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PokerStars Unveils New VIP Steps Program

Late last week, PokerStars announced a reconstruction of its VIP program, slated to go live across all PokerStars sites on January 1st, 2016. In preparation of the New Year’s rollout, the world’s largest online poker room has launched a beta testing period for UK players that will last the rest of this month. The beta is an opt-in program, so players do not have to participate if they do not want. They will have no choice, however, starting October 1st, as that is when the new program will go live for all UK customers.

The new system is called VIP Steps. It is largely the same as what exists at the present time with, of course, a few exceptions (otherwise there would be no reason to write about it, right?). The main change is designed to appeal to recreational players. Right now, players earn VIP Player Points (VPPs) for contributing to raked hands at cash game tables or by playing in real money tournaments (the entry fee is what counts towards VPPs). VPPs are counted on a monthly basis (mostly) and hitting certain thresholds allow players to advance up the status level ladder. Here are the different VIP levels and their corresponding VPP requirements:

Bronze Star: no requirements – everyone starts here
Chrome Star: 100 VPPs per month
Silver Star: 500 VPPs per month
Gold Star: 2,500 VPPs per month
Platinum Star: 7,500 VPPs per month
Supernova: 100,000 VPPs per year
Supernova Elite:1,000,000 VPPs per year

Players also earn Frequent Player Points (FPPs) for each VPP earned; the higher up one goes, the more FPPs that are earned for each VPP. Each level also comes with certain benefits, like VIP reward bonuses.

All that will remain in place with VIP Steps. What will change, though, is how players can see the progress they have made toward the next VIP level. Currently, players need to go to the Cashier and see how many points they have earned during the month. Pretty simple. The new VIP Steps system will allow players to see have a progress bar right on the table so they can always see how many VPPs they have earned.

pokerstars-vip-stepsEach VIP level will also be broken up into smaller steps, hence the “Steps” part of the name. Each step will require a certain number of VPPs to be earned before advancing to the next step. Complete all the steps for a level, and a player moves on up.

For example, it will take 500 VPPs in a month to advance from Chrome Star to Silver Star. The VIP Steps system will split those 500 VPPs into 25 20-VPP steps. The progress bar will show how far a player has gone in the current step, as well as how many more steps are required for the next level and how many total VPPs the player has.

It sounds like a pointless change, but it is really designed to make the VIP program feel more like a game to recreational players and give them shorter-term goals that can provide a sense of accomplishment. The idea is that rather than playing and playing and maybe one day hitting a new VIP level, a player more easily hit intermediate goals, all the while being able to constantly watch a progress bar fill up. It makes the VIP program feel very much like casual games people play on their mobile devices, the kind where you just tap, tap, tap, grind, grind, grind, in order to hit the next level and get the newest item or reward.

As PokerStars VIP rep “PokerStars Dylan” wrote on Two Plus Two:

One of the primary purposes of Steps is to surface VIP Rewards to players so that there is a more intuitive relationship between playing and earning FPPs. The visualization is a key component to this. We expect this to be a more engaging method for players to earn and understand their rewards. The Steps are designed so that most players can complete a Step in a typical session or two and will thus have something to play for in any given session.

Currently, FPPs are continuously accrued as VPPs are earned. In VIP Steps, they will be released in increments, with completion of each step. Using earlier example, at the end of each 20 VPP step on the Chrome level, 20 FPPs will be unlocked. Every fifth step, a player will earn an extra two FPPs, a ten percent bonus. FPP multipliers for each level will remain the same – it’s just that the FPPs will be released in chunks, rather than continually.

Where this poses a problem, though, is in situations (of which there will be many) where a player finishes the month in the middle of a level. When this happens, PokerStars will give them FPPs equal to 50 percent of the pro-rated value for the current step. To illustrate, PokerStars gives the example of a player who has earned 80 of 100 required VPPs for a Silver Star step. The full level pays out 150 FPPs, so the pro-rated value is 120 FPPs. Half of that (the 50 percent) is 60 FPPs, which is what the player will receive.

Obviously, that is worse than how things are now. Since FPPs are continuously earned, a player always earns his full share. In the above example, a player would normally earn the full 120 FPPs for those 80 VPPs. Now, he is losing 60 of those. On the bright side, since the VPP progress bar details everything, it should be relatively easy for a player to plan accordingly and not end up falling just shy of a new step. It is not ideal, though, and has already drawn complaints from the poker community. It seems that PokerStars is unnecessarily punishing players for not completing a step, all in the name of making the VIP program more “engaging” for recreational players.

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