PokerStars Announces VIP Program Overhaul Coming in 2017

At the beginning of this year, PokerStars made controversial, significant changes to its VIP loyalty program. Next year, it will revamp the program once again. PokerStars began contacting its players on Friday, letting people know that the current VIP system will be replaced “sometime in 2017.”

“Our new rewards program will reward players for their activity across many of our products and brands where available; whether it’s poker, casino or sportsbook,” PokerStars Vice President of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser wrote in a blog post. “Although players won’t have to play any specific platform in order to progress, players will receive rewards for many different things, rather than solely being rewarded for playing a lot of poker hands as is the case currently.”

PokerStars appears to be trying to make things more attractive to recreational players, something the world’s largest online poker room said was its goal with this year’s VIP changes. The new system will get away from players having to grind it out month after month and year after year to both rise in the VIP ranks and maintain their status. We’ll let Hollreiser take it from here:

A key challenge with the current rewards system is that player progress resets each month. While that’s great for those that play the most, the vast majority of our players only play intermittently and casually; resetting VIP progress each month can make it a tough rewards system for those players to engage with. So, at some point during 2017, we will make the switch from the current monthly status system to one that is more personalized to your recent gaming activity and player profile.

It’s not sure exactly what this means, but perhaps the new VIP system will allow players to keep their status for longer before finally having to drop down in the ranks. Clearly, players can’t expect to achieve high levels just by playing a few low-stakes games here and there; maybe it will be an “achievement” or “mission”-type system to allow more casual players to still feel like they are being rewarded or progressing towards something (other than, of course, having fun trying to win a few bucks playing poker).

poker-stars-001PokerStars has also said that beginning with the new year, Supernova status will shift from an annual to a monthly status until the new VIP program kicks off. When the new program starts, gone will be those Supernova statuses. It is unclear whether or not there will even be “Supernova” equivalent with the new loyalty program. Hollreiser wrote this:

“The value of monthly VIP rewards and VPP requirements for all statuses in 2017 is still subject to change. When our new reward program is deployed all players will receive rewards according to that new system.”

It sounds like a) since Supernova will switch to a monthly status at the start of 2017, PokerStars is covering its ass, saying that it could adjust those monthly play requirements at any time, and b) the new system will have totally different VIP levels.

Then again, the levels, including Supernova, could be the same or similar, just with totally modified VPP requirements and rewards.

One of the biggest problems players had with this year’s VIP changes was how they were announced. In late 2014, the site issued a vague announcement that changes would be coming, but it wasn’t until November 2015 – and until after the changes were leaked on a Russian-language poker site – that the changes were officially announced. Those changes involved significant reductions to the benefits of high-ranking VIP players and since the system shift took effect on January 1st, 2016, those players had little warning and therefore little opportunity to make the necessary preparations before the changes happened.

Supernova Elite players were hit particularly hard, since it was announced that the highest VIP status would be eliminated. That status takes just about all year for a player to earn and that player, in turn, was always allowed to keep that status for the entirety of the next year. The VIP changes did away with that benefit.

The VIP changes, combined with the terrible communication by PokerStars, prompted boycotts as well as some Team PokerStars Online members to resign in disgust.

In Friday’s announcement, Hollreiser acknowledged the issue from last year:

We have heard the feedback from players who felt that they did not receive enough notice about the implementation of VIP changes for the start of 2016. Consequently, we’re working hard to avoid repeating that situation by sharing this broad vision for the rewards program in 2017, even when we have not yet decided on all the details or launch date. These details will be informed by further careful analysis in coming months, but we will endeavour to share what we can, when we can.  This blog and the associated email to players is the first step in that process.

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