PokerStars Eliminates VPPs for Live Events
On Thursday, PokerStars announced a change to its loyalty program, specifically in one of the ways players will be able to earn VIP Player Points (VPPs) moving forward. Starting next weekend, VPPs will no longer be awarded for playing in live poker tournaments.
The message from PokerStars, which can be found on the PokerStars blog, is as follows:
From August 1st, 2015 going forward, players will no longer receive VIP Player Points (VPPs) for participation in PokerStars Live Events. Note that this policy does not impact how players earn FPPs for online play, only the VIP Player Points given for live event play.
We are committed to making sure that 2015 VIP Rewards are not materially impacted throughout the year, and so to ensure that you are not impacted in 2015, the following procedure will apply for 2015 VIP Club Rewards:
-In January 2016, we will review our records and any player who would have earned additional Stellar Rewards or Milestone Cash Credits through earning Live Event VPPs will be manually credited their full value by January 31, 2016.
-From August 1st 2015 thru January 1, 2016, if you believe that you would have maintained or earned a higher status as result of live play this year, please contact us at [email protected]. We will review your case, manually upgrade your VIP Status, and credit any discrepancy in FPPs earned to ensure no negative impact.
The above procedure applies exclusively to 2015. In 2016, no VPPs will be accumulated through Live Events nor exceptions made for VIP Status requirements.
Please e-mail [email protected] with any questions.
Thus, it does appear that PokerStars understands that players are going to be miffed about this and is at least trying to mitigate any issues players may have in seeing one path to VIP Player Points cut off. It is not exactly clear how the world’s largest poker room will determine who would have earned further rewards through live event VPP’s, but perhaps it is as simple as looking at a player’s live event participation patterns and estimating how much they would have earned the rest of the year.
PokerStars is also giving players the option to essentially appeal, too, so players will be able to build their own case. Naturally, it is good that players can contact PokerStars directly, but it is also important because PokerStars’ own account reviews do not appear to evaluate VIP statuses, just rewards. For many players, the quest to achieve higher status levels during the course of the year is a huge deal, so having the opportunity to convince PokerStars to boost their level is key.
A significant number of live tournaments series will be affected by this new policy, as PokerStars operates most of the major tours outside of the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour. PokerStars live events include:
European Poker Tour
PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (also part of the European Poker Tour, despite its locale)
Asia Pacific Poker Tour
Latin American Poker Tour
Australia New Zealand Poker Tour
UK & Ireland Poker Tour
Italian Poker Tour
Russian Poker Series
Eureka Poker Tour
Estrellas Poker Tour
France Poker Series
Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship
Aussie Millions (part of the Asia Pacific Poker Tour)
Reaction to the policy change in the poker community has been mixed. Some players are furious, or at least disappointed, blaming PokerStars’ ownership by Amaya Gaming as the reason for what is seen as another player-unfriendly, cost-cutting measure. Quotes that can be found on the Two Plus Two poker forums:
“**** stars. They are a joke and I honestly hope and prey that the likes of Ipoker and Microgaming, 888 and Party begin to outflop them.”
“That a company which enjoys monopoly profits of >$1m per day seeks to penny-pinch from its customers at every opportunity demonstrates incredible short-sightedness.”
“Players need to learn that negative changes to the profitability, security, or integrity of the game (former in this case)…need to be accompanied with rake % decreases…
“Obviously we shouldn’t expect such a policy, as it would be viewed as absurd by amaya stars…but this is where the balance can be calculated and/or offset and so it should be the players political basis for a cohesive protest vs clearly unfavorable change.”
Others, while not happy, understand that sometimes changes need to be made:
“I think the proposal they have is fairly reasonable though. Any player who would have earned the next level will be manually credited at the end of the year. So no one really loses anything this year, if they were on the boarder [sic].”
In this writer’s opinion, it is not unreasonable at all for PokerStars to do away with live event VPPs. VPPs are really an online poker thing, so there isn’t really a need to award them for live tournaments. But they did award them, and that was certainly a nice thing. But sometimes costs need to be shaved, changes need to made, so that’s that. It does seem silly, though, to end live event VPPs in the middle of the year, only to have PokerStars staff manually review accounts and apply estimated rewards and VIP levels. It would much, much easier to announce that live event VPPs would end after December 31st and just be done with it. That way, everybody gets exactly the VPPs to which they were entitled with zero need for evaluation or interpretation.