For better or for worse. That could be the slogan PokerStars uses for its new rewards program, Stars Rewards, which went into effect across all markets July 6.
(Customers in Denmark and Italy switched over to the new model last month.)
The world’s biggest and most popular online poker site is replacing the long-time VIP Club with a new program called Stars Rewards. Stars’ previous loyalty program received heavy criticism in recent years as benefits began favoring recreational players, leaving longtime pros in a lurch.
So, what is this new rewards program and how does it differ from the old one? Severin Rasset, PokerStars Director of Poker Room Operations, answered this question in an April 3 blog post:
“The current monthly volume-driven rakeback model will be retired and will be replaced with one that rewards a variety of factors, such as volume, stakes, how often players play, and net deposits. We recognize that change can be challenging, but we believe that now is the right time to deliver a new way of rewarding play.”
In the past, players would receive a rebate on the total amount of rake they paid in cash games, called “rakeback.” PokerStars has eliminated this model and moved towards a daily point-based system. For every $1 collected in rake or tournament fees, a player receives 100 rewards points.
Those points can then be used to claim tournament tickets or to win prizes and bonus cash. Customers set a customized point target to achieve. Upon hitting their goal, the player then received a “Chest” promising some form of mystery award.
Stars Rewards also will start awarding players daily, instead of monthly, meaning you could sign-up now and win a big prize before bed. At least that seems to be the message they’re going for now. In the past, you had to grind for days before being eligible to receive anything of value.
Six Stars Rewards Chests
(max reward value in parenthesis)
Red Chest ($50)
Blue Chest ($100)
Bronze Chest ($250)
Silver Chest ($500)
Gold Chest ($750)
Platinum Chest ($1,000)
The prize won’t be completely random. It will be tailored to individual preferences. For example, if you never venture over to the Stars Casino to play blackjack, don’t expect a blackjack free bet prize. But the odds of winning the maximum prize for each chest is 1 in 10,000.
Demographic Shiftiness, Cheap Thrills
A decline of online poker’s popularity in recent years pushed Stars owner, Amaya Inc., to change its strategy. Instead of rewarding the most serious players, PokerStars began to cater to recreational poker players and casino gamblers who might also enjoy slots, sports betting, and other table games.
Shifting marketing efforts towards casual casino patrons turned off many poker pros who previously gravitated toward PokerStars because of the site’s commitment to poker and poker only. A shift in loyalty program rewards could turn away even more hardcore grinders.
The odds of winning a mega-prize upon opening one of those rewards chests are slim. The odds of scoring a few bucks or less are pretty good. This gives recipients maybe a quick thrill of victory, but makes it less beneficial for grinders to play daily at PokerStars.
With rewards for long-term loyalty less than what they were in the past, this new system is simply something PokerStars customers will have to accept … for better or for worse.