PokerStars has been gradually changing its VIP system and previewing coming changes for about a year and a half now. On Monday, the world’s largest online poker site put out another announcement, still a bit short on details, but still offering us a further glimpse of what is to come.
In a blog post titled “Modernising how we deliver rewards,” Director of Poker Innovation and Operations for PokerStars Severin Rasset gave a brief summary as to why his company is so gung-ho on overhauling its VIP loyalty program:
Poker is a game of wits with players competing against each other for fun, for competition and for profit. Our goal in managing poker is always to maintain that delicate balance and deliver the best possible playing experience while doing so. Since 2006, our loyalty program has encouraged volume rather than competition. It has been a tremendous success and was the right approach for many years. However, the environment has changed. The game has matured; the profile of our players has changed.
PokerStars has already introduced the VIP steps system, which Rasset says has resulted in, “many of our high-volume players have focused more on winning at the tables rather than playing a style optimised for rewards.”
“We have seen additional concrete positive signs: more hands seeing the flop, bigger pot sizes, new players playing longer on the site than the year before, and players playing more frequently. These are all good indicators of a more fun and engaging playing experience across PokerStars,” he added.
PokerStars isn’t going to stop there, though:
We have also designed familiar gamification concepts to give players a rich, exciting, personalised experience with randomized rewards and the chance at winning big prizes. Most of our players are playing in the moment, wanting a fun and exciting experience every time they play. With that in mind, the upcoming program is focused around rewarding players more frequently within a single playing session rather than providing month-long goals.
Clearly, PokerStars has recreational players in mind with this, as it has always been difficult for casual players to move up the VIP ladder without grinding day in and day out every month. Of course, nobody is saying casual players should elevate to the upper reaches of the VIP levels, but being able to receive rewards every time one plays could be a great motivating force.
Unfortunately, those heavy grinders won’t like what comes next:
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. Players whose rewards are likely to be significantly decreased under the new program are being contacted today with more details of the impact on them. All players will be contacted directly by email with more details as we get closer to launch for each country.
And sure enough, players have been contacted and have been told that “in the most extreme cases some players will receive up to 85% less than under the previous program.”
Denmark will be the first country to see the new VIP program, “no sooner than late May.” Other countries will have their rollouts as through the summer.