guarantees After Buy-in
Poker media representatives were quick to chime-in with feedback, making reference to the grace period that has been afforded to PokerStars’ main dot-com competitor by several key influencers within the high stakes and professional online poker community.
A high profile dispute between players and the world’s largest poker site provoked a messy break-up between volume-based customers and PokerStars starting in late 2015.
This has led to a bitter public relations contest between some of the world’s most accomplished poker personalities, while motivating members of the community to be more forgiving of issues that arise on sites other than PokerStars.
This. And I think changing it before the series is ok, but changing it during the series is questionable.
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) September 20, 2018
However, the main issue from a Partypoker customer perspective is the fact that a player who had pre-registered for a $1 Million Guaranteed online poker tournament was not immediately or automatically refunded once the event no longer guaranteed the total payout that had been previously advertised.
I think that the key timing factor is when someone has paid/registered. At that moment, you've got an offer of a service, and paid acceptance of it.
— Michael Josem (@MichaelJosem) September 20, 2018
Why should Wajda — who happens to be an informed streamer that observed a change which could have easily gone unnoticed by other Partypoker Powerfest players who pre-registered or competed via satellites — have to bring this to the attention of Partypoker personnel to begin with?
Aren’t there regulations in place to protect real money online gaming consumers from such practices?
Of enticing customers to enter a tournament under one condition, then leaving players to rely on their own self-vigilance devices to inform the community that the condition has changed? And ask for it to be corrected?
Partypoker Powerfest Lowers Guarantees – UKGC Regulations
Before we get into official literature published by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) that deals with misleading advertising, marketing to vulnerable consumers, and social responsibility, it is important for our readers to possess some background information:
- The UKGC oversees the activities of online gaming operators in Great Britain, including Partypoker.
- There has been well documented friction between some iGaming operators and affiliates for years.
- This friction has recently increased due to UK gambling regulations which hold operators directly responsible for marketing and other content on affiliate sites.
- In September 2017, Sky Betting & Gaming ended its affiliate program altogether amid exposure concerns related to the new UKGC regulations.
- The UKGC has issued multiple fines to online gaming operators in the past 18 months. These fines have reached as high as £7,800,000 ($10 million USD).
- The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) have been conducting ongoing investigations into “news” and “marketing” content published by traditional affiliates as well as high profile influencers that are sponsored by gambling operators.
These topics are further outlined and explained in the two articles below.
According to ASA Codes on Misleading Advertising:
UK Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP): Misleading Advertising (Official Webpage)
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (3.1)
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner. (3.3)
There is also some reference to “guarantees” within the UK ASA codes, although these do not appear to be relevant to gambling products or poker tournaments.
According to UK Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP):
UK Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (Official Webpage – Apr 4, 2018)
Licensees should also have regard to the CAP and BCAP ‘Guidance on the rules for gambling advertisements’ which contains a specific section on ‘Misleadingness’: ‘free bets’, or any equivalent guidance that either body may issue in future. (5.1.6-2)
Licensees must satisfy themselves that their marketing communications, advertisements, and invitations to purchase (within the meaning of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008), including ‘free bet’ offers, do not amount to or involve misleading actions or misleading omissions within the meaning of those Regulations. (5.1.7-1)
The guidelines appear to solely address “free bet” and other promotions associated with bonus releases, terms and conditions, etc. The word “poker” is not included at all in the official LCCP, and the section that directly deals with the term “peer-to-peer” contains literature that primarily grants operators legal leverage over customer disputes through Alternative Dispute Resolution services and hometown jurisdictional reign via contractual stipulations.
UKGC Guidelines Interpretation – Partypoker Powerfest
This author was unable to find material that specifically addresses issues such as Partypoker Powerfest lowering its guarantees without notifying customers who had already bought-in to an event.
Therefore, it is recommended that any customer who may desire further information seek out a qualified, licensed professional (such as a regulatory lawyer or compliance officer) to advise accordingly.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONSIDERATION (TWITTER): @GamRegGB
Read More UK Gambling Regulation News from Part Time Poker
RESOLVED: PokerStars Players Dispute Tournament Payouts (Aug 12, 2018)
UK Lawmakers Want Gambling Ad Restrictions to Combat Problem Gambling (Sep 20, 2018)
Victoria Coren Mitchell and the War on UK FOBT Machines (May 21, 2018)
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals Face High Stakes UK Government Crackdown (May 16, 2018)
Regulated Statewide U.S. Online Poker Update (Aug 14, 2018)
PA Gaming Control Board Meeting Timestamps, September (Sep 13, 2018)
PA Gaming Control Board Meeting Timestamps, July (Jul 21, 2018)
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