PokerStars has announced plans to roll out significant changes to its rewards program, starting January 22, for various markets around the world.
With a renewed focus on high volume players and professionals, the refreshed rewards system carries with it echoes of the fondly remembered days of the Supernova and Supernova Elite tiers. These were retired some eight years ago in a move which frustrated many online grinders – a demographic which the new system is specifically targeting through perks including up to 60% rakeback and dedicated account managers.
What’s more, in a move indicative of the increased transparency and ease-of-use the operator is aiming for, rakeback will be paid daily and in cash.
Regulated markets in the USA are not currently included in the program, which will be launched next Monday across PokerStars’ .COM and .EU markets, as well as the UK, Estonia, Bulgaria, Greece and Spain. Austria will also launch, albeit with some country-specific changes, and Romania is expected to follow later this spring.
What’s changing for online grinders?
High volume players and professionals can expect to see the biggest changes, as PokerStars aims to provide a more consistent, transparent and predictable rewards program.
As Chris Straghalis, Director of Online Experience at PokerStars, told PokerOrg, “Do X get Y: the more volume you put in, the more you’re going to get back out of it. That’s the kind of certainty you need.”
Two new top-tier levels of rewards are being introduced, named Select and Select+. Participation in these tiers is instead of the base program (see below), rather than in addition to it.
Players who rake between $50k-$100k per year will be added to the Select tier, with those raking more than that added to Select+. Those who meet the criteria for their play over the past year will be added automatically on launch, while those who don’t currently qualify can contact email@example.com with an application.
Select players will receive 50% rakeback on a daily basis, plus special promotions exclusive to their activity levels. Select+ players will also receive 60% rakeback on their Zoom and Spin & Go play.
Participation in Select/+ will be available on a rolling basis with players required to rake certain amounts over 3 or 12 months to maintain their status.
Dedicated account managers
Select/+ players will have access to a dedicated account manager to help with customer service issues, both online and at live events. These personal contacts will also allow players to provide direct feedback to PokerStars.
Weekly Challenges/base promotions removed
The weekly challenges which were introduced to help players reach greater levels of rakeback are being retired in order to create a more predictable level of rewards.
As Straghalis puts it, “The reason for getting rid of that rakeback challenge was to remove that uncertainty. ‘Am I going to get 40%? 10%? How big is it? Is it going to change for me next month? Can I afford to take a week off because my rakeback challenge might change?’ We want to remove that level of uncertainty to make it predictable and consistent”
In place of these weekly challenges, top tier players will instead receive the opportunity to take part in exclusive promotions more relevant to their stakes, volume and activity. The first of these will take the form of weekly rake races with a total of $29k available to be won each week.
“I think it’s a great time to be a poker player” – Joey Ingram
As a member of the PokerOrg Player Advisory Board, we reached out to the famed player, podcaster and poker content creator – not to mention two-time Supernova Elite – Joey Ingram to get his take on the upcoming changes.
“I feel like the reward system before used to be known as this real great thing in poker,” Ingram tells us, “and obviously over time that has definitely changed for rakeback in general among the industry. So I think it’s great to see PokerStars decide to focus more on giving back to the players through the rewards, giving back to the high volume players…I think it’s awesome to see a renewed interest in trying to provide a platform for players to be able to make a living.
“So I think it’s a great time to be a poker player. Hopefully we see some more competition from the sites and I’m interested to see how the players are going to take this.
“At the end of the day, we all want fair games. We all want a fair rakeback system…So it’s great to see PokerStars, at least, deciding, ‘Hey, let’s go back to some trends that really made us successful and really made us stand out in the market, really made us one of the best companies in the poker world’. So it’s great. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Listen to the full audio from Joey below.
What’s changing for recreational players?
A revised base program aims to reward more casual players for their frequency of play, rather than volume.
“These players provide a very big value to the ecosystem overall,” says Straghalis, “they’re the ones that start the games, the ones that make sure that we’re able to offer bigger and larger guarantees. It’s not fair to set them them targets with the same criteria that we use for higher volume players.”
Power Path daily rewards, which award tickets every day a player is active, are becoming a permanent fixture.
These tickets enable players to quickly spin their way up to $109 qualifiers which are restricted to Power Path players, with no cash buy-ins available. This ‘protected environment’ allows many players to more easily qualify for bigger tournaments – including live events and the Sunday Million – without butting heads with higher stakes pros.
The success of the Power Path is contributing to the overall poker ecosystem: according to PokerStars, around 1,000 players each week play the Sunday Million using tickets won through the Power Path, adding $100,000 in value to every running of the flagship weekly tourney.
Regular rakeback chests, which previously would award low-raking players with rewards worth less than a dollar, are being recalibrated so both the rake requirement and the cash reward are increased at the same rate. This means the minimum cash reward at the lowest levels will be $20.
Additional promotions are also promised which will specifically target lower stakes and recreational players. Details are to be announced.
What about everyone else?
The PokerStars ecosystem is not just recs and pros, of course, and most players who fall in between these two camps will also see an improvement in the rewards they receive.
According to figures provided by PokerStars:
- Players raking up to $20 within a 28-day period will see negligible changes, but will receive Power Path tickets each day they play as a permanent perk.
- Those raking $60 in that time will receive an unchanged level of rakeback, but will also receive daily Power Path tickets in addition.
- Players raking $200 will see rakeback increased from 18.5% to 20%
- Raking $500 will increase rakeback from 20% to 25%
- Players raking $1.2k get a boost from 25% to 30%
- Those raking $2.5k will see their rakeback improve from 25% to 40%
As with all levels of the new program, these players can also expect to receive rakeback daily and in cash.
We’ll be following up with both PokerStars and the affected player base to see what type of impact these changes will make. How do you feel about the new-look rewards program? Head to our socials to let us know, and don’t forget you can also make your voice heard in the PokerOrg State of Poker survey.
Images courtesy of PokerStars