16 Epic fail by PokerStars: SNG Changes

08 May 2011

PokerStars made some big changes to SNGs over the last couple of days, announced here. By changes I mean they have ballsed them up completely. For a site that is usually so good at making improvements for it's players, this is just an epic fail.

A few months ago it was inferred that PokerStars would be reducing the rake in SNGs, and I made this post giving my suggestions for what I thought they should do and why. Yet instead of reducing the rake, they have hiked it up for the mid-stakes games, and reductions at the higher levels are very slight. One of the worst things is they are trying to pass it off as an improvement, which is, at best, stretching the truth and is, at worst, complete BS.

PokerStars has wasted an opportunity to really improve things for the long term good of the game, and perhaps make revolutionary changes that would have made them the most appealing site to play SNGs on. However, instead they've decided to be greedy, and try and rape the $0-30 stakes players as much as possible. Whilst there has been some rake reduction in places, only the high stakes SNGs (and Heads Up SNGs, not shown here) have seen any real benefit, for the rest it basically just means players are being raped a little less than they already were.

Old Buy-in
Rake %*
New Buy-in
Rake %*

However, it doesn't stop here. Whilst I think the standardization of buy-ins to 1, 3 ,5, 10, 20 etc. is a reasonable move, they have made a huge cock-up by showing the buy-in+rake in a non-rounded form in the lobby. With the standardization of buy-ins, and the new columns they are bringing in shortly, it seemed as though were trying to "tidy up" the lobby. But it looks worse than ever now:
Cartoon #4516 - 'We find it helps our less motivated employees.'

What fish wants to play a $5.48 tournament, a $53.84 tournament or even more comically a $10127.50 tournament? Who thought it would be a good idea to present the tournaments in this way? A fish wants to play a bloody $5 tournament, a $50 tournament or if they have a lot of money to spare, a $10,000 tournament. Imagine if the WSOP Main Event was changed to a $10,000+743.27 buy-in ffs. It looks utterly ridiculous.

They've also altered the structures, and seemingly "fixed" something that wasn't broken. The change has affected MTT SNGs the worst, as now you are stuck playing a bunch of extra levels early on when the good players are folding most of the time, and left it so you are shortstacked in the late game, thereby reducing a good player's edge, and ultimately their win rate. As if the increased rake in the $5-20 MTT SNGs wasn't enough, they throw this spanner in the works. I get the feeling from other grinders this could be the worst change of them all, the turbos are apparently complete crapshoots now (I haven't played just yet). Maybe they needn't have bothered with introducing a hyper-turbo SNG trial on this basis! But of course hyper-turbos have less rake...

There's still more! They're now providing 45-second timebanks in turbo games (up from 15-seconds). That's 1/4 of a level. If four players use their timebank in one hand, then the blind's will increase by the next one. That's ridiculous. Imagine the stalling that could occur in a bubble situation. I generally only end up timebanking when I get a backlog of tables due to multiple difficult decisions arising, and TableNinja's "auto-click timebank" comes into effect.  I'm sure the fish are going to love me time-banking for 45-seconds holding seven-deuce offsuit UTG at 10/20.

The timing of the changes was also rather absurd. They decided to do it randomly in the middle of the day. God knows what people who were playing at the time must have thought, and I wonder if anybody mis-registered for tournaments because of it. There was a server reset just two days before they brought the changes in on Friday 6th May. Surely this would have been a better time?

PokerStars has annoyed a lot of it's regs with this move, which just seems so counter-productive. I'm one of the biggest pro-PokerStars people I can imagine you'll meet, and here I am writing this blog berating nearly everything they've done to SNGs, on what is becoming known in SNG-circles as Black Friday II.

After all the optimism and ideas that had come about from their suggestion they would be reviewing SNGs and lowering rake, it is more than disappointing to see what they have done. It's like Pepsi telling you they have improved their formula, and you finding that urine has been added to the ingredients list. One 2+2er echoed my thoughts exactly:
I feel like a kid who's come down on christmas morning to find santa bending his mum over, and then opens his present to find a big steaming pile of reindeer s**t.
PokerStars need to admit that they've scored a huge own goal here and sort it out ASAP. From my knowledge of the lobby, less games seem to be running than I would expect at each buy-in level, so I hope the reduced traffic is a huge wake-up call and will force them into action.

I'm going to take another shot at a possible fix for the SNG buy-ins, and hope that someone from PokerStars reads it. The last time I had a go at this I may have been too ambitious for what they would be willing to do (although I still think my suggestions here are more the way forward), so I've tried to be more realistic with these suggestions:

Old Buy-inRake %*"My" Buy-inRake %*+/-*

Whilst I'm not suggesting this table is perfect, it would help ease tension with the regs who are currently 'up in arms', and mean they have keep their word and reduced rake. It would make the lowest stakes games a more reasonable prospect, it would make the mid-stakes games actually beatable, and it would solve the problem of the lobby looking a complete mess, as buy-ins would be a round number.

I would get rid of the extended time-banks, and change them back to what they were before. I would also temporarily change the structures back to what they were before, and do some significant research on how altering the structures would affect each type of SNG. I wouldn't be opposed to them implementing some changes if they have a neutral or positive affect on the games, but clearly not enough thought was put into this. Although standardization of structures seems a reasonable idea on the surface, one 2+2er made the analogy that not every car would want the same engine, and a "Ferrari" 18-man SNG, might need a different structure to a "Morris Minor" Fifty50 SNG.

Whilst my faith has been shaken in regards to PokerStars over the last month or so, it is still strong, and I have faith that they will make amends for this epic fail, and make more sensible changes. But still, for the greater good of the whole site, this needs to be reviewed immediately. It might even be better if they reverted to the old SNGs temporarily until they come up with a reasonable solution.

Please don't make us wait another 3 months though, and next time do it right.

Shortly after posting this, PokerStars SNG Manager Steve Day made this statement:
"PokerStars will directly address all questions/complaints posted here, including those referencing rake, by the end of Wednesday"

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