PokerStars will switch to the so-called “weighted contributed” method for calculating how VIP points will be given out to players, significantly changing the effective rakeback a player will receive. The change will be implemented on all real money cash games beginning early January.
The existing method – referred to as simply the “dealt” method – attributes everyone dealt in to the poker hand as paying their share of the rake, even if a player folded preflop and contributed no money. The new method will only attribute rake to the players who put money in to the pot.
The question of who paid the rake is relevant when rewarding players through the form of VIP points or rakeback. In PokerStars parlance this means VIP Player Points (VPPs) – which are earned for each dollar of rake paid – and Frequent Player Points (FPPs) – which are VPPs times a multiplier based on a player’s VIP status. FPPs can be spent in the store on cash bonuses, tournament tickets and gifts. High volume players are heavily rewarded: a player at “Supernova” level receives 30% of the rake returned to them in cash bonuses or tournament tickets. To achieve “Supernova Elite” – a near-mythic achievement for many – requires a player paying over $180k in rake during the year. But for those who make it, they will receive back over $100k – around 60% equivalent rakeback.
With the switch to weighted contributed, the amount of rake collected does not change, nor does the number of VPP points given out; what changes is how these VIP points are distributed. In each hand, those who contribute to the pot will now receive more VPPs and those who do not will now receive none. In general, loose players will receive more rewards, tight play is discouraged. Proponents of the weighted contributed method claim it is “fairer,” as it only rewards players who actually put money in to the pot. Others argue it makes for looser, more action-orientated games.
However, weighted contributed has many critics. The same number of VPPs will be distributed but many argue that high volume players will receive less and recreational, low-volume players receive more. If players of lower VIP level receive more VPPs, then less FPPs are distributed. Therefore, poker rooms pay out significantly less in rewards overall.
In a recent article titled “Who Actually Pays the Rake?”, poker professional Russel Bearden argued that, although it might be a “fairer” system, in reality, the switch mostly benefits the poker room, not the recreational player pool:
Weighted contributed tends to take money away from regulars, disperse a bit of that among recreational players, and leave the lion’s share for the house. What is for sure is that the reason a number of sites have recently changed over to weighted systems has nothing to do with fairness.
The switch by PokerStars is part of an overall industry trend away from the “dealt” model of attributing rake. Full Tilt and iPoker made the switch in 2010; Ongame and Bodog have more convoluted models whose explicit goal is to increase rewards for the recreational player.
The move is certainly contentious, and will affect thousands of players: in 2010, there were over 8000 players that achieved Supernovas and hundreds made it to Supernova Elite. Until the changes come in to effect, no one can say for sure how their effective rakeback will change, but many may now be reconsidering their poker plans for 2012.