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Old 01-23-2016, 10:17 PM   #1
Ansky
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Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Daniel Dvoress, Isaac Haxton, and I were invited by Daniel Negreanu to join him at a meeting on Monday, January 18, at the Amaya headquarters in Montreal to discuss the recent changes to the PokerStars VIP program. The Amaya/PokerStars representatives in attendance were: Shawn Nikolaev, Amaya VP of Operations, Eric Hollreiser, PokerStars and Amaya VP of Corporate Communications, Severin Rasset, PokerStars Head of Poker Room Management, and Baard Dahl, also from PokerStars Poker Room Management. David Baazov, CEO of Amaya, also made a brief appearance.

At the start of the meeting, we were required to sign NDAs prohibiting us from discussing specific business and financial data which could conceivably influence trading in Amaya stock. It was not their intent to restrict our ability to discuss the meeting, but they felt that, in order to most effectively make their case, they needed to share confidential information.

We talked for more than eight hours in a conference room at the Amaya offices, a small, nondescript building by the side of the highway on the outskirts of Montreal. This is our joint statement summarizing our thoughts after that conversation.

Going into the meeting, our highest priority was to address PokerStars’ decision not to give the 2016 rewards they had promised to players earning SN and SNE statuses in 2015. We presented our view that the VIP program, as advertised on the PokerStars website until November 2015, was an agreement between PokerStars and the impacted players. We emphasized that failing to honor that agreement is not just a “miscommunication,” but an ongoing breach of trust. We reminded them that it is not too late to make it right.

Although the PokerStars and Amaya representatives were apologetic and expressed regret at the impact that the decision has had on players’ perception of the brand, we did not make any real progress on this point. They denied having any firm obligation to give 2015 SNs and SNEs the rewards they were promised and asserted that they did not feel that doing so would be in the best interests of their business.

As far as we could tell, PokerStars’ goal going into the meeting was to convince us that 1) There are problems with the current “ecosystem,” and that 2) The VIP changes will address those problems. We did feel that they made a compelling case on the first point. They presented strong evidence that something needs to change. We’d like to elaborate further on this, but we can’t say very much about the data they presented without violating the NDA.

However, we did not feel that we were shown convincing evidence that any of the changes implemented so far would directly impact issues with the game ecology or the playing experience of recreational players. They did not offer any evidence to support the (rather counter intuitive) claim that taking more money out of the games would produce a benefit for any players. In fact, the only mechanism by which they even suggested that might be true was that it would free up additional money for Stars to devote to other initiatives such as advertising, R&D and player retention.

We spent some time discussing the finer grained details of these changes and their anticipated consequences across different game types. We expressed concern that high stakes hyper SNG rake was unbeatable without the old 70% SNE RB. We were first shown some dubious statistics which they claimed suggested otherwise. After discussing our objections to those numbers, we were simply assured that they were aware that high stakes hypers were likely to be heavily impacted and planned to monitor those games closely. We were unable to get a clear answer as to whether rake adjustments in this game were under consideration or if, in the worst case, it would simply be allowed to die.

We also discussed the removal of VPPs for high stakes cash. We were, again, presented with a rather unconvincing study on the relative shares of deposits captured by PokerStars and by players winning in these games. In both this data and the SNG data, they tended to present the results of the biggest winners, or ignore the results of players who put in high volume and lost, in ways that systematically overstated how much pros in these games could or did win. Still, we were left agreeing that these are the lowest raked games on Stars and probably capable of withstanding an increase in effective rake. They assured us that PokerStars considers high stakes cash an important part of its offering and that there are no plans to eliminate these games.

We discussed some options for managing rake pricing at high stakes in ways that could increase revenue while presenting less of a deterrent to pros playing against each other and starting games. We suggested reducing rake in shorthanded cash games while increasing it in full games and offering discounts/bonuses for SNGs that run with a lineup of all SN or SNE players. The PokerStars/Amaya representatives did seem interested in these proposals, but ultimately we were left with the impression that they considered them to be more trouble than they were worth.

We deeply regret that we are not bringing back any good news for the players. We tried our best to present both practical and ethical arguments against the SN/SNE cuts, but PokerStars is not willing to reconsider any of the changes.


Feel free to ask us questions. We will try to answer them as best we can, but are unlikely to answer if we think it will come close to violating the NDA.


-Dani Stern, Isaac Haxton, Daniel Dvoress
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:26 PM   #2
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Did Daniel's presence there help the negotiations at all? Did it feel like he was on your "team" (the player's side) or on Amaya's "team". Do you feel that they have never thought of the SNE benefits as a two-year agreement between players and the site or that this was a new understanding on their part?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:27 PM   #3
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Did you guys at least got a refund for your plane tickets? The rest of the story seems very disappointing for some people.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:29 PM   #4
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

So shocking. So so shocking.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:31 PM   #5
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Did Daniel Negreanu go away happy?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:32 PM   #6
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Sounds like Amaya said "come over to our office so we can say **** you in person."
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:33 PM   #7
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

In the tweets (or retweets) I managed to pick up that DN thought the meeting ended with both parties being somewhat satisfied. If I am not mistaken you disagreed. Not that this is a surprise since you said PS didn't appear to actually be willing or eager to apply any of the proposed changes but did you feel DN was a fair negotiator between the players and PS.

What I am actually saying is; did DN act as the ambassador for players he claims to be. Sure he can't fix most of the problems and neither do I expect him to; but considering his personal feeling about the deception of PS regarding the SNE program did he actually made this impression during the meeting?

I'm actually not even that much concerned about whatever PS has in mind for the future. Me, and probably you, are most concerned about the way PS handled this transition and more important how they were able to profit millions on this "miscommunication".

DN said Baazov actually extended these changes because he felt it was fair to the players. PS then also mentioned they were not even sure themselves at october 2014 so how on earth could DB have made this decision when PS says their info was inconclusive? Did you get a chance to actually confront them with this hypocrisy and if yes; did they just wave it off or are they actually proposing measures to compensate?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:37 PM   #8
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

tl;dr version:

Spoiler:
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:37 PM   #9
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Angry Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by nlx78 View Post
Did you guys at least got a refund for your plane tickets? The rest of the story seems very disappointing for some people.
Sounds like Daniel should be providing the refund since he asked you guys to be there.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:38 PM   #10
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ansky View Post
...We suggested reducing rake in shorthanded cash games while increasing it in full games and offering discounts/bonuses for SNGs that run with a lineup of all SN or SNE players. The PokerStars/Amaya representatives did seem interested in these proposals, but ultimately we were left with the impression that they considered them to be more trouble than they were worth...
These are such well-informed and constructive suggestions that they would have to be fools not to incorporate them.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:38 PM   #11
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

What was the impression you got from the premise of the meeting?

If they had no good news why do you think you were even there?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:38 PM   #12
Ansky
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobiscommon View Post
Did Daniel's presence there help the negotiations at all? Did it feel like he was on your "team" (the player's side) or on Amaya's "team". Do you feel that they have never thought of the SNE benefits as a two-year agreement between players and the site or that this was a new understanding on their part?
For the most part Daniel was quiet during the meeting and let us talk. When we discussed the timing of the VIP changes and the two year commitment of SN+, he was definitely on our side. I wouldn't say he was on any team during the meeting overall.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:39 PM   #13
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Were you left with the impression that the employees that attended believe in these changes/the explanation for them?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:39 PM   #14
ike
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by fees View Post
What was the impression you got from the premise of the meeting?

If they had no good news why do you think you were even there?
Because Negreanu demanded it.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:40 PM   #15
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

lol so literally nothing came out of this. Was the money taken to fly/accomadate you guys taken from the money saved from ripping off SNEs?

From your post, it sounds like they underestimated how smart you guys are and willing to see past their propaganda and ridiculous evidence to prove their points. I can only assume at this point that this is the same BS that Dnegs is given, but he's able to listen to it and accept it as fact without questioning because of that fat cheque he gets from Amaya.

Looks like the guys you met with are the ones that have actually been around pre-Amaya days. Do you get the impression that they actually believe what they are saying, or are they just toying the company line in order to hang on to their jobs for at least a couple more years?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:41 PM   #16
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

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Originally Posted by ike View Post
Because Negreanu demanded it.
Did you atleast go to Joe Beef while you were there?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:42 PM   #17
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Dani, Ike,
do you feel like they wanted to use the meeting to try convincing you their actions are acceptable, because you are the most recognizable faces of the protest against the changes and you can influence the public opinion against them? Do you feel they wanted anything else than that?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:44 PM   #18
Ansky
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by HighSteaks View Post
Were you left with the impression that the employees that attended believe in these changes/the explanation for them?
I would say yes, though of course their interests are not exactly the same as ours.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:45 PM   #19
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

I hope at least there was good coffee and pastries at the meeting
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:46 PM   #20
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobiscommon View Post
Did Daniel's presence there help the negotiations at all? Did it feel like he was on your "team" (the player's side) or on Amaya's "team".
To add to what Ansky said above, with regards to:

Quote:
...We suggested reducing rake in shorthanded cash games while increasing it in full games and offering discounts/bonuses for SNGs that run with a lineup of all SN or SNE players. The PokerStars/Amaya representatives did seem interested in these proposals, but ultimately we were left with the impression that they considered them to be more trouble than they were worth...
Daniel seemed very supportive of this, especially when it came to cash games. I'm hoping this will make more heavily consider these options.

- Dan
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:46 PM   #21
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Did you guys ever feel like Time Warner or Comcast in a world of Internet Television? Holding on to old ways just makes you die with the problem. As you are all intelligent logical humans wouldn't it be GTO to just find the best way to go forward with your online regimen to support your personal goals?

Obviously Amaya/Stars wants to be a legitimate company going forward. If their recent changes don't work they will surely adjust again. If other sites become a better option and everyone leaves Stars then they will adjust to gain back their customer base. As customers its up to us to find the best deal and use it the way we want.

Regardless of your results in this meeting, I'm glad you got to get in there and talk directly and see numbers. I hope we move forward as responsible intelligent adults and do whats best for our goals, careers and the poker community.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:47 PM   #22
Ansky
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExciteD View Post
Dani, Ike,
do you feel like they wanted to use the meeting to try convincing you their actions are acceptable, because you are the most recognizable faces of the protest against the changes and you can influence the public opinion against them? Do you feel they wanted anything else than that?
As said in the statement, I think they wanted to convince us that the VIP changes were necessary to fix a problem.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:47 PM   #23
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

1) You said that David Baazov made an appearance. What was your impression of him?
2) To follow up to #1, do you feel he understands poker very well, as well as the whole ecosystem argument, or did his underlings decide to make these changes?
3) Why did you feel it was necessary to describe the Amaya office as "a small, nondescript building by the side of the highway on the outskirts of Montreal"? Was it because it was unimpressive for a multi-billion dollar company? If so, I'd advise you to visit the Wal Mart office or the Berkshire Hathaway office.
4) Do you believe they would have changed their minds if you presented data contrary to what they showed you?
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:47 PM   #24
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Thanks a lot Dani for all the effort, it is truly and greatly appreciated. I am not a big time grinder, just a casual small winner but I care about the game and your ongoing drive, as well as other high profile players so far is the only positive in this ongoing story.
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Old 01-23-2016, 10:50 PM   #25
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Re: Statement on January 18th PokerStars player meeting

Regardless of whether you affected any real change, thank you to all three of you for your contributions. That they were reasonably transparent with you acting as representative of poker pros/players is, in itself, a big step.
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