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PokerStars’ New Mega Bonus Promo is Mega Lame

PokerStars’ sister site, Full Tilt Poker, made poker headlines this week when it eliminated the ability to seat-select in cash games, got rid of heads-up cash games, and did away with stud, draw, and mixed games. The first two moves, in particular, were clearly efforts to revamp the site to make it more friendly to casual players, and for that, I applaud Full Tilt. It’s a ballsy move that I hope pays off.

But PokerStars, the Arnold Schwarzenegger to Full Tilt’s Danny DeVito, also recently made a move to try to attract casual players. Well, it is not so much of a “move” as it is simply a promotion, but it strikes me as odd, nonetheless. The promotion is called “Mega Bonus” and is obviously aimed squarely at recreational players who hope to get something for virtually nothing.

Mega Bonus will run for four weeks with each week serving as a separate promotional period, distinct from the other three. The first week is the current one, spanning from July 27th through 11:59pm ET on Sunday, August 2nd. Week 2 goes from August 3rd through August 9th. Rinse, repeat for the final two weeks of the Mega Bonus promotion.

Each week, PokerStars players who deposit $25 or more (or €22 / £15 / CAD $30 or more) and use the code “MEGABONUS” (no quotes) will receive a Mega Bonus reward in their account. That’s cool. I like to receive things. But when you look at what the rewards are, they are actually kind of crappy.

PokerStars Mega BonusThe majority of depositors – 55 percent – will receive a ticket into a $100,000 All-in Shootout. All-in Shootouts are just dice rolls disguised as poker tournaments. The computer automatically puts everybody all-in every hand and what happens happens. As it is a shootout, each table plays down to one player before the survivors are consolidated and another round starts.

Thus, over half the depositors in the Mega Bonus promotion will receive a lottery ticket. Obviously, some people are going to win some money in the All-in Shootout, but most will not and will therefore get no value whatsoever from their Mega Bonus (aside from the mild entertainment value that might come from watching the automated all-in process for a minute).

Another quarter of the depositors will receive $5 and 15 percent will receive $10. So 40 percent of those who deposit $25 or more will get a little bit of cash. It’s nice, as it is straight-up cash, free and clear, and can be used right away. It is not a bonus in the traditional online poker sense, as it does not need to be earned through real money play. So that’s good. It is not a huge cash prize, but I suppose if someone deposits the minimum and wins $10, a 40 percent return is solid. If I am a regular player on PokerStars, I might prefer a higher return in exchange for a bonus I need to work off, but I won’t complain too much about free money. Of course, if someone deposits a couple hundred bucks and gets $5 or $10 as their Mega Bonus, their heart isn’t going to skip a beat.

After that, the prizes get bigger, but the odds of winning them go way down. The $20 and $50 cash prizes have a combined probability of less than 5 percent. There will be depositors who, if they deposit the minimum, will get a very nice return, but nobody should actually count on being those players.

There are some very lucrative prize in the Mega Bonus promo, as well: $100, $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000, but put together, they only have a 0.2 percent probability of being hit. Two-tenths of one percent. You are not going to win any of those amounts.

And that’s it. That’s the promotion. Players can enter once per week for four weeks by depositing at least $25. The only real catch is that if you cash out during the month-long promotional period, including transferring funds over to Full Tilt, you become ineligible for any more Mega Bonus prizes.

Now I don’t normally take issue with promos in which money or the chance of money is being given away for free, but considering what Full Tilt just did, this Mega Bonus promo looks horrible. Full Tilt Poker has taken a huge risk in trying to welcome recreational players, making substantive changes to its entire poker offering. With this Mega Bonus promo, though, PokerStars is quite obvious trying to attract those same recreational players, but in a way that either insults their intelligence or tricks them into thinking they are getting something of value, depending on how you want to look at it.

Most poker room promotions revolve around receiving some sort of reward, bet it big or small, for playing poker. They vary in quality, but at least the ones geared toward casual players require them to play, something that will presumably help them improve and feel more comfortable in the online poker environment. The Mega Bonus promo, on the other hand, just says, “Give us your money and you’ll win MEGA prize! But nah, probably not.” It’s a cheap, lazy way to try to win recreational players and just looks bad compared to Full Tilt’s well-thought out efforts.

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