To play or not to play on PokerStars - that seems to be the (ex) SuperNova Elite question these days. High-stakes pros were hard-hit by the dissolution of the program on PokerStars and by the new rake policy, and public boycotts were organized to protest against the changes. When @Justin Bonomo won an EPT side event last week he decided to take the opportunity to draw more attention to the problem. And he certainly succeeded - even if he did in the end have to do that miserable winner's photo.
1. Justin Bonomo ended up playing heads-up in Event 47, EPT Grand Final Monaco on May 3rd. He made a deal with @Ahmed Abd El Fatah, agreeing to less prize money (110K vs 120K), but ultimately winning the title and the trophy.
2. Bonomo then refused to do the winner's photo as he did not want to help promote a company that had in his opinion commited a number of financial and ethical violations of its commitments to its players.
3. Under threat of a permanent ban from all PokerStars online and live events, Bonomo struck a grudging pose for the camera.
Lee Davy spoke for many when he shared his doubts about Bonomo's chosen course of action and whether he went far enough:
I think Bonomo’s stance is admirable, in particular, the lengths he went to try and increase awareness of behaviour that apparently goes against his values and those of his peers.
But for me, it keeps coming back to the same thing, and that’s taking 100% responsibility for your life. Complaining about the way PokerStars treats its customers, and then playing on the site, because you need the money, is not doing that. It’s passing responsibility. There is a lot of money in the world. There are a lot of ways to get hold of it. PokerStars don’t hold the near-monopoly on all of it.
As a self-reported "flawed human who cares what other people think", Bonomo objected to Lee Davy's "one-sided article" and defended himself on TwitLonger:
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 consciousness 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.
This, in a nutshell, is how the photo shoot escalated into a shootout and poker forums and media are still debating PokerStars tournament entrants' contractual obligations in general and Bonomo's own 'rights and wrongs' in particular.