The 5 Spins Challenge, launched on August 29, rewards players that complete five Spin & Go’s at a chosen buy-in level with a random cash prize, ranging in value from a $1 Spin & Go ticket to $1,000 cash.
Unlike previous events targeted at Spin & Go players, such as the ongoing $100,000 Spin & Go Special Edition, 5 Spins Challenge works entirely in favor of the site’s online poker players, effectively acting as a form of modest rakeback.
But whether it will prove popular enough to stabilize the site’s shrinking revenue totals remains a big question mark.
Running down the 5 Spins Challenge
Players familiar with PokerStars’ recent promotions won’t be surprised by the particulars of 5 Spins Challenge.
Each day, players can opt in to the promotion by navigating to their Challenges tab, and selecting one of five tasks, each one equating to a different Spin & Go buy-in level.
Then, upon participating in five Spin & Go’s in the same calendar day — players do not have to win — they will receive a random award in accordance with a prize matrix tied to their buy-in level. At higher buy-in levels, the size of the top winnable prize is larger, running all the way up to $1,000 cash for players who throw down $25 a pop.
All participants are guaranteed at least $1 for completing a challenge. Prizes are awarded in the form of Spin & Go tickets to players who complete the $1 or $2 buy-in challenge, and as cash for those for play at the $5, $10 and $25 buy-in levels.
As of now, there is no apparent end date for the promotion, leaving hope that 5 Spins Challenge may become a permanent fixture of the site.
Promotional value is middling
The prize matrices for 5 Spin Challenge bear a strong resemblance to the Spin & Go multiplier tables, in that prevalence rates are heavily weighed toward the lower prizes.
For instance, at the $25 buy-in level, players have a combined 70 percent chance of winning $1 or $2.50 for completing the challenge, but only a 0.04 percent chance of padding their bankroll with $1,000 cash.
Average daily promotional value across buy-in levels as follows:
- $1 buy-in: $1.63
- $2 buy-in: $2.23
- $5 buy-in: $2.71
- $10 buy-in: $3.57
- $25 buy-in: $4.37
In terms of percentage cashback on investment:
- $1 buy-in: 32.5 percent
- $2 buy-in: 22.3 percent
- $5 buy-in: 10.8 percent
- $10 buy-in: 7.1 percent
- $25 buy-in: 3.5 percent
Notice that lower buy-in players receive a significantly higher average return. This appears to be in accordance with PokerStars’ reinvented business strategy, focused primarily on attracting net depositing players to its online poker games.
As favorable as the cashback rates are on paper — they exceed the 7 percent rake PokerStars NJ charges for its Spin & Go games in all but one instance — the average player will receive a somewhat lower return, for the following:
- The return diminishes for players who participate in more than five Spin & Go’s per day at a specific buy-in level, or scatter their play across multiple buy-ins.
- Return rates are heavily inflated by the top prizes, which the overwhelming majority of players will not win.
Despite this, 5 Spins Challenge is still a solid offer, especially for lower buy-in, net depositing players, who tend to get eaten alive by the high rake. Most higher stakes grinders, however, will barely notice the difference.
Is a focus on Spin & Go’s the right play for PokerStars NJ?
Despite a tournament schedule that is merely on par with its competitors, and despite falling to second place in cash game traffic behind WSOP / 888 Poker NJ, PokerStars has been able to maintain its market share lead in New Jersey.
The likely explanation: Its lottery sit & go variant continues to be a boon for the operator. Given this, a continued emphasis on Spin & Go’s makes sense.
On the flip side, there is reason to believe that PokerStars needs to change gears. For one, the site’s gross gaming revenues have dipped precipitously of late. As of July, it only holds a rather slim lead over WSOP/888 — a network that has tailored the crux of its promotions to cash-game players.
Furthermore, at least one of the site’s Spin & Go promotions — $100,000 Spin & Go Special Edition — is proving to be more of a stain on PokerStars than a positive for the operator. Not only does the promotion diminish the value of playing $10 Spin & Go’s for the average player, but it has been running so long (five months and counting), that players may begin to cry foul.
And lastly, it probably won’t be too long before PokerStars loses its monopoly on the format. Both 888 and Party Poker have recently introduced lottery sit & go variants on their international sites. If they carry over to the NJ online casino market, then PokerStars will be in a tough spot, especially so if it neglects its non-lottery sit & go players.
Should PokerStars insist on the unbalanced route, and continue to devote the majority of its marketing spend to Spin & Go’s, then it’s advised to run promos that will increase the monetary liquidity of the average net depositing player. The 5 Spins Challenge does accomplish this.
However, given the current market climate, I might suggest that the operator go a step further, by introducing hybrid promotions that encourage play across all of the site’s formats. That way Spin & Go’s can act as a primer for other games, driving liquidity to the formats that rely on traffic to thrive.