Are Regs Undervalued?

3 years ago
What Do Regs Add to The Game?
17:40
01 Dec

If PokerStars is to be believed, regular players (regs) account for about 2% of poker players online, and with the site’s recent changes, their business isn’t particularly welcome!

That seems to be the consensus among the general poker-playing populace – whether they agree with Stars new practices or not – so let’s take a closer look and ask ourselves… are regs under-valued?


The PokerStars Changes

Last month saw some of the most wide-reaching changes in PokerStars history. Having been bought by Amaya the previous year, it was almost inevitable that changes would appear, particularly considering the $2.65b loan that Amaya needs to pay off.

The changes, the ones affecting regular players, were manifold:

  • PokerStars will introduce a VIP Steps program and alter the currency system. The new currency will be called StarsCoin
  • VIP Club rewards will now be capped at 30 percent
  • Platinum Star level members will see a 10-percent reduction in overall rewards
  • There will no longer be VPPs for pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5/$10 or higher, 8-game with limits of $10/$20 or higher, and other limit games with blinds of $10/$15 or higher

playing field razed to the ground.

The reason many of these people can do so is because of the reward system – if they put in enough time and effort at the tables, they will make enough ‘rakeback’ (or the PS version of it) to top-up their actual winnings – sometimes even allowing a ‘losing’ player to make a wage playing the game.


Players’ thoughts

Naturally such a massive disruption, ostensibly to make poker more appealing and comfortable to the mass of recreational players who have been scared off by the ‘professional’ approach of the regulars, induced a mass of online debate.

This whole thing is ridiculous, anyone who thinks this is a good thing or won't have an impact on them is wrong. Every single game is affected by this, it's not just a sng issue,” wrote SandmanNess, on the 2+2 forum, adding, “Every game that anyone grinds just became harder by a decent amount. Even MTT players will be affected by this.”

Never a forumite to pull any punches, SandmanNess later cuts to the chase:

No vpps whatsoever for 5/10+ players and over half a cut on SNE, quarterly freerolls cut, fpps devalued, and how much of that is going to go to recs? Zero. It's all going to be pocketed by stars and the recs are going to get crushed harder than ever now. Literally the worst thing that could have happened to the rec pool.”

One such poster stated an opposing viewpoint very bluntly, without actually saying the changes were in any way positive:

Can somebody tell me why PokerStars wouldn't do this?” wrote FLRainmaker. “They basically have all of you exactly where they want you and can take away your VPPs and 90% of you will still play anyway. At the end of the day you need Pokerstars, Pokerstars doesn't need you.”

He continued:

Rakeback / VIP / Loyalty systems were designed when there was intense competition … golden days if you will. There’s no reason for PokerStars to care about your perception of them in the modern day and they absolutely do not owe you your rent check every month.”

‘Madlex’ added an important point to the debate:

Over the years, the percentage of players who are willing to deposit, decreased significantly. Now the platforms basically battle the regulars over who gets to that money first.”

So much for the background and resulting views the changes prompted. But what do ‘regs’ bring to the game of poker and where will they go if the big sites don’t appreciate them?


What do the ‘regs’ add to the game?

Regs make up a huge amount of the rake which is the actual profit most sites live (very comfortably!) from.

It has been estimated (in an article by Steve Ruddock entitled ‘ How valuable is a SuperNova Elite to PokerStars’) that “SNE’s account for about 8 percent of PokerStars’ total yearly revenue,” and he concludes his thoughts – admittedly stating the bullish case his model was worked on - by stating:

Supernova Elites generate a lot of rake and are quite valuable to a poker site. However, they’re not as valuable as they believe they are. By our conservative estimates, a few hundred casual players are worth the same to PokerStars as a single SNE.”

With only 371 SNE’s on PokerStars according to Ruddock (figures from 2013), it has to be a given that the actual number of ‘regs’ on the site runs into the thousands at least. Although they won’t be generating as much money for the site as the SNE’s, even doubling that figure Ruddock calculated leads to a massive chunk of Stars’ play and money coming from the very people they are seriously pissing off!

One of the arguments against this is that the regs are also the ones taking money out of the sites on a regular basis. If we ignore the rakeback for the moment, there is a counter-argument that any money to be paid out in prizes wasn’t Stars to be doing anything with in the first place!

As Adebisi points out in the same thread:

…Player funds are allegedly held in trust by the site, so it's not really their money. The profits come from rake. The more hands that get dealt, the more money they make.” He makes the valid argument that: “A reg that plays 4k hands a day should be much more valuable than a rec that plays 4k hands a month. I don't understand why net deposits/withdrawals matter so much to a site, since the only portion of that money that belongs to them is the portion they actually get to rake.”

He completes his general disbelief at the Stars changes by saying:

Low volume recs that randomly come and go are just chum to draw in the sharks who are going to spend 8 hours a day playing a bunch of tables.”

Sqwerty12’s barbed reply was:

Presumably their segregated account holding the players funds is an interest-bearing account.”

Regs also ensure that there are always games on the go, tables to play at, tournaments with enough players to make them worthwhile, and SNG’s ready to play at the drop of a hat.


Clutch352 says:

They do need regs to have a variety of cash games running, bigger prize pools for tourney and sit and goes to run quickly. So I'm sure its not a big deal to have some regs that win a little here and there. It’s just the regs that are able to really crush that are the problem. (or cause them to make less money).”

Regs drive the belief that in poker you can actually make a living at the game without that 1 in a million chance of hitting a huge lucky score.

When I started taking poker more seriously, it was the thought that I might be able to make a reasonable living at the game which spurred me on to learn and play.I never assumed I could ‘do a Moneymaker’ and win millions. Just that I might not have to work in a factory, but could instead do something I love.

Pokerdoodooface (I know, I can barely bring myself to quote him!) does make a valid point, although not everyone will agree with it.

...With less and less people being able to make money there's gonna be less and less people to look up to which keeps the dream of making some money from poker alive. Once people realize it's kinda a futile effort.... well wtf is the point then? Might as well play the lotto or go gamble on some other crazy games and there are plenty of venues for that both live and online.”

He finishes with the interesting:

Will be fun to see them slide into a lesser spot in the line-up of poker rooms.”

His fellow 2+2 poster, 1857Dan also believes this, posting:

I think even with all its recent actions and likely future changes PokerStars should understand it needs winning players to drive the belief among a wider audience that poker is a game where you can make decent money.”

As it turns out I got even luckier and now write about poker for a living, but for tens of thousands of players, it is this possibility which has driven them on to improve. Get rid of these people, and what do you have? A very high top end, very low bottom end with a big hole in the middle? This can’t be good for poker long-term.

Regs are actually the very people who keep forums, training sites, video libraries, articles, etc. running with content of a high quality.

Without them, who do people follow to improve their game or discuss poker with? Recreational players? Top-class pros? Neither of these groups are able or willing to provide the volume of poker discussion which keeps the actual game alive.


Conclusion

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months with regards to these changes. Players at all levels will be wondering just how things will evolve and other poker sites will be looking on with glee at the moment as players try to find new homes and organise strikes. I personally can’t see it having a happy ending for PokerStars, which is unfortunate as it’s the only site I currently play on!

Time will tell, of course, but at the moment I would have to agree that regs really are undervalued.


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Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more

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