Players Can No Longer Win Multiple Prize Packages in PokerStars Live Event Satellites
For a decade or more now, online poker satellite tournaments have not only been a great way to win a seat in a more expensive land-based tourney for a reasonable price, but also a money-making proposition for those players who have been good enough to win them over and over again. Those profitable days are coming to an end on PokerStars, as last week, the poker room announced that it will only allow players to win one seat to any given live tournament via satellite.
The popularity of online poker satellites exploded in 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. The triumph of the amateur has become almost mythical now, as he won an $86 satellite on PokerStars to gain entry into the Main Event, where he stared down intimidating poker pro Sammy Farha to win $2.5 million and launch the poker boom.
That Moneymaker earned his seat via a satellite was a rather novel concept at the time. Sure, satellites existed – Tom McEvoy famously became the first WSOP Main Event winner to earn his seat via a satellite in 1983 – but online poker wasn’t that big yet and neither were online satellites. Seeing someone qualify – and win – the Main Event for so cheap was a revelation.
Satellites began to explode at that point, as did PokerStars. Today, satellites are as common as normal tourneys.
Over the years, poker pros figured out that satellites could actually be quite the money maker (to use a turn of phrase). When someone wins a satellite, they receive a prize package into the targeted tournament – say, a $10,000 seat in the WSOP Main Event and an extra $2,500 for travel and hotel (I’m making these numbers up, so don’t write angry letters if they are a bit off). If that person wins another satellite for the same event, they – depending on the site – are awarded the prize in tournament dollars of the same monetary value or even cash.
As satellites usually have weaker fields than regular tournaments – they tend to be filled with amateurs or lower-level players who can’t afford the larger buy-in ticket – pros often feast on these tourneys, scooping up prize packages not with the intent to play in target land-based event, but rather profit by cashing in the prizes packages.
This practice has become common in live satellites, too. At the WSOP, for example, a player might opt to sell the $10,000 Main Event they win for slightly below face value instead of actually play in the bracelet event. They pocket perhaps $9,500 and the buyer gets to play in the Main Event at a discount.
And now PokerStars is going to do away with the practice of winning multiple satellites for the same live event. In a blog post, PokerStars Poker Operations Manager Mike Jones wrote:
While recreational players dream of winning the poker experience of a lifetime with PokerStars, a fortunate and skilled few win multiple packages and seats to our live events, when they can only use one of them. These players have taken advantage of a system that allowed them to profit from winning against recreational or less experienced players. While this hasn’t been against the rules, it doesn’t make for as enjoyable experience as we would hope. The practice has, in fact, been off-putting for many, as we are seeing an increasing number of recreational players not even attempting to qualify for live events. This means that they are as a group less likely to experience the excitement that comes from playing live and the further investment in the poker world that comes from playing in a major live event.
As you can see, it is another in a series of moves by PokerStars over the last couple years to try to make its poker room more friendly for recreational players. Poker pros are the ones who usually benefit from repeated satellite wins and having too many pros in games can make poker less enjoyable for recreational players. Stars wants these players to have the opportunity to play in a major live event; satellites are clearly the best route to this goal for many of them.
“If there’s one thing we really love at PokerStars, it’s unforgettable poker experiences,” wrote Jones. “We want a larger portion of our customers to have such memories. Almost inevitably after having such an experience, one develops a new appreciation for poker, and becomes more of an ambassador of the game when they share their excitement and experiences with others.”
As such, players on PokerStars can now only win “one full package and one seat” via online satellite for a live event such as the PokerStars Championship or PokerStars Festival. The changes are going into effect with qualifiers for PokerStars Festival Dublin.