okerStars’ Stars Rewards Program

Denmark to Get First Taste of New PokerStars’ Stars Rewards Program This Month

The information about PokerStars’ upcoming revamp of its loyalty program has come in minuscule drips and drabs over the last several months and Wednesday, the world’s largest online poker room gave us perhaps the most sizable preview yet of the new rewards program, dubbed (aptly) Stars Rewards. The post by PokerStars Director of Poker Innovation and Operations Severin Rasset on the PokerStars blog still doesn’t divulge every nitty-gritty detail, but it does start to give us a better picture of what is to come. Denmark will be the first market to try the new Stars Rewards; it will be rolled out there by the end of the month. Italy will be next, with “most other markets planned for later this summer.”

Stars Rewards will revolve around “Chests,” as in treasure chests. “The more you play,” Rasset writes, “the bigger the Chests.”

We’ll let Rasset continue to explain:

Every time you open a Chest there’s a chance that you win a big top prize. It might be $1,000 in cold hard cash, 1,000,000 StarsCoin, or a PokerStars Championship package worth thousands of dollars or, if you are a sports bettor, a big bet for an upcoming match. The top prizes will be changing on an ongoing basis, but every Chest for every player gives you the chance at a big prize.

It seems that players will not have to fear receiving a reward that would be absolute useless to them (though, of course, it is unlikely that everything that comes out of a Chest will be incredible), as the rewards will be “personalised to reflect your gameplay.”

That is, if someone is playing mostly – or entirely – in the sportsbook, he is going to receive rewards that have to do with sports betting. PokerStars players who stick to the poker tables and never place a sports bet or dabble at the blackjack tables will receive poker rewards. Additionally – and this is nice – tournament players will receive tournament rewards. One complaint I’ve read frequently over the years is for various promotions, there are times when, say, cash game players are given tournament tickets for their play. While not worthless, a reward like that is not generally welcomed; it’s almost like giving a sports bettor a tournament ticket.

No details were given on exactly how Chests are earned, but it is likely based on generating rake, similar to VPP’s and what-not in the current VIP program. A video shows a “progress bar” that players can watch to see how close they are getting to a Chest. Probably something like “x” VPP’s or similar to earn a Chest.

To reward players who play frequently, players will be able to double the speed towards a Chest via short “boost” periods each day.

All in all, the new Stars Rewards system sounds very much like some of the rewards systems we see in the video gaming world. In the hit game Overwatch, for example, players earn experience points (XP) in every game they play. After a certain amount of XP is earned (shown numerically and with a progress bar), players “level up” (just a numerical ranking for scoring purposes – ranks mean nothing other than to indicate how much on plays) and receive a “loot box.” Each loot box contains four rewards, which can be sprays, character skins (costumes), character voice lines, and player icons. Like with Stars Rewards, where some Chests can contain a “top prize,” Overwatch loot boxes can contain “legendary” and “epic” items which are difficult to get (not to be confused with “rare” items, which are less rare than legendary or epic – go figure).

PokerStars’ previous rewards program update came in April and included the following key paragraph:

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.

That part about some players having their rewards being “significantly decreased” made many in the poker community upset. That follow up e-mail made some feel even worse, as it said, “We cannot give you an exact figure, but in the most extreme cases some players will receive up to 85% less than under the previous program.”

That, combined with the elimination of the “volume-driven rakeback model” and net deposits being included as a factor in rewards indicates what everybody knew was coming: an even greater push towards making recreational players happy at the expense of professional grinders.

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