The new scheme represents a full departure from volume-based rewards, which had been the cornerstone of Stars’ VIP program for over a decade. In its stead: a system that relies on randomization and personalization as its basis.
Alongside the launch, PokerStars revealed details surrounding the new system, entitled Stars Rewards, along with a brief video trailer. We had a chance to analyze the new system, and while the details provided did answer some questions, they raised even more.
The personalized touch from PokerStars
PokerStars hasn’t revealed much in the way of hard numbers, and that appears to be by design.
Under the new scheme, rewards are personalized based on a player’s specific gaming preferences.
Here’s what else we know so far:
- Players will now earn rewards points. These will be earned at a rate of 100 points per $1 paid in cash game rake or tournament fees, between 2 and 5.5 points per $1 wagered on sports (depending on the type of bet), and at a varying rate on casino, with lower house edge games awarding fewer points.
- As players accumulate rewards points, they will fill up a progress bar. Once filled they will unlock a Chest, which will be stocked with personalized rewards, the value of which is dependent upon the type of Chest earned and a random draw.
- There are six Chest levels: Red, Blue, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. To earn upgraded Chests players must earn four chests a day (EST). The higher level the Chest, the more reward points it’ll take to unlock, but the better the prize.
- Once every eight hours players will receive Boosts. These effectively double the rate at which players earn reward points, capped at a certain number.
What we don’t know about Stars Rewards
This leaves several major questions unanswered. The most obvious being: “How many reward points does it take to earn a Chest?” Unfortunately, there is no catch-all answer to that question.
As per PokerStars:
“Reward point requirements depend on the Chest type you are playing toward, but are also personalized based on your profile. Some of the factors which impact points requirements are recent activity, game-type and net deposits.”
Thus, it appears that playing consistency is only one factor in determining the ease in which players unlock Chests. The other variables give the impression that the path will be easier for net depositing players who indulge in pure gambling games.
Random be thy name
Although PokerStars did not provide any measurable data regarding how difficult it would be to unlock a Chest, it did provide a detailed breakdown of what each Chest variant is worth in US dollars.
First off, we know that Chests rewards are not static. Instead, the monetary value is determined by a randomized paytable. These tables are similar to those utilized by PokerStars’ Spin & Go format and many of its recent promotions, the main difference being that there’s a tremendous jump in value from the second highest rung to the jackpot prize.
To wit, there’s only one instance where the second best prize is worth more than 3.5 percent as the jackpot prize.
The average value for each Chest type is as follows:
- Red: $0.13
- Blue: $0.40
- Bronze: $1.05
- Silver: $2.71
- Gold: $7.01
- Platinum: $21.52
In addition, Stars has added yet another layer of randomness to the equation, by way of what it calls “Top Prizes.” These rare surprises can be found in any Chest, and 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.”
Also noteworthy, is that bigger Chests grant players a better chance of winning a top prize. What the actual odds are of winning said prizes are remain a mystery.
What’s inside the Chests?
The only universal component of each Chest is StarsCoins. They are worth $0.01 each and can be redeemed for Rewards Store items, cash, bonuses or select events and qualifiers — much in the same way the virtual currency is used presently.
The other Chest rewards are dependent on player preferences. Earn a Chest playing casino and possibly receive a free-play ticket for use at the slots. Online poker players may earn a Spin & Go ticket or even a live tournament package. And so on.
There’s no real indication that players who participate in multiple gambling verticals will receive preferential treatment over those who stick with poker, casino or sports only. However it does appear — and this comes as a surprise — that poker players will have to fork over less to the house, on average, than casino players to earn a point.
As mentioned, poker players will receive 100 points per $1 paid in rake. By contrast, someone who plays Atlantic City Blackjack with a house edge of 0.45 percent will earn just 1 point per $6.45 wagered.
This means that in order to earn 100 points, the blackjack player will have to wager $645. That equates to a theoretical loss of $2.90 — nearly triple what the poker grinder has to pay to earn the same 100 reward points.
How does Stars Rewards stack up?
There’s not enough information available to accurately predict how the changeover to Stars Rewards will impact different player archetypes.
What we can say with certainty is that the switch is going to impact high-volume players negatively, with Stars indicating that certain players could see their rewards slashed by as much as 85 percent. For the SuperNova player currently earning 30 percent rakeback, that means they’ll receive as little as 4.5 percent going forward.
As for recreational poker players, it’s difficult to see how they’ll be positively impacted either. Why? The lower Chest rewards are so paltry, that unless the progress bar requirements are incredibly lenient, this player group would be generating more rakeback as a lowly ChromeStar under the current system.
Which leaves net depositing casino and sportsbook players, who may reap greater benefits. However, that’s only because the current cashback rates are meager. On PokerStars NJ, the current earn rates on a few select games are:
- Atlantic City Blackjack: $0.01 per $71 wagered (0.014 percent cashback)
- Double Double Bonus: $0.01 per $31 (0.032 percent cashback)
- Starburst slot: $0.01 per $8 (0.125 percent cashback)
Again, we can’t know for sure how lucrative the program is, as everyone’s progress bar will fill up at a different rate. But Stars Rewards sure feels like a convoluted cost-cutting measure.