Even before the new VIP Steps Program has gone into beta testing, players have expressed concerns about changes to the way in which FPPs will be released.
Yesterday, details were released of changes to the way in which PokerStars will release Frequent Player Points (FPPs) to UK players from the beginning of October. The changes are being introduced to
improve player engagement with VIP Rewards and incentivise players to complete their Step at the end of the month.
FPPs can be exchanged for cash, tournament entry tickets or a variety of goods in PokerStars VIP store; and many players include the benefits of FPPs to determine whether their poker-playing experience is profitable or not. The proposed VIP changes at PokerStars could have a significant negative effect on players´ profitability from next year – not only in the UK, but throughout the global PokerStars network.
The Changes in a Nutshell
From October 2015 in the UK, and from January 2016 in the rest of the world, FPPs will only be released when players finish a step within a status level rather than the current practise of adding them to a player´s account in real time. Each VIP level has a predetermined number of steps to complete:
The Bronze VIP status has 20 steps of 5VPPs each and, when achieving each one, 5FPPs will be released into the player´s account, plus one bonus FPP for each fifth stage completed. Chrome and Silver VIP levels have 20 steps each (20 VPPs and 100 VPPs respectively), while the Gold VIP level has 30 steps of 250 VPPs.
If a player fails to complete a step within a VIP level by the end of the month, FPPs for incomplete steps will be released at 50 percent of the “prorated value” of the progress earned. What this means according to information provided by PokerStars is:
If a Silver Star player has earned 80 of the 100 VPPs [VIP Player Points] required to complete their current Step, which offers a reward of 150 FPPs, the prorated value of their VPPs is 80/100 x 150 = 120 FPPs. They will earn 50% of the prorated value, or 120 x 0.5 = 60 FPPs.
The net loss of 60 FPPs may only have the cash exchange value of $0.60, but is the equivalent of a player paying £5.00 in rake per month for no reward. Over the course of a year, a player with Silver Star status could pay more than £60 in rake without being rewarded, and if you multiple that figure by the thousands of players in the UK, the VIP changes at PokerStars are likely to save the company a considerable amount of money.
It Gets Worse for High Volume Players
It the site´s guide to the VIP changes (link only accessible to players in the UK and Brian Hastings), PokerStars focuses on how the changes will affect low volume players. Our own calculations for players at Gold Star level show exactly how a player´s profitability could be significantly affected by the new VIP Steps Program.
Once a player achieves Gold Star status he or she starts on the Platinum Star steps of 500 VPPs (first twenty steps) and then 1,000 VPPs (for the next ninety steps). At this level, FPPs are awarded at the rate of 2.5 per VPP. So, if a player was to achieve just 80% of a 1,000 VPP step, rather than receiving the [800 x 2.5] 2,000 FPPs they would have under the previous scheme, they will be awarded just 1,000 FPPs.
Rather than losing $0.60 in cash exchange value as a Silver Star player would, the Gold Star player loses $10.00 in cash exchange value each month. Rather than paying £5.00 in rake for no reward, the Gold Star player will have paid [400 VPPs / 7.9 VPPS per £] £50.00 in rake for no reward each month. Multiple that up by a few thousand Gold Star players around the world, and PokerStars will be saving millions of pounds each year!
Player Reaction to the Changes is Not Good
Players in the UK have been invited to participate in the beta-testing of the new VIP Steps program which starts on Tuesday 1st September. The beta-testing will include changes to the existing software so that VIP Steps progress bars appear at each of the tables. Players who opt into the beta-testing phase of the PokerStars VIP Steps program will be rewarded with a seat in a $10,000 freeroll that takes place on Saturday September 12th.
However, even before beta-testing has got underway, players have expressed their concerns about the changes. The usually pro-PokerStars 2+2 forum has not one but two threads running (here and here) in which players are accusing PokerStars of a “money grab” and suggesting that the changes will have the impact of driving players to other sites once they have completed a Step in one month, but do not have the time to complete the next Step.
The PokerStars rep has said that any loss of FPPs by UK players between September and December will be manually adjusted at the end of each month, but not after the VIP Steps program gets rolled out globally in January 2016.
PLEASE NOTE. This article has been revised to account for errors in the original calculations. We apologise to any player who may have been misled by our errors.