PokerStars has announced significant changes to its VIP program for 2016 – changes that will eliminate many of the benefits available to high-volume players.
Yesterday morning, Eric Hollreiser – the Head of Corporate Communications for PokerStars – released preliminary details of changes that the site is intending to implement “to improve the playing experience for all PokerStars players and drive increased play and more players to the ecosystem.”
Headlining the changes is the scrapping of the current VIP program on January 1st 2016. A replacement program called “VIP Steps” will be introduced instead. Frequent Player Points (FPPs), Milestone Rewards and Stellar Rebates will also be biting the dust to be replaced with StarsCoin.
Other changes that will be implemented include the limiting of third-party software tools such as HUDs, and the introduction of new games and products. Hollreiser wrote in the corporate blog that the aim of the changes is to put the poker ecosystem on the right tracks to deliver growth for the years to come.
High-Volume Players to Lose the Most
According to the details so far released for the new PokerStars VIP Steps program, few players will notice any difference. Most players currently ranked between Bronze Star and Gold Star should be a little better off each month, while only a few may lose a handful of cents in rewards. Where the changes really make a difference is from Platinum Star upwards.
The new VIP Steps Program will be less rewarding to Platinum Star players by about 10%, and VIP Club rewards for Supernova and Supernova Elite will be capped at 30% (an exception is being made in 2016 for players who have already reached Supernova Elite this year). Potentially even more damaging for high stakes players is that no VPPs will be awarded in the following games:
- 8 Game Mixed Poker with blinds/bets of $10.00/$20.00 or higher
- Any Pot Limit or No Limit game with blinds/bets of $5.00/$10.00 or higher
- Any Fixed Limit games with blinds/bets of $10.00/$15.00 or higher
Hollreiser writes in his blog that the current VIP program rewards players who primarily play for volume rather than rewarding them for their skill at the tables. He says that these changes are being introduced to “move towards a more balanced long-term poker economy and to return the game back to one that rewards skill for winning at the tables”.
More Information Released about StarsCoin
Later in the day, “PokerStars Matthew” published a post on the 2+2 forum that elaborated on the new StarsCoin currency for PokerStars rewards. It would appear that StarsCoin will only be awarded when players achieve VIP Steps by collecting VPPs (as was introduced into the UK in October) and not in real time as currently happens.
The completion of each step will have a specific StarsCoin value, with each StarsCoin being worth $0.01. StarsCoin can be used to exchange for cash in the PokerStars store or to enter Sit & Go, Spin & Go or MTT games. There will also be weekly and monthly StarsCoin freeroll tournaments, with prize pools ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 (Gold Star +).
For players on Bronze Star level, StarsCoin will be awarded for each five VPPs that are earned. Typically, seven StarsCoin will be awarded for each five VPPs, but there are bonus StarCoins given away each fifth step:
|Step||VPPs Required||StarCoin||Step||VPPs Required||StarCoin|
Players on Chrome Star and Silver Star levels will receive their StarCoin for each 20 VPPs and 100 VPPs they earn respectively (each level has 25 steps), and players on Gold Star level have 30 steps to negotiate, each of 250 VPPs. Platinum star players receive their StarCoin for each 500 VPPs they collect during the first 20 steps, and then for each 1,000 VPPs they collect during the remaining 85 steps.
Mixed Player Reaction to Changes
Naturally the poker forums came alight with the news of the changes. Players either considered the changes a bold move or a bad move, with those who were destined to lose the most money most vocal in expressing the pain. Justin Bonomo was one of the first players to express his opinion, going on Twitter to express his opinion:
Nov 1st, 2015 – The day PokerStars formally announced they no longer care about their customers. https://t.co/zCHTtJR7G9 There will be riots
— Justin Bonomo (@JustinBonomo) November 1, 2015
Plenty of players reached out to PokerStars most respected member of Team Online Daniel Negreanu for his opinion of the changes. Among the many responses that Kid Poker sent out during the early hours of this morning, this one summed up his mood perfectly:
@Roger_Marquez I think it’s great and long overdue. Vast majority of players will benefit from it. I would have done it years ago
— Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker) November 1, 2015
Whatever the outcome of the changes to the VIP program, PokerStars deserves credit for trying to do something significant about the poker ecosystem. The change to the VIP program will probably mean very little to the 90%+ of players who just log onto their PokerStars accounts for a few hours of fun on a Sunday afternoon; but, by receiving a little extra in rewards and by not losing their money so quickly, it will make their online poker experience far more enjoyable.