Last Updated: June 21, 2023
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.
Following a three-month limited trial, a new Rewards program has been rolled out, looking back to the glory days of PokerStars with a more traditional volume-based approach.
The new system encompasses almost all markets where the operator is active except India, Italy, and the United States.
The new trial comes after a few years in the wilderness regarding rakeback. 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.
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 in terms of total cash game traffic.
Flutter is 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.
The new program promises a flatter, more transparent return to volume-based rewards.
The system still keeps the name PokerStars Rewards in place. It keeps the power bar to unlock a chest and 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.
Rasset was unequivocal when asked if flattening was a key part of the strategy. “It is. In the program’s trial version, Chest payouts are fixed (entirely flat).” This point was kept as the new program rolled out, as there is zero randomization in determining amounts contained in Chests.
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 more than double the previous 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 rates were still personalized, a spokesperson told us at the time.
This wholesale adoption of a completely transparent is by far the biggest rewards program revamp in almost half a decade and could transform how players engage with the PokerStars brand and platform.
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 greatly improve their current sub-5% rewards.
However, through the Weekly Poker Challenges, players who reach at least the Silver tier can earn up to 40% more in cashback. That means players could earn as much as 65% cashback at the highest levels.
The Weekly Poker Challenges differ somewhat based on the player profile. The majority of the players will get a 40% cashback offer via this weekly 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 a 35% rakeback at a minimum. For some, this could amount to ten times more rewards than they currently receive.
Although the new rewards program is now active in all markets except for the US and India, players from the Czech Republic and Greece are not offered weekly challenges due to local regulations. The system in Denmark is also expected to work differently, though we do not currently have all the details for that particular market.
|Chest Level||Chest Value||Reward Value||Weekly Poker Challenges Cashback Up to %||Total Combined %||Reward Points Required||Rake Required||Number of Chests to Move Up|
All players who reach at least the Silver Level will gain access to Weekly Challenges. These Challenges set up a specific point target for the week, and upon reaching it, players can claim additional rewards on top of those contained inside the Chests.
The point targets are set based on the player profile, with the operator trying to structure things so that they are attainable by all. As mentioned, the value of rewards ranges between 10% and 40% of the rake paid.
The Weekly Challenges system gives preference to recreational, losing players, as they are the ones who will always receive Challenges worth 40%. Players with a winning track record on the site are much likelier to end up with Challenges worth only 10% of the rake paid.
PokerStars initially rolled out this new system 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 lasted until September 30. After this, the operator analyzed the results and player feedback to determine the success of the trial.
Players selected to participate in the trial were expected to complete three surveys about PokerStars and the trial itself.
“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 an 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 at the time.
The trial results were very clear. In a blog post following the full rollout, Rasset stated the following:
“Our recent trial program was not only very positively received — overall, we saw a 78% jump in satisfaction scores for the players participating, but it also gave us more ideas about how to make it even better.”
Upon signing up for a PokerStars account, you will be automatically included in the new rewards system. Players do not need to take any special actions to get involved. You can continue playing as before and enjoy improved rewards. The new system is now active for all markets except for the US and India.
The core part of the system is not; the additional Weekly Poker Challenges are.
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 Weekly 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 still 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 weekly 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 the Black tier who can hit their weekly challenges.
Almost all. At the time of writing, it is not yet live in Denmark—that looks still to be pending. In the Czech Republic and Greece, Weekly Poker Challenges are unavailable due to local licensing, but the main rakeback system is available.
All other markets are on the new system. This includes all countries served on PokerStars.com and PokerStars.EU, plus Bulgaria, Estonia, Romania, Germany, and the UK.
No, not yet. However, it is likely that PokerStars will look to adopt this system in the US markets in due course. Historically, PokerStars has been more generous to high-volume players in the US than in the global market, so it seems likely that a system just as lucrative will launch in these markets.
As of October 2021, it is not yet live in Italy. It is understood to be awaiting regulatory approval before going live.
Yes, it is live in all three markets that make up PokerStars’ Southern European market.
Yes. The number of chests required to unlock the next level varies with the level in question, ranging from 5 to 10. The chart above outlines the points and the number of chests needed for each level.
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. Online casino gaming and sports betting action will also qualify for points, which will allow players to earn chests more quickly.
Points are earned by playing on PokerStars products and will be earned no matter what games are played. All poker and casino games and 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.
All players start at 15% cashback in the basic rewards program. As players earn points, open chests, and move up the chest levels, the basic program tops out at 25%.
Through Weekly Challenges, players can get an additional 40% rakeback. However, these only become available once the player reaches the Silver tier, which means that the maximum rakeback at the Blue and Bronze levels remains 15% and 16%, respectively.
There is less detail about how the Weekly Poker Challenges play out with individual users. According to PokerStars, most players will see a 40% cashback from the 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 reward a player can get is 65% cashback at the highest levels. That is made up of a 25% return from the Black level of the basic volume-based program, plus up to 40% from the Weekly 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.
The trial consisted of about 20% of PokerStars’ customer base, randomly selected from players on PokerStars.com PokerStars.EU, Spain, France, and UK.
One of the main aspects of the new trial was the customer feedback. Participants were asked to complete three surveys, one at the start, one in the middle, and one at the end of the trial period.
The results of those feedback surveys were factored in with things like the impact the trial had on the poker ecosystem in relation to game quality. At the end of the trial period, PokerStars assesses the various criteria and decides to roll out the new rewards system for all players.
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 new and old customers to the platform.