My response to @Chingster23 's article criticizing my actions:


The following is my response to what is in my opinion, a very one sided article that Lee Davy wrote. You can read it here if you like: http://calvinayre.com/2016/05/13/poker/justin-bonomo-refuses-to-take-ept-snapshot-but-did-he-go-far-enough/?platform=hootsuite. I attempted to post this as a response directly on the page of the article, but was rejected approval to post.

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This article does not mention why I believe PokerStars is unworthy of good-faith promotional work.

Over the course of 15 years, Isai Scheinberg turned it into a multi billion dollar company by taking care of the customers and marketing the dream of being a professional poker player. When Amaya and David Baazov purchased the company, they flushed this vision down the toilet.

It would be one thing if I was just mad at them for poor business decisions. I believe they are drastically hurting their long term bottom line with the constant rake increases and cutting back on player perks. But it's more than that.

What they have done is extremely unethical. I was one of approximately 400 Super Nova Elite players that paid them $181,000 in rake. We did this to earn the ~$120,000 in rewards. None of us would have done it without that promise. It was essentially a monetary exchange. After they took our money, PokerStars decided they were going to pay us $50,000 less than promised. In some cases (high stakes cash game players), they cut the payments by a full 100%. Writers in the media (which is largely bankrolled by Amaya) constantly write about how it's unfortunate that we worked so hard and didn't get properly rewarded. I'm not going to use that soft language. We had a financial transaction. I paid them $180k, and they did not give me what I paid for. This is fraud and this is theft.

And it wasn't just SNE players, SuperNova and virtually all players with any play history on PokerStars received completely unfair 11th hour cuts as well. And this doesn't even include other predatory cuts such as reducing the value of saved up VPPs sitting in players' accounts.

Unfortunately the ethical failure doesn't end there.

Do you know why Baazov went with the short-sighted plan of business? Surely a successful business mogul like that would have a long term vision, right? He in fact did. Unfortunately, his plan was a felony. Baazov is now under investigation for insider trading, and in my admittedly biased opinion he deserves to go to prison for many years. It's not just the customers he has defrauded, but the investors and the industry as well.

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I was debating if I was going to defend myself at all, because the goal of this is simply to spread awareness, and I have on some small level succeeded at that so far. But I'm a flawed human who cares what other people think, so here we go:

I believe I have done nothing hypocritical. It would be hypocrisy if I told others to boycott Stars and did not do the same (I participated in the public boycotts, and encouraged there to be more in private discussions). I do not condemn anyone for playing on Stars, though I do think long term we need to think about supporting their competitors more. The current state of affairs with the monopoly is simply too ominous.

Personally, I find a very big difference between willing to be a customer of a corporation, and willing to promote them publicly.

As visible professional poker players, we have the ability to sway the opinions of others. I have 30,000 Twitter followers for example, and some of my colleagues have far more than that. For over a decade I was happy to give Stars free promotional work. When people asked me the best/most trustworthy site to play on, without hesitation I would say PokerStars. Now my answer is 888 when I speak of most trustworthy.

But it goes beyond that. When TV final tables first became a thing, there was a big debate among the pros on whether or not we should be doing these interviews for free. Most players eventually agreed that the industry was doing a lot for us, therefore we should do a lot for them. Number one were the seemingly unlimited sponsorship opportunities. Making a prominent TV final table was like an automatic $10k in your pocket for your first time, and could be worth significantly more if your reputation were strong enough to negotiate a higher price to wear a patch for those eight hours. Money was coming our way, so we felt properly compensated.

Nowadays, PokerStars isn't doing shit for the professional poker players. They are actively defrauding us and cutting back every single benefit from the past they could find. I believe it's in the players' best interests to make a stand and say, "In the past we used our images, our voices, and our social media presences to help you out. This was a you-pat-our-backs, we-pat-yours situation. If you're no longer willing to give us anything in return, then we are no longer going to give you that publicity for free." From a financial standpoint, it just makes no sense.

And this is not just about money, it's about ethics too. Personally, I have always been on the fence about whether or not it's a good thing that the online poker industry is thriving and legal. With the predatory nature of Stars, I can no longer in good conscious say that the success of the industry leader is a good thing. I sincerely hope that I will have reason to change my mind about this in the future, but for now, I can only hope for change. Our best chance seems to be if David Baazov goes to prison and Amaya is forced to sell Pokerstars, possibly to 888. When that day comes, I want the new owners to be in a position to say, "Let's get the pros back on our side and work together with them to rebuild PokerStars' forsaken trusted image."

-Justin Bonomo

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