More Rake Is Better, Take 2: GGPoker Rake Hikes Have High Stakes Community up in Arms
Over the last couple of weeks, the poker world has been up in arms about recent rake increases introduced by GGPoker. The changes have primarily impacted the high-stakes cash games at NL5000 and above.
According to many regs, the new rake structure has made these games unbeatable, resulting in an organized boycott that has so far gathered close to 100 regulars who used to play these limits.
The whole situation has once again sparked the debate about rake in online poker and if more rake can be better in any way, shape, or form.
The situation isn’t much different from what PokerStars did a few years back, resulting in outrage across the community.
Daniel Negreanu, PokerStars ambassador at the time and now the main face of GGPoker, came up with some explanations back then, defending the room and explaining how “more rake is better” in some ways.
So, what exactly is happening, why might GGPoker be doing this, and should the overall player pool be concerned?
What Did GGPoker Do, Exactly?
Let’s start at the top and see where the whole controversy started. At the beginning of April, GGPoker introduced the new rake structure for their high-stakes games, significantly increasing the rake cap.
It is worth noting that the operator was already charging quite a bit more than the competition, with players paying over 4bb/100. Yet, this was clearly acceptable as games were running, and there were no significant complaints.
However, the new structure has seen the effective rake rate go up to over 7bb/100 and prompted the response from 90+ high stakes regs, who launched an organized boycott.
. @GGPoker has recently almost doubled their already insanely high HSNL rake.
A group of 90 HSNL players have organised a boycott of the games as a response.https://t.co/eXdR82tFQL pic.twitter.com/MgrZNEWP6R
— George (@George_ymb) April 3, 2023
While the operator may not have expected a full-scale boycott, this is probably not a plan they came up with in one day, and they likely have a vision for the future. But what might that vision be?
Phil Galfond Gets Involved
It’s not easy to understand the motivation for GGPoker’s latest move, but who better to try and explain it than one of the greatest poker minds and the person who ran his own poker site for a while?
Having heard about the situation, Phil Galfond took the time to make a 20-minute video, breaking down the recent developments and trying to explain things from his perspective.
In that video, he brings up some interesting points, starting with the fact that players were already willing to pay a significantly higher rake (4bb/100 vs. <0.50bb/100 on sites like PokerStars and ACR).
This may have been a signal to the room that they could further hike the rake without any serious pushback, but they’ve seemingly taken it too far this time.
Unless, of course, the goal is to get rid of the pros in the short term and create an environment where recreational players will have a more enjoyable experience.
As Phil explains, even with the higher rake, if there is a better balance between professionals and recreationals at each table, recs are likely to end up losing fewer bb/100.
Making games more amateur-friendly while squeezing pros out may seem like the right approach in some ways, but Galfond also voiced some concerns about the serious implications it could have.
Future of Online Poker Hanging in the Balance?
If what GGPoker is doing is aimed to reduce the number of pros or potentially squeeze them out of the games entirely, the question becomes, what will other sites do?
If they see this as a viable model and realize they can use it to attract recreational players, there will be very little incentive for other platforms not to follow suit.
However, Phil believes that poker needs professional players and people who play the game because it is beatable and not just another casino game. Without these players, others will not have idols to look up to, which could have a trickle effect on the future of online poker.
Reaching a Compromise
While these concerns are certainly very legitimate, it seems that the situation will have a favorable outcome after all.
The player boycott has been fruitful after all, as GGPoker has agreed to roll back a majority of the changes, restoring the balance.
Yesterday, the HS community voted to reach a deal with @GGPoker ending the boycott of their VIP games.
The net result is:
– 90% roll back of the increase 4+ handed (~4.2bb @ 5k)
– Decrease in rake 3h + HU
– GG promises to consider further trial of decreases in 3h + HU rake pic.twitter.com/b4kJ6qb4Cp
— George (@George_ymb) April 16, 2023
According to a 2+2 post from ‘PlasticElephant,’ Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grosspelier, another GGPoker ambassador and a high-profile player, had a crucial role in the negotiations, acting as an intermediary.
With this resolution, players have agreed to end the boycott, and high-stakes games will resume on the platform.
But the whole thing opens space for a much larger debate.
GGPoker Rake Changes Overview
|SB||BB||Before (4+ players)||Current (4+ players)||New (4+ players)|
What's the End Goal?
Are poker sites in general, and GGPoker especially, being the industry leader, more interested in promoting the game and finding the right balance or just in their bottom line?
With a very high rake, poker essentially becomes another casino game – a fun one at that, but still a casino game.
After a few years, as Phil points out, there may be no more stories of “heroes” who made it all the way to the nosebleeds starting with a small deposit and battling their way through the stakes.
But, without the pros, poker seizes to be what it’s been for the last few decades, and without the poker dream alive, the interest is guaranteed to dwindle.
While the recent GGPoker’s actions don’t look good, it’s hard to fathom that this is something a number one poker operator would want.
After all, keeping that dream alive should be in their best interest as well, and professional players play a key role in that process.
In the end, GGPoker was open to communicating with the players, showing that they’re not oblivious of the role they have in the ecosystem. It is a good sign that, after all, the operator does care about future prospects of the game.
It’s at least refreshing to see that, after all, the room didn’t remain deaf to criticism coming from all sides and was willing to take a step back and see things from a different perspective. No doubt, ‘ElkY’s’ involvement in this process was very important.
The crisis has been averted for now, and this is a lesson that everyone can learn from. Hopefully, it will help GGPoker with future decisions, and the dream of poker success will live on.