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PokerStars UK Client Migration Experiences Hiccups

For a company that for years knew how to do things right, it seems that PokerStars is unable to do anything right at the moment. That is unless Stars is actively trying to alienate its loyal customers. The latest laughs to come out of the Isle of Man: software problems after UK players were forced to migrate to a new client.

As background, the UK Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 went into effect November 1st. The Act requires all online gaming operators who wish to service the UK market to obtain a UK gambling license. No longer will being licensed elsewhere, such as the Isle of Man, cut the mustard. Additionally, all operators will be charged a 15 percent tax on revenues derived from UK players. Because of these changes, some online gambling operators decided to just up and leave the market altogether. Carbon Poker on the Merge Gaming Network and Mansion Poker were two of the better known names to cut bait, though most, like PokerStars, stayed. uk-flag

As a result of the regulatory changes, PokerStars had to introduce a new site just for UK players. Players were able to download the new software on November 3rd and continue to sit at the same tables, just like they always had. There is really no difference in the gaming experience; the migration to the UK client was really just a formality. UK players have been warned that because of the 15 percent tax, loyalty rewards may suffer in 2015, but again, that really won’t have anything to do with what it is like to actually play on PokerStars.

On November 5th, though, many UK players had their poker games rudely interrupted by an unexpected software problem. In the middle of tournaments, players were kicked out of the games and greeted with the message, “We are sorry, PokerStars does not offer Real Money games in your area.”

Players took to internet message boards in a panic, wondering what was going on. It soon became apparent that it was simply a software problem and not some weird, mass culling of players because poker was suddenly illegal in the UK. The matter was resolved in about twenty minutes, but players were still left wondering how they were going to be reimbursed. PokerStars naturally refunds tournament buy-ins to affected players, but there were plenty of players who were deep in tournaments with large stacks who expected some sort of additional money to make up for winnings they believe they would have earned. PokerStars was having none of it, though, responding to one request with the following message:

Unfortunately we do not provide refunds based on tournament equity for circumstances such as you’ve experienced.

In the past, there have been occasions where we have granted refunds based on equity. However, situations at the time were extremely unique and as a result, this very rare resolution of reviewing equity lost in tournaments was used. The last time equity based requests were eligible was during a major World Championship Of Online Poker (WCOOP) event. At this time, technical issues from PokerStars severely and negatively impacted an inequity in the way many of our tournaments were running. As a result, it was decided after discussions through senior management to review refund requests based on equity lost throughout each tournament.

We apologise that we cannot make similar considerations for your individual circumstance.

It does appear, however, that PokerStars may have remedied the situation with some players. A post on Two Plus Two today by a player who had been previously miffed by PokerStars’ handling of refunds indicates that the world’s largest poker site may have had a change of heart. While he did not give details on his compensation, he wrote “what I got was actually really fair” and encouraged others to report on how their refunds were handled.

This was not the first problem players experienced with the new PokerStars UK client. On launch day (November 3rd), several glitches were experienced. Some players simply could not upgrade to the new client at all, despite being prompted by the old “dot com” software to do so. Other issues included:

• Inability to transfer funds from PokerStars.UK to PokerStars.EU.
• Stellar Rewards were not appearing in the VPP store.
• VPP multiplier for Sit-and-Go’s and multi-table tournaments incorrectly awarded a 5x multiplier instead of the 5.5x multiplier that it should have been.
• The BOOM hand re-player was inaccessible.
• Players were unable to register for Spin & Go tournaments (this was expected to a point, as it was announced that there would be a down period during the transition, but it went on longer than expected).

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