PokerStars Responds to Spin & Go Criticisms
About three weeks ago, PokerStars launched Spin & Go’s, its version of the increasingly popular Lottery Sit-and-Go format, on its dot com site. The games had previously been rolled out on Stars’ French, Spanis, and Italian sites, but finally getting them going on the largest poker room on the internet was a very big deal. They have proven to be a hit, noticeably drawing traffic away from PokerStars’ cash games, but not everybody loves them.
High volume Sit-and-Go grinders, particularly those who make a living playing poker, have bristled at the introduction of Spin & Go’s on PokerStars’ main site. Their main concerns are as follows:
1) Timing – players who are shooting for the Supernova Elite loyalty level typically make their biggest push late in the year. But with Spin & Go’s taking liquidity away from these players’ preferred games at around the same time this push begins in earnest, many feel they will have a harder time reaching their goals.
2) Rake – many feel the rake is simply too high for a game that lasts only a few minutes.
3) High variance – if “regulars” eventually need to move to Spin & Go’s to make a living, the combined game format (three-handed and hyper-turbo) and fluctuating prize pools will make Spin & Go’s very hard to reliably grind.
4) Collusion – it is not uncommon for regular, hardcore grinders to pool their winnings, and collusion amongst these players would be very hard to detect in Spin & Go’s.
There are other issues people have with the games, primarily stemming from the basic idea that Spin & Go’s are variance-fests geared towards recreational players and will/are pulling traffic away from other games.
One Supernova Elite player, “masuronike,” even went so far as to compose a petition for players to send to PokerStars, urging the poker room to do away with Spin & Go’s. He also wrote up a long post on Tiltbook.com (a site he founded), explaining his problems with the game.
PokerStars, for their part, is fully aware of the criticisms. Recently, PokerStars’ Ring Game Manager, who goes simply by “Baard” on the message boards, posted a response to player concerns on Two Plus Two. In regards to the timing of Spin & Go launch, he wrote, “As I see it, introducing this new game with three months remaining of the year should not prevent anyone from achieving their VPP goals. There are still a lot of games running, and if you have kept somewhat on pace, this launch is unlikely to prevent you from reaching your target. Of course, if you are far behind pace, you may see things a bit differently, but in that case you were vulnerable to any unforeseen event in your life.”
He also answered a question regarding PokerStars’ past hesitancy or refusal to introduce certain games because of marginal liquidity issues. That is, PokerStars argued against certain games because it believed they would take players away from existing games. Why, then, launch Spin & Go’s, which have obviously had this effect? Here, Baard said that while other games (18-man hypers were the main ones in question) would have just shifted players around, Spin & Go’s “are bringing literally tens of thousands of new and previously inactive players to the site.” He went on to say:
Anyone who has followed the online poker market over the past few years will recognize the fact that it is more and more difficult to get new players to the tables. So when a new product comes along that captures the imagination of a wide range of players, it is not something that we can just pass on because we don’t want to upset the regular players. If we had decided to stand pat with the current offering for the next couple years, chances are that soon your games would have been far more reg-filled and running less often than you will see now due to the addition of Spin & Gos.
Another aspect of this is that we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are a business and that we do business in a competitive environment. And as a business, we need to provide the products that are pleasing to our customers. Clearly given the popularity of Spin & Go, we have many customers who like the format, are pleased that we have offered it, and based on the overall volume of play on our site it is clear that players are overall happier than they were before. We do need to keep adapting to provide the games that our customers as a whole prefer. If we don’t, someone else will.
When it comes to rake, Baard showed a chart comparing Spin & Go rake to Six-Max Hyper Sit-and-Go rake, which shows they are very similar. Two Plus Two members pointed out, though, that a direct comparison between the two should not be made because Six-Max Hypers take longer than Spin & Go’s. Thus, the rake from a Spin & Go is proportionally higher. Heads-up Hypers, though, have a lower rake than Six-Max, which makes sense, since they are shorter. Thus, Spin & Go’s, posters have argued, should fall somewhere in between the two.
As to collusion, Baard simply said that PokerStars is really good at catching cheaters and that collusion would not be a reliable endeavor because of the infrequency with which the colluders would be matched up in a Spin & Go.
In response to the other general arguments that Spin & Go’s are killing poker and that they are taking traffic away from other Sit-and-Go’s, Baard wrote:
As mentioned earlier in this post, poker is increasingly struggling to attract new players, and Spin & Gos serve exactly this purpose. I think it is much more likely that in a few years we are going to say that Spin & Gos saved online poker than Spin & Gos were responsible for killing the game.
Poker has never been about finding your niche and sticking with that for the duration of your career. If poker is your chosen profession, your adaption skills are going to be put to the test every so often, and Spin & Gos are just another thing you have to adapt to.
He added that no specific game has been affected more than any other with the migration of players to Spin & Go’s and that overall, Spin & Go’s have added players to the site.
As has been touched on, not everyone was satisfied with Baard’s response but if PokerStars’ history is any indication, the poker room will probably maintain an open dialogue with players. If Spin & Go’s continue to thrive, though, don’t expect PokerStars to do much of anything to discourage people from playing in them.