The boycott, organized by high-stakes regulars in early April, lasted almost two weeks. During this time, the VIP games lobby was empty almost all the time.
The main results of the negotiations:
1. GG agreed to 90% rollback changes for games when there are 4 players or more at the table (new rake for NL5k ~4.2bb)
2. The rake in regwars (3-max and heads-up) is lower than it was before the boycott.
3. GG management promises to continue the dialogue with the players.
“In my personal opinion, this is a huge win for the high stakes community and online poker in general,” Froggatt wrote on 2+2. “This is the first time a boycott has been successful. I want to thank GG and Elky for the open dialogue. In the past, the rooms acted quite differently, which ultimately led to sad consequences for both them and the players."
At our request, Boris "BootieInUFace" Grabowski summed up the protest.
– Let's start with a little dive into the history of expensive games on GG. The rake there from the very beginning was much higher than that of the competitors, but there was still no lack of action. How did these games run so much at all?
– Where GG is significantly superior to competitors is the ability to attract amateurs. Therefore, there have always been many games. I think that now GG has about 60% of all high-stakes action, the WPN network is in second place, and there are still 1-2% left for all other rooms. It's hard to say how many people beat the rake on GG. It is known for sure that over the past couple of years, the average win rate of winning regulars has been 1.5bb/100. This is due to the fact that approximately 70% of all games at these limits were zero or negative win rate for almost all participants. Only the player who managed to sit directly to the left of the amateur played at a small plus. The other four regulars were already in the red. This was especially the case at shallow tables with a buy-in of 20 big blinds. The average amateur lost so little that it couldn't cover the rake to anyone but his neighbor on the left. We analyzed the stats, and it turned out, that amateurs lose on average 15bb/100, and the rake from the table is 24bb/100. It is clear that one amateur is not even close to covering the rake. The player on the left gets 5-6bb/100, and the four remaining regulars account for roughly 10bb/100 amateur loss rate and 16bb rake.
At deep tables (50bb and more), the average amateur loss rate is slightly higher – 22-25bb/100. Here, the game was mainly played with tight offline regs from Asia, who play preflop with VPIP of about 25 – that is, approximately like regulars. Almost all of their downside comes from bad post-flop play. But even at such tables, the player who sat on the left still won.
That is, the game at 70% of all high-stakes tables was negative even for regs, for 20% it was slightly positive, and at 10% it was really profitable.
The game was going nonetheless. There are several reasons for this. Some did not want to receive a warning for bum hunting, while others did not understand the math of the rake, and believed that they could make money not just from the amateur.
– Almost the whole game was going around one amateur?
– Sometimes the tables would gather when a live reg was playing with a small loss rate of 5-10bb/100 and an amateur who was losing 25-30bb/100 sat down to it. But this is a rare situation. As a rule, the game was played at a table with five regulars and one amateur. It got to the point of absurdity when an amateur who was losing only 10bb/100 had a line of five people lined up.
– For comparison, what was Ben Affleck's loss rate when he was actively playing?
– If you look at the total time he was playing, then 60-70bb. But his loss rate was unpredictable. When he first appeared, he lost a lot more. Then he played for a while and began to play better. He had days when he sat down in a special mood and immediately began to donate money, and sometimes he played more calmly. In any case, for stakes NL5k and above, such losers are something that regulars dream about, which is why the entire high-stakes community was chasing him. As we said, usually amateurs lose about 20bb per 100 hands, and in other rooms, even such amateurs bring huge money to regulars. The rake there is 0.5bb/100, meaning the whole table pays only 3bb. It turns out that even from an amateur who loses not very much, the whole table can make 3-4bb/100.
– How did the situation change when GG almost doubled the rake?
– Table rake is now 42bb/100 instead of 24bb. And even games with two amateurs stopped running. During the boycott, this was clearly visible. Several regulars continued to play, and a couple of times I even watched a game with four amateurs. But even in such lineups, these regulars lost a lot, about $1 per hand. To win in these conditions, you need to sit in position on a super VIP who is losing 50bb/100. And there are very few of them, it is unlikely that you will be able to play more than 1,000 hands per month in such a dream lineup.
– After the negotiations, did you understand why they even decided to increase the rake so much?
– I can only talk about my guesses. In my opinion, the decision was made because of the recent events at the high stakes, when a new amateur appeared at these levels. He began to roll out huge losses and played at the level of Ben Affleck. In a few months, he became the top loser on all sites over the past 10 years. It is clear that such a player drew tables, huge queues lined up for him, and regwars began. Apparently, watching this big action, GG decided to double the rake. With such a player, he still battles, and everyone will continue to play. But their official position is slightly different. They said the rake had to be increased to keep the high stakes afloat. They talked about the huge costs – fees on deposits and cashouts, spending on attracting players, cashback for amateurs, and so on.
Why did they end up making concessions?
– I think, sooner or later, the game with the new rake would have died anyway. This would not have happened in two days, but after a couple of months, it would have dawned on everyone that in such conditions nobody wins at all. GG would have been forced to roll back the changes due to the complete absence of games running. The boycott simply accelerated the process. The high-stakes community was able to consolidate and convince GG that no one would play in such conditions. But the main factor was that GG themselves realized that they had done something wrong. Moreover, they sent their representative on the second day, that is, all decisions were made fairly quickly. This is more proof that it was important for them to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
– Will there be more regwars with new conditions?
– The rake for regwars was reduced by 20%, instead of 3-3.5 it became about 2.5bb/100. Naturally, this does not improve the overall picture. In regwars, there is a struggle for an advantage of 0.5-1.5 blinds. In games between the best, it is very difficult to get a greater advantage, so no one will play regwars with the goal of winning anyway. But there was a little more motivation to start the table – that is when a player sits down not to earn money, but to lose the minimum against an amateur. The truth is, it's not all that sweet. Overall, the table starting math remains highly questionable, and the room still hasn't convinced players to give up bum hunting. On the contrary, their whole policy forces the regulars to even more aggressive game selections. If a player now starts the table, then for every 100 hands of regwars he will, on average, receive 80-90 hands with an amateur. Due to the high rake, he will lose 1.5-2 blinds in the first 100 hands, and then at a full table with amateurs, he will win 2-3 bb / 100, at best 3.5-4 blinds. The total amount of winnings will be so small that it will not contribute to the increase in the number of regwars. That is, they seem to have made concessions on this issue, but this will not change the overall situation. But negotiations are ongoing and we are just trying to convince GG that low rake in regwars is very important.
I am glad that Elky understands our arguments, perhaps with his help the GG management will understand them. Elky is clearly well-versed in how the business works for the room itself. And I was surprised by how well he understands the economics of cash games online, even though he does not play them himself. It seemed that he was interested in finding a mutually beneficial solution. Unfortunately, little depends on him.
– During the boycott, screenshots with regwars were posted on ACR. Did they somehow manage to take advantage of the situation?
– They're trying. WPN management also contacted our representatives, asking how they can improve the expensive game and attract more action. We collected some kind of feedback, we were assured that everyone would be carefully studied and, most likely, some of the proposals would be taken into account. In addition, they announced that in the coming months, a global update of the client is planned, which was being prepared even before our negotiations. So they are watching the situation closely and are interested in expensive action. Players are also ready to help develop WPN so that some kind of competition remains. There are a lot of problems with WPN, but it's nicer to play there. The only plus of GG is the large number of players. This is a significant advantage, but if the WPN can get even a little closer, it will be a tangible step forward for them.
– In the past, WPN was often criticized for the dominance of bots. Has the situation improved?
– A little. There are fewer suspicious accounts, and obvious scammers have disappeared altogether. But the problem is that they started complaining about them two years ago, and they were banned just recently. I suspect that before that they managed to withdraw a lot of money from the site. It was just one of our wishes that they improve the feedback between the community and the security service so that such issues are resolved promptly. So it's still far from ideal. Suspicious accounts still appear, there are questions about secrity, and there is no well-functioning protection against scripts and tips. But at least they started doing something.
– There are no such problems on GG at all? Is there a better way to keep the game clean?
– With scripts. This is especially noticeable at high stakes when the amateur comes in. Fake reservations start right away. When one player sits at the table, the second one sits down to him and presses "reserved", as if he also wants to sit down. Everyone thinks that this is an amateur and immediately occupies the remaining free places. But the person cancels his "reserved spot", and the rest also leave. The bottom line is that you can cancel a reservation a limited number of times. That is, with these tactics, they force the regs to exhaust their limit and clear the queue for an amateur for themselves. There are five accounts on GG that do this all the time, and besides, they all use the script, so they manage to take the most advantageous place on the table with an amateur.
It's harder to tell with hints. But here the advantage of GG is that all high-stakes regulars quickly start playing under real names, besides, almost everyone in the community knows each other. New accounts appear quite rarely. I think many scammers are just afraid to play on GG, as it is very easy to get banned there. They do not pay much attention to reports on scripts, since it is difficult to prove anything. But complaints about unfair play are carefully studied, especially from other regulars. There are several examples where nicknames disappeared from the lobby after massive complaints. There was no official information, but most likely they were banned. I'm sure GG has a lot more security budgets than WPN. But they are not all-powerful, and they do not show much interest in cooperation with the community.
– In general, are you satisfied with the boycott?
– In early April, my expectations were much more modest. I had no doubt that the rake would be rolled back since it is unprofitable for the room itself, but I did not expect that they would return it almost to the initial numbers. Here they exceeded my expectations. And I am very pleased that we managed to create a precedent. I hope other rooms will also begin to communicate more with the players in order to find their weaknesses.
But I'm still a little skeptical because I would not exaggerate the role of the community. I don't think the boycott played a decisive role. Rather, GG just realized that they made a stupid decision and tried to get a bit too greedy. I think without the boycott they would also start to reduce the rake, but they would do it gradually in order to find the limit at which the action would resume. In any case, I look to the future with hope, I expect that the negotiations will continue, and in the regwars, they will go for a further reduction in the rake. They have already made it clear that they are ready to work in this direction.