PokerStars Announces Million Dollar Freeroll
This past fall, PokerStars announced sweeping changes to its VIP loyalty program, severely restricting the rewards potential for its top-tier players. The reduction of 2016 rewards for those who qualified for Supernova and Supernova Elite status in 2015, the elimination of VPP’s at high-stakes tables, and the decrease in value of loyalty points upon their conversion at the beginning of this year were just some of the many reasons lots of players were angered at the announcement.
The VIP changes led to two boycotts, neither of which seemed to have any dramatic or lasting effect on PokerStars’ player traffic. After the first of those boycotts, Amaya Inc.’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser typed out a blog post on PokerStars’ website, acknowledging that the company did, perhaps, do a poor job at giving players more advance warning as to how severe the VIP changes were going to be, but in the end, it was really just hollow lip service, as all the plans were still moving forward. In fact, he said that the effects boycott gave Pokerstars “even greater confidence that our strategy is on the right track to improve the health of the ecosystem.”
In the blog post, Hollreiser was quick to hype one future promotion that he claimed would “surely create buzz and generate excitement among players at all skill and experience levels.”
Hmm… that sounds good. Maybe PokerStars is making up for the reduction in rewards for high volume, high stakes grinder with other specials that they will enjoy. Let’s see… that promotion is… four freerolls?
Ok, well they are $1 million prize pool freerolls, so that’s something, we guess. At the time, nothing more was said about those freerolls or any other promotions, but this morning, PokerStars did finally announce that the first million-dollar freeroll is scheduled to take place in less than two weeks.
On March 19th at 13:04 ET (yes, thirteen oh-FOUR), up to 100,000 players will be able to take a crack at one million bucks in prizes. Unfortunately, while “freeroll” usually has the connotation of a tournament in which people don’t have to do anything in order to be eligible to participate, that is not nearly the case in this instance. PokerStars actually says that “qualifying for the Freeroll is easy,” but I would beg to differ.
In order to gain entry into the million dollar freeroll, players must qualify via special satellite tournaments. These satellites are 90-player Sit-and-Go’s in which the top nine finishers win seats in the freeroll. Now, there is no cost to play in the satellite Sit-and-Go’s, but at the same time, players can’t try, try again; they are only allowed to try again once.
That is, the most times a player can take a crack at the qualifier tournament is two. Everybody can get their first ticket for a satellite simply by opting-in to the promotion in their “Challenges” window and then playing one real money hand or tournament. So we suppose nobody is allowed to *technically* play for free, but when you can plop down in a seat at a penny table, fold your blind and get out of there, it’s almost free. Plus, you could win the hand, so there you go!*
If you are not the one out of ten players who wins a seat into the freeroll on the first try, you can get one more satellite ticket, but you will have to deposit at least $20 with PokerStars using a special bonus code (it can be found on the freeroll’s page on PokerStars.com). So yes, technically it is a freeroll, as there is no actual entry fee, but everyone who has to try that second time is possibly risking $20 for the privilege.
And about this “easy” qualifying. Look, I have never been more than maybe a slightly above-average poker player at the peak of my ability, so maybe those who are more skilled than I am will think I’m being stupid here, but having at most two chances to make the final table of a 90-player tournament doesn’t seem all that simple to me. Perhaps, though, this is the balance PokerStars is taking between catering to recreational players and keeping the hard-core grinders from Hulking out. The big tournament is free to low cost, but at the same time, it will still be tough for the fish to qualify for it. I don’t know. If I could still play at PokerStars, I’d fell might fortunate if I made it through one of those satellites.
As mentioned, the freeroll will max out at 100,000 entrants. $20,000 is guaranteed to the winner and it is estimated that anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 players will cash.
*Might I add that being required to opt-in to promotions one of those things that shouldn’t really bother me, but still pisses me off to no end?