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Four years since scrapping the original VIP program and switching to an opaque Chests-based system, PokerStars is looking to be more generous—and more transparent—with its player base once again.

As pokerfuse exclusively reported last week, a new limited trial of a new Rewards program is looking back to the glory days of PokerStars with a more traditional volume-based approach.

The new trial comes after a few years in the wilderness as far as rakeback goes. The Amaya ownership period saw a significant reduction in rewards given back to players, most notably with the cancellation of the immensely popular Supernova Elite program, and a complete revamp of the rakeback system.

New PokerStars Rewards Program: Key Takeaways

  • Transparent rewards on trial
    • 20% of players globally selected at random
    • Trial will last three months, with surveys taken before, during and after
    • Operator will assess the trial’s success before considering a full rollout.
  • What stays the same: Tiers and Chests
    • Six VIP tiers of Blue through Black
    • Play is still rewarded across all products: poker, casino and sports bets all count
    • Players earn and open Chests with cash prizes
  • What’s changed: Fixed 25% rewards and a month challenge worth +10% to +40%
    • Points rate to earn Chests and progress through tiers now fixed at 100 points per $1 in rake
    • Zero randomization: Chest value is fixed at 50 cents to $250
    • This fixes rakeback at 15% (Blue) to 25% (Black)
    • Everyone gets a Monthly Poker Challenge with a custom target
    • For most people, this can amount to up to 40% additional cashback
    • A small percentage of top players may only receive challenges that give 10%

In that time, the operator saw rival upstarts like GGPoker swoop in with a cashback program, innovative software and games, and a transformative World Series of Poker partnership, to challenge its lead in the global poker market. After 15 years of being the largest online poker room in the world, GGPoker overtook it recently in terms of total cash game traffic.

Now, new owners Flutter are looking to rebuild some of the goodwill the operator lost in the past five years. Indeed, ever since taking over the reins, the new execs have sign-posted a reinvestment into its rewards program, noting how “customer generosity has reduced significantly over the last five years” and that “there is an important balance that has to be struck in developing the business for the long-term.”

The new rewards program looks like the culmination of this new direction. The new program looks to provide greater transparency, increases generosity for almost all players, and makes for a more understandable, straightforward program in place of the existing opaque, randomized system.

Limited Trial

The new program isn’t fully deployed yet. PokerStars is rolling it out first on a trial basis to about 20% of its player base, randomly selected from the global liquidity pool (including players on dot-com, dot-EU and UK), plus those on the shared Southern European network in Spain and France.

The trial program is expected to end September 30, at which point the operator will analyze the results and player feedback to determine the success of the trial.

Players selected to participate in the trial will be expected to complete three surveys about PokerStars and the trial itself. The trial pool will be surveyed at the start, during, and again at the end to determine the level of success.

“We’ll be looking at a variety of metrics during the trial, with player feedback being key,” explained PokerStars’ Managing Director of Poker Severin Rasset in a recent exclusive interview with sister site Poker Industry PRO.

“The impact the trial has on the poker ecosystem as it relates to the quality of the games and experience for the different types of players who play at PokerStars will also be a metric we will be looking at,” he added.

How it Works

The new program promises a flatter, more transparent return to volume-based rewards.

The system still keeps in place the name PokerStars Rewards. It keeps the power bar to unlock a chest, and it keeps the process of opening a Chest to receive a prize. However, the power bar now fills up predictably, and the Chest value is fixed—there is zero randomization in this system.

When asked if flattening was a key part of the strategy, Rasset was unequivocal. “It is. In the trial version of the program, Chest payouts are fixed (entirely flat).”

Like before, Chests are color-coded for value, with blue as the least valuable, and black as the most. Players will unlock Chests as they earn points through rake with a flat structure of 100 points for every $1 of rake.

That is better than double the current rate of 45 points per dollar.

Keen industry observers will note that this is not entirely new: In March 2020, it switched its small segregated PokerStars India online poker room to fixed rewards too. However, points earn rate were still personalized, a spokesperson told us at the time.

So, this wholesale adoption of a completely transparent system for 20% of players is by far the biggest trial of a rewards program revamp in almost half a decade and could transform how players engage with the PokerStars brand and platform.

Rakeback

The basic rewards rate is 15% for all players going up to 25% at the Black level. For many high volume, winning players, this will be a huge improvement to sub-5% rewards they receive currently.

However, through the new Monthly Poker Challenges, players can earn up to 40% more in cashback. That means players could earn as much as 65% cashback at the highest levels.

The Monthly Poker Challenges will differ somewhat based on player profile, but pokerfuse understands that the majority of the players will get a 40% cashback offer via this monthly challenge while a small section of players will receive a cashback offer only worth 10%.

Even getting this lower offer, every player that can reach Black and complete their 10% Challenge can be guaranteed 35% rakeback at a minimum. For some this could amount to ten times more rewards than they currently receive.

PokerStars New Rewards Program Trial

Chest Level Chest Value Reward Value Monthly Poker Challenges Cashback Up to % Total Combined % Reward Points Required Rake Required Number of Chests to Move Up
Blue $0.50 15.00% 40% 55.0% 333 $3.33 5
Bronze $1.50 16.00% 40% 56.0% 935 $9.35 5
Silver $5 17.5% 40% 57.50% 2850 $28.50 7
Gold $20 18.50% 40% 58.50% 10,800 $108.00 7
Diamond $75 20.0% 40% 60.0% 37,500 $375 10
Black $250 25.0% 40% 65.0% 100,000 $1,000 N/A

FAQ

How can I get involved in the new rewards system?

The current system is in test phase only, with about 20% of the global PokerStars customer base selected to participate. The current test will end on September 30, at which point user feedback will be combined with various other metrics to determine if it was a success before rolling it out to the entire customer base.

Who has been selected to participate in the trial?

The trial consists of about 20% of PokerStars’ customer base, randomly selected from players on PokerStars.com PokerStars.EU, Spain, France and UK.

How do I know if I have been picked for the trial?

You will have received an email invite if you were randomly selected, and asked to complete a survey. If you haven’t received that, you have not been chosen.

There is no guarantee this program will go live for everyone, but given the widescale trial, and the commitment from executives to invest in customer loyalty, it seems very likely something like this system will be offered to all later in the year.

Is the new system based on player profiling?

The core part of the system is not; the additional Monthly Poker Challenges is.

The base part of the new rewards system is the same for all players. Chests are unlocked with a flat rate of points, with points earned at the rate of 100 points per $1 of rake paid. Chest value begins at 15% for the blue level, which players can open for 333 points. At the highest Black level, there is 25% cashback; players need to earn 100,000 points to open a $250 Black Chest ($1000 in rake).

However, the other part of the rewards system, the Monthly Poker Challenges, is dependent on player profiles. Cashback from the Challenges will go up to 40%, but some players will only receive 10% extra. And how hard these challenges will be will also be tailored to the player.

It is unclear at this time what the precise criteria will be, but pokerfuse understands that the majority of the players will get a 40% cashback offer via this monthly challenge while a small section of players will receive a cashback offer worth 10%. That means that, at minimum, the new Stars Rewards program will be worth 35% for those in Black tier who can hit their monthly challenges.

Will I need to unlock more than one Chest at each level?

Yes. The number of chests required unlock the next level varies with the level in question, ranging from 5 to 10. The chart above lays out the points required and number of chests needed for each level.

What prompted the new program?

That answer is likely two-fold. On the one hand, PokerStars has been losing market share to the ever-growing upstart GGPoker. While it didn’t cite GGPoker by name, it indicated that big series at competitors’ sites had an impact on its bottom line last year.

Equally, when current owner Flutter took over operations, it admitted the previous era saw a significant drop in generosity to customers and pledged to fix that. A revamped rewards system is a way to entice customers, both new and old, to the platform.

Will I earn rewards from Casino and Sports Betting as well?

Yes. The new “trial program is volume-driven by rake,” according to Rasset. That applies to all game types and is not just limited to poker. Casino and Sports action will also qualify for points, which will allow players to earn chests more quickly.

How will the trial be evaluated?

One of the main aspects of the new trial will be customer feedback. Participants will be asked to complete three surveys, one at the start, in the middle, and at the end of the trial period.

The results of those feedback surveys will be factored in with things like the impact the trial has on the poker ecosystem in relation to game quality. At the end of the trial period, PokerStars will assess all the various criteria and decide whether and how to implement the program site-wide.

How do players in the trial earn points?

Points are earned by playing on PokerStars products, and will be earned no matter what games are played. All poker and casino games, as well as sports bets, will earn points at a rate of 100 points per $1 of rake paid. This includes entry fees to MTTs, Spin and Gos, SNGs and other tournaments. For example, opening a Blue Chest requires 333 points, which players will get by paying just $3.33 in rake on any game in the PokerStars ecosystem.

What are the maximum rewards players can earn under the new system?

In the basic rewards program, all players start at 15% cashback. As players earn points, open chests, and move up the chest levels, the basic program tops out at 25%.

There is less detail about how the Monthly Poker Challenges play out with individual users. According to PokerStars, most players will see a 40% cashback from the Monthly Challenges, but some players will only get 10% cashback. That difference will be based on player profiles, but there is limited data about how that will be assessed.

That means that the maximum rewards a player can get is 65% cashback at the highest levels. That is made up of 25% return from the Black level of the basic volume-based program, plus up to 40% from the Monthly Poker Challenges for a total of 65%. For those only offered 10% in Challenges, that will still amount to 35% rakeback each month—though it remains to be seen if challenges are reasonably attainable or not.