PokerStars Slashes Cash-Game Table Cap

In a move made without advance notice, industry-leading online poker site PokerStars has dramatically slashed its table cap on cash-game play, on virtually all of its worldwide sites, from 24 to just four cash-game tables. The dramatic change is one of the sharpest changes in direction regarding Stars’ online offerings, and comes not long after parent company The Stars Group reported generally listless financial results from its online-poker segment within its most recent corporate results.

The move was announced yesterday in a PokerStars Blog post by Séverin Rasset, PokerStars’ Director of Poker Innovations and Operations. According to Rasset, the reduced cap is a much-needed and continuing adjustment in the battle by PokerStars to balance its player ecosystem and give newer players better bang for their initial deposits, when faced with tables overly dominated by multi-tabling online grinders.

PokerStars“[M]ost of our players play on one table at a time,” wrote Rasset. “Without careful management, we risk ending up with an environment where the majority of players find themselves at tables disproportionately populated by multi-tabling players. This can lead to a difficult playing experience. Action at the tables can be regularly interrupted, and many players can feel outmatched and that their chances of winning are diminished.”

The move comes after PokerStars had live-tested a six-table cash-game maximum on its Italian (.it) site. After what Rasset described as a careful review, Stars will implement the stricter four-table cap on all of these platforms, including the global .com: .be, .bg, .com, .desh, .dk, .ee, .eu, .uk, .ro, .cz, .se, .fr, .es, .pt, and .it.

The move will not, however, include the popular new “Zoom” cash-game tables or any form of tournament play on PokerStars. The exclusion of the Zoom tables was quickly cited by many aggrieved multi-tablers as evidence that Stars was trying to force them into Zoom in place of more standard cash-game offerings, if not to force them off the site altogether.

Famed online pro Phil Galfond, whose own RunItOnce online site has launched with a six-table cap, was among the most prominent poker voices to castigate Stars for selective nature of the move. Amid a lengthy multi-Tweet harangue, Galfond stated, “I’ve feared for a while now that @PokerStars, pessimistic about the future of online poker as we know it, have been moving players towards other revenue streams while milking everything they can from what they perceive as the remaining years of true online poker.” Certainly a component of that is that PokerStars, with a global payer base several times that of its nearest competitors, may have approached saturation and market maturity in many of the jurisdictions where it is available.

Galfond further described it a short-term cash grab, writing, “With a cap on regular tables but not Zoom tables, tough multitablers who prefer reg tables will now have to add, or perhaps exclusively play, Zoom tables.

“This further drives up game toughness and rake effeciency (& drives down winrates and beatability of games).”

PokerStars’ Rasset observed that the four-table gap should increase profits for the very strongest players while also helping the newest customers. Of course, that leaves the majority of the massive-multi-tabling, narrow-win grinders as the target of the move, though Stars is hardly alone in wanting lower percentages of that type of player among its player base.

Rasset wrote, “We want to maintain a sustainable poker ecosystem and a platform that players of all abilities are excited to play on well into the future. Attracting and retaining new poker players is crucial to the future of the game. By reducing the table cap from 24 to 4, we are reducing the number of multi-tabling players and increasing the number of more casual one-table players at each table. This should lead to increased win rates on any individual table for the strongest players, while increasing the likelihood that single-table players will meet others like themselves. As a result, they’ll have more chance of experiencing winning sessions and continue to play in the longer term.”

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