Many players have requested that PokerStars alter the minimum and maximum buy-in amounts in many NL and PL cash games. After much consideration, the following changes have been made to ring games as a direct result of player input. These changes are planned for deployment on Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.
Many USD currency Hold’em and Omaha games with No-Limit or Pot-Limit betting will be offered with new and different minimum, maximum, and default buy-in amounts. Most stakes of NL Hold’em and PL Omaha will be offered as follows:
20-50 bb, with default buy-in of 40bb
40-100 bb, with default buy-in of 80bb
100-250 bb, with default buy-in of 200bb and ante equal to 20% of the Big Blind
All games in Euro currency will still offer a buy-in range of 35 to 100 bb, but the default buy-in will be lowered from 100 bb to 70 bb. Euro games are now available at some new stakes.
Most NL and PL tables will be labelled with their minimum and maximum buy-in as above, for example '20-50 bb'. This is an important change as in the past ‘20-100 bb’ tables were unlabeled, and thus practically a default. All exceptions to this labelling are in cases where only one buy-in range is offered for that game type and the buy-in range is unchanged.
All tables will have tooltips describing minimum and maximum buy-in amounts that appear when the mouse moves over the table name or description. These tooltips will include minimum and maximum buy-in information in terms of the currency of the game, such as USD or Euro, as well as in big blinds. As an example, for a $1/$2 NL hold’em game with buy-in range of ’20-50bb’, the tooltip will inform players that they may buy in for a minimum of $40 and a maximum of $100. The tooltips will be localized into each of the PokerStars supported languages. The tooltips will default to 'on' but can be turned on and off by players.
The amount of time a player must wait before returning to the same table with less money has been increased from 30 minutes to 60 minutes for all cash games of all types.
In order to inform players of changes, banners with information about these changes will be displayed above table listings in ring game lobbies for ten days. These banners will briefly describe the changes and will inform players how to turn off tooltips if they so desire. These banners will be localized into each of the PokerStars supported languages.
Some tables will still continue run with old buy-in ranges until there are no players seated.
The Decision Making Process
There has been much forum discussion over the past weeks, months, and years about the influx of players who prefer to buy in to NL and PL games with 20 Big Blinds. The drastic increase in the number of 20 bb stacks at 20-100bb tables has noticeably impacted the play of these games.
PokerStars was in fact a pioneer in offering games with a 50bb minimum buy-in back in March of 2008. That change, like so many others since, was initiated by feedback from players on 2+2. These player-suggested changes are very easy to make in cases where the vast majority of players agree. In this case, there is some significant disagreement amongst players so the evaluation was much more difficult. By no means was this decision easy.
Conversations with players here on 2+2 and in the 2+2 player panel have also been very important in determining the proper course of action in 2010. Every available player email and forum post was examined to create a valuable pool of varied perspectives and knowledge to draw from when making this decision. PokerStars has also conducted multiple surveys on this topic, especially of the recreational players both in Europe and in North America, and tapped the wealth of poker knowledge possessed by members of PokerStars Team Pro.
Yes, this decision took some time to make. Your patience is very much appreciated. Determining the minimum and maximum buy-in amounts is not a decision to be made lightly. It is important that PokerStars make the right decision rather than make a quick, less-informed change.
Reasons for Change
Constantly evolving strategies and trends are characteristics of well designed games of skill. Sometimes dominant new strategies evolve that were unanticipated by those who established the rules of the game. On occasion, the rules must be tweaked to account for new knowledge gained through the collective experience of the community. These adjustments aim to restore balance, depth, and healthy evolution to the game.
After much research, review, and discussion, PokerStars has decided that NL/PL Hold’em and Omaha cash games with 20-100bb buy-ins have evolved to the point where they can no longer be considered well balanced or well designed. As such, change is needed. The ratio of maximum to minimum buy-in at such tables will be lowered to an amount that will generate a more balanced game.
The goal of this change is not to stop players from buying in for 20 big blinds. Players who like to buy-in and play with 20 to 40bb (and 40 to 50bb) stacks are welcome to continue to do so on PokerStars at 20-50bb tables. Many customers, including recreational players as well as long-time customers, both groups being highly valued, prefer to buy in for these amounts. PokerStars expects that these tables will meet the needs of these players.
Players who buy in for stack sizes above 50 big blinds will now see their stacks in play on all streets much more often. The full complement of actions will be available for play on all streets in most pots.
It is important to emphasize that these changes are being implemented to serve the wants and needs of players. Any decision on this topic, including a decision not to change, would displease some number of players. PokerStars believes that these new buy-in amounts are the best possible choices to provide enjoyable games to all players.
PokerStars does believe that these buy-in structures are the best possible given the current state of the games. Games do evolve, however, and very shortly actual game data and experience will supplant theory in discussions of how 20-50bb games will play. PokerStars will be watching and listening. Future tweaks may be necessary from time to time.
Going forward, minimum and maximum buy-ins will be reviewed regularly at the end of each year. Any alterations deemed necessary will be deployed early in the year so that players can make informed choices when planning their attempts for Supernova Elite VIP or other high milestones of the PokerStars VIP Club. No promises can be made that every such change will be made in January or February, but that will be the goal.
My guess is that this is going to make the problem worse. I can see fish flocking to the 20-50BB games, and these 40BB games will be like the 50BB games now. Hello ratholers heaven, 100BB poker has officially died today.
Rat holers are going to make sure the ratio of shortstack to deeper stack tables is terrible which is much easier to do on Stars since they can easily play 24 tables short handed whereas playing with a full stack, for most people, makes 24 tabling infeasible especially when it's less than 4 handed.
So I expect Stars stays ratholer land, but I'd really love to proved wrong.
This change is kind of leaving it to the casual players to decide who wins this fight (shortstackers or people who actually play poker). The whole advantage shortstackers get against people who are good at poker, in how they benefit from fullstack vs fullstack decisions with their short stack, is probably gone...
But, which tables will the casual players gravitate toward? Honestly I think they're going to go for the 20-50bb tables purely because they can feel like the "big dog" at those tables for a smaller price, and they'll get the comfort of being able to play all-in pots without risking their entire stack.
As far as professional midstakes FR players go, my prediction is shortstacker winrates will improve across the board, and real poker players' winrates will fall, but will fall in such a way that the top 20% will win more and the bottom 80% will win less.