European Poker Tour founder John Duthie has taken issue with PokerStars massage therapist rake at its sponsored live events, just days before the world’s largest poker site is set to increase its rake fees in small stakes multi-table tournaments.

Duthie, who was once responsible for the overall operation of the EPT while serving as a PokerStars executive, joined forces with rival partypoker LIVE a year ago when he signed-on as the brand’s president.

PokerStars Massage Therapist Rake is “#puregreed,” says Duthie

The social media interaction began this past Sunday on Twitter, when Duthie notified the poker community that “all PokerStars LIVE events charge €2 a minute” to players who request massages while playing in sponsored events — and that PokerStars keeps half of that money.

Current PokerStars/The Stars Group VP of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser responded later that day, disputing Duthie’s claims that PokerStars charges massage therapists “50%” vigorish to offer their services at the online poker behemoth’s live tournaments.

But How Much Did She Lose?

After Hollreiser rebuked the allegations (or at least the percentage that PokerStars currently extracts from its on-site massage therapy contractors), Duthie asked for clarification, stating that he was “never involved” in negotiations between Stars and massage therapists. Duthie also posted that he can “prove” that no such rake was charged during his own tenure with PokerStars, which ended in late 2011.

PokerStars “Protecting” EPT Massage Therapist Interests?

The story was subsequently shared by Poker Life Podcast host Joey Ingram, who sarcastically applauded the world’s largest poker site for “protecting” EPT massage therapists “from making more $$$.”

This sentiment was echoed by Twitter user @RynePMP, who explained why charging masseuses a per-minute cut to labor at PokerStars live events is indeed best for their welfare.

As of Wednesday March 21st, Hollreiser has yet to reveal exactly how much is collected from PokerStars massage therapist rake. However, The Stars Group could simply be waiting to formally hire an “aggressive, smart and experienced corporate communicator” before it addresses the issue.

Poker Massage Therapy is a Competitive, Skill-Based Profession

Although the vast majority of live poker players tend to be male while most on-site massage therapists are female, there is a certain skill-based bond shared by the two professions that supersedes traditional gender-based rivalries.

Massage Therapy Rake

Poker players and masseuses coexist at major live events around the world, and much like for-profit poker players, massage therapists provide their services in a professional environment that is highly specialized, skill-based and competitive. The massage therapist trade, as it relates to poker events, also has an element of luck that can significantly sway one’s wages in the short-term — often depending on whether a client is able to survive an “all-in race” while receiving a massage in a live poker tournament.

PokerStars Massage Therapist Rake Symbolizes Corporate Direction

The decision by The Stars Group executives to extract maximum value from on-site independent contractors who labor at the company’s sponsored events — while controversial — appears to be in line with corporate initiatives that have been repeatedly voiced by the publicly-traded company.

It remains to be seen whether PokerStars will eventually extend an “olive branch” to masseuses by creating an innovative freeroll tournament in which every massage therapist with a PokerStars account would be eligible to participate. Or if the online poker conglomerate sticks to its hard-line stance of protecting its recreational player base by continuing to ensure that skilled, for-profit pros are sufficiently charged for the privilege and entertainment value of plying their respective trades.

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