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Since the Canadian-based Amaya Gaming Group took over the reins of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker via its acquisition of the Rational Group, several changes have been made. Many of those alterations have been met with less than positive reactions from the online poker community, especially on PokerStars’ end. With the world’s largest internet poker site awaiting an imminent launch in the US, some may be starting to question whether PokerStars is going to blast away the competition in New Jersey as industry analysts had originally projected.

For years now, there hasn’t been a single competitor of PokerStars that came anywhere near rivaling the site’s superior services. There’s no question the software is the best in the business, but many felt other areas of the online poker room were best in breed as well; things like promotions, tournament offering, rake rates, VIP rewards, customer service, the list goes on. More recently, however, a series of alterations have been introduced that could erode the preeminence PokerStars once held.

Last week, PokerStars unveiled the first changes to its VIP program, reducing the earnings of Supernova Elite players – the highest level achievable at the online poker room – by 5%. There isn’t a vast number of players who’ve reached such a rank, and those who have will still draw 6-figures a year, so it didn’t exactly incite a riot. This morning, however, another announcement came from PokerStars regarding an increase to the rake rate; a conversion that could affect a lot more online poker players.

New Rake Changes at PokerStars

–          At NL and PL cash games of $0.25/$0.50, the maximum rake per hand has been doubled from $0.50 to $1 at heads up tables, and increased from $3 to $5 when 5 or more players are present.

–          At hyper-turbo SNG tournaments, the rake/fee has increased from 2.1% to 2.5%. For example, a $30 tournament will now collect $0.75 per player, up from $0.63.

–          At hyper satellites, the rake has nearly doubled, jumping from 2% to 3.4%. For example, a $30 hyper satellite will now collect $1.03 from each player’s buy-in, instead of the previous $0.59.

–          At the controversial new Spin’n’Go, lottery style tournaments, the rake has increased from the industry’s lowest 4%, now charging 5% at $15 and $30 levels, and 6% at $3 and $7 levels.

Last but not least, the online poker room announced that the Battle of the Planets is coming to an end. The monthly leaderboard competition was geared towards SNG grinders, paying out more than $2.5 million annually. October will mark the end of this long-running promotional favorite.

Amaya Gaming is often blamed for the modifications to the PokerStars regime. It makes sense. The Rational Group changes hands, a new Canadian company takes over, and variations in the services kick in almost immediately. In reality, though, Rational Group had states there would a number of changes to the system around 2015 well before Amaya took the helm.

The VIP rewards in particular were expected to be reduced from the moment the UK Gambling Commission passed new licensing requirements that would force online poker operators to apply for authorization to accept UK customers, with a requisite 15% point of consumption tax as the cherry on top. The cost had to be shaved from somewhere; it just so happened that Amaya had taken control before the reality of the first VIP cutbacks was announced.