The State of PokerStars in January 2015

PokerStars logo

There’s no denying that 2014 was a weird year for PokerStars. Being bought out by Amaya Gaming has meant that we’ve seen change happening at such a fast pace at the site that many other operators would struggle to survive. PokerStars has managed to hang on, though, and its new owner has decided that now is the time to look both back and forward, and think about the position the site is in. I thought I’d use their update to do a little ‘State of PokerStars’ analysis of my own.

The PokerStars Rollercoaster

It’s been a year of up and downs for the site, and we’ve been there for an awful lot of it. While the EGR Awards saw PokerStars named Poker Operator of the Year, it still had to contend with a sudden drop in traffic towards the end of the year. While it pushed ahead with a social gaming app and the launch of its unique Spin and Go games, it has to be asked whether the player backlash was worth it. And while its revenue could grow exponentially thanks to the launch of mobile casino and sports betting products on the site, it also threatens to drive away many of the loyal customers who love PokerStars the way it is.

It is against this backdrop, then, that Amaya released its January update on the site, and gave some indications about what to expect over the coming weeks and months…

Operational Casino

PokerStars Casino GamesPoker purists were dismayed when it was announced – shortly after Amaya took the helm – that players would soon be able to play other casino table games alongside poker. True to its word, Amaya was happy to announce that in December the entire suit of games was assembled and made available to players.

The uptake has been predictably slow, and there’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, as alluded to before, most people head to PokerStars for quality poker, and the majority of players have little more than a passing interest in other casino games, choosing instead to hone their skills on their preferred game.

However, the new casino games are only available on the new PokerStars 7 platform, meaning that they’re only available to players who have chosen to download the platform. While in the future PokerStars 7 will become the site’s primary poker client, for now most players simply don’t have access to the games due to the fact they don’t have PokerStars 7.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for the new games, the world has not stopped spinning – as the hysteria of angry players suggested it might with the addition of casino games to PokerStars – and there has been no real appreciable drop in player numbers.Victoria Coren PokerStars Shirt

The real casualty of the instalment of the casino games was Victoria Coren. The poker legend and former PokerStars pro had no intention to promote other forms of gambling other than poker, so ended her tenure with the company. If you want to hear some really interesting arguments against the introduction of casino games at PokerStars, I thoroughly recommend you read her blog about leaving – we all know she’s clever, and she writes incredibly well.

The Dreaded Sportsbook

The big news from the recent Amaya announcement was that, not only would Amaya be pushing ahead with the introduction of sports betting as part of PokerStars, but it would be rolling it out in the first quarter of the year – i.e. before the end of April. If there’s one thing that’s thrown up more angst and caused more controversy than the introduction of casino games, it’s the introduction of sports betting.

If sports betting IS your thing, firstly, do not tell the poker players, otherwise they’ll have it in for you, secondly, you’ll be happy to hear that you’ll have a custom built mobile platform for sports betting with PokerStars by the end of the year! Always a silver lining.

I for one don’t really understand the problem with having all new parts of the site – it’s not like you actually have to interact with the unsavoury characters who come to play games you don’t like and bet on the horses. Many players, however, have complained that it might lead to the neglect of poker players – who, let’s be honest, are pretty well looked after at PokerStars at the moment – and that we might see fewer attractive promotions or attractive tournaments.

Behold the Frankenstein Monster of Poker

Amaya Gaming logoWhat it boils down to is that the poker players feel like have a good thing going. They get to play with talented players from all around the world, they get to take advantage of some of the best poker software in the industry, and they get to take part in tournaments which offer them the chance to pocket millions. Quite simply, they don’t want that fucked about with.

The worry is that Amaya doesn’t care about continuing to offer a poker player’s playground, and is simply attaching any element of gambling to the PokerStars corpus in order to increase profit; which is probably completely true. Whatever the fears and realities, it seems that Amaya’s steam ship of progress is powering on against the tide. Whether you like it or not.

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