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PokerStars Reduces Multi-Tabling Limit From 24 to 4

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Leading global online poker site PokerStars announced in a blog post dated Aug. 20 that it has lowered the maximum number of tables a user can open to just 4 at a time. This change applies to cash game tables. Previously, most users were permitted to play at up to 24 tables simultaneously.

PokerStars Multi-tabling Limit Reduction

More About PokerStars’ Policy

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The new ring game table maximum is now live in most markets in which PokerStars transacts, including the international .com site as well as .fr, .es, .cz, .dk, and most other regional localized rooms. Notably, PokerStars USA and PokerStars India are exempt from this change probably because of their stagnant player traffic levels.

The new limits only apply to standard ring games at PokerStars. Those playing Zoom fast-fold games will continue to be able to play 8 tables simultaneously while tournaments, sit-n-gos, and Spin & Go games will be effectively uncapped.

The blog post at the PokerStars site releasing this information was written by Séverin Rasset, Managing Director at The Stars Group. He outlined some of the reasoning behind this move:

We want to maintain a sustainable poker ecosystem and a platform that players of all abilities are excited to play on well into the future. Attracting and retaining new poker players is crucial to the future of the game. By reducing the table cap from 24 to 4, we are reducing the number of multi-tabling players and increasing the number of more casual one-table players at each table. This should lead to increased win rates on any individual table for the strongest players, while increasing the likelihood that single-table players will meet others like themselves. As a result, they’ll have more chance of experiencing winning sessions and continue to play in the longer term.

Rasset is therefore positioning this decision as a way of enhancing PokerStars’ appeal for novice and recreational players.

Séverin RassetPokerStars Managing Director Séverin Rasset Announced the News on the PokerStars Blog

Previous Experiments

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Though there was no immediate forewarning of the change, this new policy didn’t just come suddenly out of the blue. PokerStars had been running table cap trials for a while in geo-fenced markets before extending this feature to its broader poker base.

In July 2018, the company implemented a 6-table maximum for its .it segregated Italian poker room. Then in May 2019, this 6-table cap was extended to Spain and France. Only after studying the impact on game liquidity, and presumably profitability, in these limited geographic areas did PokerStars opt to alter the rules worldwide.

PokerStars’ Thinking

Purple Thinking Gear

As already explained above, PokerStars feels that cutting down on the number of multi-tablers will make the games more enjoyable for recreational users. In addition, it should improve the pace of the games (and thus the speed at which rake is collected) by cutting down drastically on instances where someone times down on one table because they’re thinking hard about a decision at another table.

We must also take into account the effects that restricting multi-tabling will have on the poker economy.

Simply put, winning players, who tend to inhabit a lot of tables simultaneously, extract quite a sum from the overall pool of cash flowing from player to player and, of course, to the online poker sites in the form of rake and tournament fees. These poker veterans then usually withdraw their winnings from the site, decreasing the total money available to all other participants at least until new net depositors appear.

Novice and recreational players, on the other hand, don’t make cashouts on a regular basis. While there is the occasional lucky tournament bink or sick, single-day run-up from micros to mid-stakes, most casual fans of the game eventually forfeit their entire balance through a combination of losses to others and rake/fees paid.

Poker Money Flow ExplanationThe More Money Pros Take Out of the Game, the Less That Remains for the Rake

If these losing players hand their balances over to winners, then much of the cash is eventually taken off the tables before it can be raked away. If, on the other hand, multiple unskilled pokerists just trade pots back and forth, more money is removed in the form of rake. Clearly, poker room managers have an incentive to see as much of customers’ money as possible converted into rake rather than paid out to profitable players.

PokerStars Becoming the Latest Recreational Poker Room?

Smiley Face

It looks like PokerStars might be trying to join the contingent of poker sites that have taken concrete steps to cater to their less experienced users rather than to savvy poker adepts. The theory is that the rooms can keep most players happy while improving their own bottom lines in this way. Furthermore, they'll still draw in their share of professional players too because the sharks won't ignore any place where there's such a super-abundance of fish. It's the best of both worlds (from the sites' perspectives).

The PaiWangLuo Network (Bodog, Bovada, Ignition) has long had a 4-table limit similar to the one PokerStars has just developed. However, the PWL Network also goes well beyond what 'Stars is doing.

Anonymous games to prevent player tracking, a Quick Seat feature to make table and seat selection impossible, and a mini-casino housed within the poker software seem calculated to deter regs while creating a welcoming environment for casual customers. This philosophy appears to be working as Bovada/Ignition is the #1 USA-facing poker operator in terms of player traffic.

Ignition Poker TableAnonymized Cash Game Table at Ignition Poker

Other entities that have toyed with various components of recreational-focused poker include the iPoker Network, which debuted a source-based rakeback system in 2015 to deliver more rewards to net depositors rather than net withdrawers, and Unibet, which has banned all HUD and tracking programs. Phil Galfond's site Run It Once Poker has had a limitation of no more than 6 tables per user since its opening in February 2019.

Reaction

Speech Bubble

As could have been predicted, this latest PokerStars rules alteration affecting the number of simultaneously playable tables has attracted both admirers and naysayers. A quick glance at traffic numbers shows that player volume has declined since Aug. 20, which might seem like a strong indicator that customers disapprove of this innovation. Still, we must concede that a decrease in the number of occupied ring game seats is exactly what execs intended to happen, so we cannot draw too strong a conclusion from this fact alone.

Those in favor of the change cite the expected benefits in terms of game quality and the encouragement of new players:

Positive Post on 2+2 About PokerStars Multitabling Changes
Positive Post on Reddit About PokerStars Multitabling Changes

Yet, those opposed to limiting players to just 4 tables were quite vocal in their opposition:

Negative Post on 2+2 About PokerStars Multitabling Changes

Professional player and online poker room founder Phil Galfond is against what PokerStars is doing despite having implemented a similar policy at his own poker site. He at first cheered the news, but that was before he considered how the higher-raked Zoom Poker (which retains its existing table max of 8) fits into the equation:

Phil Galfond Tweet About PokerStars Multitabling Changes

Longtime casino exec Rob Yong, now affiliated with 'Stars competitor PartyPoker, conducted a Twitter poll asking whether Party should follow suit:

Rob Yong Twitter Poll About PokerStars Multitabling Changes

As you can see, a plurality of folks thought that copying PokerStars in this matter was undesirable. Nevertheless, opinions were fairly evenly divided with a full 32% of respondents answering that a 4-table cap was a good thing.

Phil GalfondPhil Galfond Is Skeptical of PokerStars' Logic

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