PokerStars Stepping It Up With Revamped VIP Programme, Players Unhappy
Just a couple of weeks ago, we wrote about Full Tilt’s new VIP programme and looked into how it will affect the most loyal players of the site. Now, it’s the turn of the sister poker site PokerStars to bring about some changes to its own VIP programme. The site has revealed the new Steps scheme, where each loyalty level is split up into intermediate levels. This is supposed to appeal to more recreational players and help them advance in loyalty levels faster, but the player reaction has been largely negative.
The much loved PokerStars VIP Programme is getting a makeover and the old-time users of the site aren’t exactly thrilled. PokerStars revealed that they’ve gone and reshuffled how their loyalty scheme works and they’ve started testing those changes this month, thanks to the players who opted in to participate. The scheme will be rolled out across all PokerStars sites globally from the 1st of January, 2016. However, the change is coming about much sooner for all UK players who, starting from the 1st of October, 2015, will no longer have an option which VIP programme they wish to participate in – everyone on PokerStars will become part of the new VIP Steps scheme.
As with the reworking of Full Tilt’s loyalty programme, PokerStars is trying to appeal more to the recreational players, who probably have lower stakes and spend less time on poker. What we see as the biggest change in Steps is that instead of being awarded Frequent Player Points (FPPs) as they go along, players will now have to wait until the end of each month to be rewarded for their loyalty. Just a reminder, FPPs are coveted because they can be exchanged for money, used to enter tournaments or spent on purchasing stuff in the VIP Store.
Although that doesn’t seem like substantial change, let’s get to the nitty gritty detail. According to PokerStars, before VIP steps, trying to reach a higher VIP level took a really long time, longer than players were happy to play for. So, now they will have to get through 20 intermediate steps to reach the next VIP level by collecting VIP Player Points (VPPs) which was the case before too. However, now they will get awarded the FPPs only after they complete each step instead of the FPPs being added in real-time: 20 FPPs after each of them, plus bonus 2 FPPs after every fifth step.
This will supposedly make leveling up more entertaining and interactive, and players will also see a progress bar on the right of the table so that they can track their progress continuously. So instead of having to check their account to track their VIP progress and waiting a really long time to level up, players can just play away and see their progress right away. Just in case you forgot, here are the VIP levels at PokerStars:
- Bronze Star: every player starts at this level
- Chrome Star: 100 VPPs per month
- Silver Star: 500 VPPs per month
- Gold Star: 2,500 VPPs per month
- Platinum Star: 7,500 VPPs per month
- Supernova: 100,000 VPPs per year
- Supernova Elite:1,000,000 VPPs per year
Why The Sad Face
Seemingly, not much has changed, so why has it caused such an uproar? Well, although PokerStars has presented the changes as a way to improve the engagement of its players with the VIP programme, players are saying that it will cause an opposite effect because many will miss out on 50% of the pro-rated value for a given step.
For example, when the end of the month arrives and a player hasn’t reached the following step but is, say, 80% along the way, PokerStars will give them 50% of the pro-rated FPPs. So, a player who’s gotten 80 out of the necessary 100 VPPs to get up to Silver Star level and the full level gives out 150 FPPs, will receive 60 FPPs, as the pro-rated value would be 120 FPPs.
Clearly, that’s making the player miss out on some FPPs, because as the FPPs were continuously counted before VIP Steps was rolled out, the player always earned all the FPPs he was entitled to. In the old way of doing things, the player in the above example would earn the full 120 FPPs for, but now (s)he will miss out on 60 of them. Some say this is unfair, but to many others, this isn’t such a big deal because always seeing the progress bar will allow players to plan and reach full levels before the month runs out.
More Changes To Follow Suit
No matter if you consider the new VIP Steps unfair and forceful in its way to make players spend more to level up before a month ends, or if you think that Steps is a great idea, the world of online and mobile poker is constantly changing. Later this year, PokerStars have promised to reveal even more changes to its VIP programme, namely in terms of the benefits that VIP players receive.
Rumour has it that it won’t be good news for the players, given the fact that many countries have started to regulate the market and taxing the profits of online and mobile gambling companies such as PokerStars. There have to be savings somewhere and unfortunately for players, it most often means their gambling profits.
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