[toc]Last week, PokerStars unveiled its new rewards program in Denmark. The plan is to launch Stars Rewards in other markets throughout the summer.
Bits of information about the new program have been leaking out for months, but with the launch in Denmark the specifics of Stars Rewards have finally been revealed.
Presumably, some form of the program will make its way to the New Jersey online gambling market. But what does it look like for now?
PokerStars’ new program represents a dynamic shift in how it rewards its customers.
Players will still earn StarsCoin, which can be redeemed for items in PokerStars’ store, but gone are the tiered levels the program used to offer. Under the new program, players will see a Progress Bar, as they try to accumulate Rewards Points and progress toward unlocking a personalized rewards chest with a prize of random value.
The more they play, the more they earn, but the playing field has been leveled in multiple ways:
- The tiered rewards program with progressive rewards has been scrapped. Rewards are now personalized to the player. The personalization extends to the prizes and the level of rewards.
- In addition to personalization, two distinct random elements have been introduced to the rewards program.
- The program rewards volume and amount wagered, but it also takes into account activity, games played, and net deposits to determine the value of the reward players are pursuing, as well as the number of Rewards Points they’ll need to accumulate to attain them.
Earning Rewards Points
Rewards Points are earned in the following ways:
- Poker: Players earn 100 points for every $1 in rake or tournament fees paid.*
- Casino: Points are earned at the point of wagering. Click here for a breakdown of earn rates by game type, as well as how to earn redemption points playing casino games (to clear bonuses).
- Sports: Points are earned when a bet is placed. For multiple/accumulator bets, players earn 5.5 points for every $1 wagered. For singles bets, players earn two points for every $1 wagered, but will earn increasingly more points as the wagering odds increase (more details here).
*Poker players do not earn reward points at pot-limit and no-limit tables with blinds of $5/$10 or higher, 8-game tables with stakes of $20-$40 or higher, or other limit games with stakes of $20-$40 or higher.
Personalized and randomized
Stars Rewards possesses two aspects of personalization to go along with two randomization components.
The Progress Bar
This feature is the first layer of personalization in the program. The bar starts fresh when players sign up or after they’ve been awarded a chest. Here’s how it works:
- PokerStars selects one of six chests (more on chest prizes in a moment) based on the player’s gaming profile.
- The player sees how many Rewards Points are needed to unlock the chest.
- The chase begins.
A big question is how PokerStars determines what chest for which a particular player will be aiming. Here’s the company’s description:
“Reward point requirements … are also personalized based on your profile… [to] make sure the points targets for your progress bars remain achievable so you won’t miss out on regular rewards.”
For example, a new player will be tasked with earning enough Rewards Points to unlock a low-level chest, with a base value $0.06 up to $100. On the other hand, a high-volume player will likely be working toward unlocking a chest with a much higher base value of $10.70 to $1,000.
The goal of the Stars Rewards program appears to be consistent achievement. PokerStars wants all players to earn chests during each and every session.
Here’s an important note: Progress bars reset after three months of inactivity, and StarsCoin balances are forfeited after six months of inactivity.
What’s in a chest?
The second layer of the personalization process is the type of rewards players find in their chests.
Per PokerStars, “Rewards can range from StarsCoin that you can spend in the Rewards Store, to a variety of tickets and gifts tailored to you and the games you like to play.”
There are six different chest types:
The chests are progressively more valuable, as seen in the chart below.
|1 in 10,000
|400 in 10,000
|700 in 10,000
|1,000 in 10,000
|1,200 in 10,000
|1,400 in 10,000
|2,000 in 10,000
|3,299 in 10,000
Important: Chests expire three months after they’re acquired if they’re not opened.
Additionally, all chests, regardless of value, have a second layer of randomness, as any chest could contain a Top Prize, which is more or less a jackpot reward.
According to PokerStars:
“In addition to your regular Chest rewards, we’ll also be giving away some amazing additional top prizes on a regular basis, divided among a number of random Chests… These top prizes can range from thousands in cash or bonuses and huge amounts of StarsCoin, to live event packages or tickets to online events with big money to be won.”
Some points of concern
There are two parts of the program of which I’m not overly fond.
Best if used by…
The first is the expiration of StarsCoin and chests.
If PokerStars’ goal is to bring back the casual player, StarsCoin should never expire.
I know plenty of casual poker players who might take six months or more off and then play consistently for several weeks. Losing their StarsCoin balances due to inactivity is not the way to appeal to these players. Punishment is never the answer, and it will likely keep these players away from the tables, rather than bring them back sooner.
Placing an expiration date on chests is even more egregious in my opinion. A much better way to handle unopened chests would be to automatically open them for the player after the three-month period, or simply give the unopened chest the lowest value prize available and add it to the player’s account.
Again, punishment is not the answer.
Keep it simple
I’m not a fan of bifurcated rewards.
Whether it’s the old VPPs and FPPs or the new Rewards Points and StarsCoin, I’d much rather see a single type of reward currency.