PokerStars Announces Extensive VIP System Changes for 2016
PokerStars had said changes were coming and it certainly appears that the company meant it. On Sunday, the world’s largest online poker room announced a set of “reforms,” highlighted by significant changes to its VIP program.
The news has generated loads of discussion in the poker community and have proven to be quite controversial. There has been a growing trend over the last couple years for poker rooms to massage their offerings to cater more towards recreational players, but nobody expected the move from PokerStars to be so drastic. PokerStars explains:
We are introducing these changes to move towards a more balanced long-term poker economy and to return the game back to one that rewards skill via winning at the tables rather than playing primarily for volume.
It was never the intention of the VIP Club to alter the fundamental reason for playing poker. We’ve come to the realisation that the current situation has to change, even though we understand it will upset the high-status players that are affected.
It’s not a decision that was taken lightly, but is being made after months of analysis and investigation to find the best possible model for the long-term viability of the poker ecosystem.
High stakes, high volume players will be hurt significantly by the changes. VIP Club rewards will be capped at 30 percent and PlatinumStar players will see their rewards reduced by as much as 10 percent. The biggest jaw-dropper is PokerStars will no longer award VPPs in Pot-Limit and No-Limit cash games with blinds of $5/$10 or more, 8-game tables of $10/$20 or more, and Fixed-Limit games with blinds of $10/$15 and higher. PokerStars claims that these games simply cost too much to maintain and monitor.
So, high stakes players, many of whom reap thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in benefits each year by virtue of their volume and stakes, will no longer be rewarded at all for their play. If there was any doubt that PokerStars wanted more losing, recreational players, it is gone now.
PokerStars estimates that those who reach Supernova VIP status will see their rewards decline as much as 27 percent, while those who earn more than 200,000 VPPs (which will not, obviously, include high stakes players) will suffer a 44 to 60 percent decrease in their rewards.
Additionally, Supernova Elite status, the highest tier on the VIP scale, will be removed on January 1st, 2017. One of the benefits of earning Supernova Elite in a given year is that a player keeps that status, along with the lucrative rewards that come with it, for the entirety of the next calendar year. Fortunately, PokerStars will keep Supernova Elite in 2016, meaning those who earned it this year will not have done it in vain. The benefits cap for Supernova Elite in 2016 will be 45 percent.
Frequent Player Points (FPPs) are out as of 2016, replaced with a new loyalty currency called StarsCoin, each of which is worth a penny. All FPPs will be converted to StarsCoin at a rate of 1.2 StarsCoin per FPP. All current rewards, such as Stellar Rebates and the like, will be converted to StarsCoin on January 1st, 2016, as well. Basically, everything will change to StarsCoin on New Year’s Day; FPPs can still be used as normal until then.
PokerStars is also introducing VIP Steps, which is essentially a way to keep mice pressing a lever to earn a treat. Each VIP level (BronzeStar, GoldStar, etc.) will be divided into smaller “steps.” Players will be able to track their progression to the next step while their play and will be given StarsCoin and VPPs upon completion of each step. It’s basically a way to “gamify” the VIP system.
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