PokerStars rakeOn 1 August, 2014, the Amaya Gaming Group finalized the purchase of the Rational Group for $4.9 billion, which makes for a pretty good pay day for CEO Mark Scheinberg, who owned 75% of the Rational Group. With this purchase, Amaya acquired:

Since the acquisition, Amaya (who already own the Ongame poker network) have implemented a series of unpopular changes, presumably in a cost-cutting effort to increase the speed at which they recoup the purchase price. The latest announcement of increased PokerStars rake has angered so many players that the reduction of cost may come with an even greater reduction in revenue as many players are looking elsewhere to play poker online.

Who is Affected by the Poker Stars Rake Increase?

Some PokerStars real money players will be unaffected by the recent increase in PokerStars rake. However, those who are affected will be greatly affected. The following player types should definitely consider taking their business elsewhere:

  1. European players, especially the UK, Bulgaria, Denmark, and Germany
  2. Heads-Up Cash Game Players
  3. Sit & Go Poker Players
  4. Hyper-Turbo Players (SNGs & MTTs)
  5. Knockout Tournement Players (SNGs & MTTs)
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Other players who will be affected, but may not wish to change poker sites include:

  1. High Stakes Cash Game Players ($25/$50 and up)
  2. Spin & Go Players

In each of the sections below, we will highlight the specific PokerStars rake changes and how they impact each of these players. We will also give recommendations on the best alternative online poker rooms.

PokerStars Rake Increase for Rebuy Tournaments

pokerstars rake increaseOne of the biggest advantages of playing rebuy tournaments is that you only pay the fee on the initial buy-in. If you make an average of 2 rebuys/add-ons each tournament, then you are essentially paying one third the fees that you would for a freezeout tournament with the same buy-in. That is, you could play a freezeout tournament for $30+$3, or take a rebuy and an add-on in a $10+$1 rebuy tournament and essentially be playing a $30+$1 tournament.

However, starting on 1 January, 2015, PokerStars will begin charging fees on rebuys and add-ons equal to the fee on the initial buy-in. This change is in addition to the already implemented reduced VPP multipliers, stellar rewards, and milestones for players from countries with applicable taxes.

If you do not want to pay additional fees on rebuys and add-ons, then check out the following online poker sites:

Download Bwin poker if you enjoy playing rebuy tournaments. They are one of the few sites that do not charge fees on rebuys and add-ons:

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If you enjoy playing re-buy tournaments and generate more than $30,000/year in rake and fees, then you should instead download PartyPoker. They also do not charge fees for re-buys and add-ons:

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Even if you do not play re-buy tournaments, then you should probably stop playing poker with PokerStars anyway. Since you are earning reduced VPP multipliers, stellar rewards, and milestones at PokerStars, then you can easily find a better online poker site using our online poker rankings.

PokerStars Rake Hike for Heads-Up Cash Games

Prior to 1 Nov 2014, PokerStars capped the rake at $0.50 for all No Limit and Pot Limit heads-up online poker cash games. This was one of the best rake structures available online. However, as of 1 Nov 2014, the capped rake for heads-up at PokerStars has increased to $1 for all stakes up to $10/$20, and $2 for all stakes of $25/$50 and above. This is far worse than the industry average.

Players wishing to play heads-up No Limit or Pot Limit poker should instead download Americas Cardroom:

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For all stakes, Americas Cardroom offers the combination of rake & rakeback of any site we have reviewed for heads-up No Limit Hold'em. PokerStars no longer rank in the top 5 for the majority of stake and player category combinations!

PokerStars Professional Sit & Go Players

In addition to increasing the rake and tournament fees, PokerStars have also cancelled the Battle of the Planets Sit & Go Leaderboards, which paid out $2.7 million every year! For professional SNG grinders, this represents a significant loss of income.

If you primarily play Sit & Go poker, check out our sit & go poker rankings to find the best site for the stakes and frequency you play!

PokerStars Rake Increase for Hyper-Turbo SNGs & MTTs

If you were grinding your leaderboard standing by playing Hyper-Turbo SNGs, then you are getting hit with a double whammy. Not only are there no more SNG leaderboards, but the PokerStars rake for Hyper-Turbo SNGs is being increased starting 1 January 2015.

pokerstars rake changesFor heads-up Hyper-Turbo SNGs, the rake is being increased by 17-21%. For short-handed Hyper-Turbo SNGs, the fees are:

PartyPoker now offers the lowest fees for Hyper-Turbo MTTs up to $1.50. From $1.50 to $40, the lowest Hyper-Turbo MTT fees can be found on Americas Cardroom, and for Hyper-Turbo MTTs with buy-ins of more than $40, the lowest fees can be found on 888 Poker:


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PokerStars Rake Changes for Knockout Tournaments

PokerStars are also increasing the rake for knockout sit and go’s and MTT poker tournaments with the fees increasing anywhere from 25% to a whopping 150%! While these increases are simply bringing the fees in line with other tournaments with a similar buy-in, many players relied on these reduced fees in order to show a profit.

If you enjoy playing knockout tournaments, and wish to continue to pay lower fees, then we recommend that you download bwin poker to have access to a 6-handed bounty tournament with a fee of just 3% ($1.50 with $33.50 going towards the prize pool and a $15 bounty).

Poker Stars Rake Increase for High Stakes Cash Games

No Limit and Pot Limit Cash games at stakes of $25/$50 and above have had their maximum rake increased from $3 to $5, which is an increase of 67%! However, this only brings PokerStars in line with their competitors, most of whom charge similar rake.

Regardless of whether you play full table no limit hold'em, 6-handed cash games, or heads-up, the site with the best combination of low rake and high rewards for high stakes cash game poker is Americas Cardroom:

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PokerStars Spin & Go Rake Increase

The introduction of the Spin & Go SNG format at PokerStars was already incredibly controversial. The first major problem with this format is that it injects your variance with steroids. That is, you can go so long without a major cash, that you need an incredibly deep poker bankroll before you even consider playing them. While the format may offer a greater ROI (since it attracts gamblers and is fast), the fact that you need to invest so little of your bankroll per tournament means that you will be earning a larger ROI on a much smaller investment. As such, winning players are far better off playing regular sit & go poker tournaments.

The second major problem is that fish love this format. Since most fish are less concerned with bankroll management, and more interested in a lottery for a big win (regardless of how small their chances), this format tends to pull these players out of regular SNGs. As a result, not only are the SNGs at PokerStars suffering from a massive drop in traffic, but it tends to be the weaker players that left.

Frustrated SNG players who decided to follow the fish to the Spin & Go tournaments just got yet another kick in the teeth as PokerStars have increased the rake from Spin & Go tournaments! Not only that, but they also massively increased the top prize, making the variance even more ridiculous than before!

Unpopular Recent Changes at PokerStars

In addition to these very unpopular increases in PokerStars rake, the Amaya Gaming Group have been making other, equally unpopular changes since the acquistion:

  1. Players who earn 1 million VPPs will no longer earn $5,200 in free WCOOP, TCOOP, and SCOOP tournament tickets, starting in 2015.
  2. PokerStars will begin charging currency exchange surcharges on deposits and withdrawals.
  3. PokerStars closed accounts in Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, and several other countries. There was no announcement prior to these accounts being closed. Although the players were able to withdraw their funds, they were no longer able to cash in the FPPs they had rightfully earned.

Prior to the purchase, PokerStars also significantly culled their list of Team PokerStars Pros, including Joe Cada, Marcel Luske, Alex Kravchenko, and Naco Barbero.

What do you think? Are these changes an acceptable cost of doing business due to increased regulation and taxes, or are the Amaya Gaming Group running the world’s largest online poker site into the ground?

If you would like to find out exactly which online poker site offers you the best combination of rake/fees and rewards, answer these 4 simple questions to find your best poker site!