PokerStars has revamped its rewards system and is now giving players up to 65% rakeback in an effort to revitalize the industry. Peter Jackson, CEO of PokerStars’ parent company, Flutter Entertainment, recently told investors that the “substantial” new rewards scheme is already paying dividends.
CFO Jonathan Hill also provided his insights during October’s investor report. He said the scheme had elicited a “very positive” response from players. In his view, giving players more rakeback and extra bonuses will help to “abate” some of the decline in “market share” PokerStars has experienced over the last 18 months.
GGPoker Rewards Put Pressure on PokerStars
That decline is due, in part, to the rise of GGPoker and its Fish Buffet rewards scheme which offers up to 60% cashback every week. The popularity of this rakeback scheme is twofold. The top-end rewards are lucrative. A rakeback rate of 60% rivals anything players could get during the height of the poker boom.
The other reason GGPoker’s rakeback scheme has put pressure on PokerStars is the fact it revived an old system. PokerStars was criticised when it moved away from a traditional points-based loyalty scheme in favour of customised rewards. Indeed, Super Nova used to be the leading loyalty program in online poker, particularly for pros who could reach the top tier (Super Nova Elite).
Star Rewards, which replaced Super Nova, introduced a randomised rewards dynamic. In other words, there were not set rake targets. Instead, rewards were tailored to each player based on their level of activity. GGPoker went in a different direct with Fish Buffet and created a system that took things back to the mid-noughties and systems like Super Nova. Based on GGPoker’s recent rise, it seems players prefer this way of doing things.
PokerStars Hits Back with Simplified System
As such, PokerStars made a move in July and introduced a new system. 20% of its global playerpool was selected at random to test out the new scheme from July to September 2021. That trail was clearly successful as PokerStars rolled out the new scheme in October. The random rewards dynamic has been removed and players get between 15% and 65% in added value every month.
The chest system used for Star Rewards is still in play. However, instead of players receiving chests based on a personalised formula, the framework has been standardised. In practice, this means you earn 100 points for every $1 you pay in cash game or tournament rake.
Points can be used to open chests and, the more points you’ve got, the better rewards are. The final thing to note is that you can boost your earnings by taking part in monthly challenges. This does add a slightly different dimension to the rewards scheme, so it’s not exactly like the old way of doing things. However, the fundamental point here is that you know exactly how much rake you have to pay in order to earn chests and unlock cash rewards.
PokerStars Reward Scheme
|Chest||Cash Value||Reward Value||Optional Monthly Challenge Booster||Total Rewards Value||Reward Points Required to Earn a Chest|
*You earn 100 points for every $1 in rake paid.
GGPoker Fish Buffet vs. PokerStars Rewards
The changes are impressive. Rewards worth up to 65% of the rake you’ve paid is an exceptional return and players seem to agree. The new system scored 78% for customer satisfaction during the trial period and, now, it’s becoming a hit with players around the world.
The question, however, is whether or not it’s better than GGPoker’s Fish Buffet. The two schemes aren’t identical, which makes it hard to compare. But in terms of top-end value, they’re evenly matched. The two rewards schemes are also on par when it comes to rake contributions. Just as it is at PokerStars, GGPoker players earn 100 points for every $1 they pay in rake.
However, where the two differ is VIP tiers and rewards. PokerStars has six tiers and there is cashback available at each one. In contrast, GGPoker has eight main tiers and sub-tiers at all but the top two levels. This means it takes more steps to get to the top of Fish Buffet.
The Issue of Tiers and Sub-Tiers
The intermediary steps you have to take with the Fish Buffet system also means you don’t always get cashback. For example, the fifth tier (Octopus), features four levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Players only get a flat rate of cashback if they’re a Platinum Octopus. At the other levels, they get to spin a prize wheel and win a random reward worth between $60 and $360.
The prize wheel is attractive because the prizes can be worth more than what you’d receive in rakeback. However, they aren’t guaranteed. What’s more, the prize wheel creates an air of uncertainty that’s not always popular with players. It’s fair to say that PokerStars’ monthly challenges also add an air of uncertainty. But, overall, PokerStars Rewards is more structured than GGPoker’s Fish Buffet.
The good news, however, is that everyone has a choice. You can join PokerStars and have a clear idea of what you’re going to get, or you can join GGPoker and enjoy a hybrid system. Alternatively, you can join PokerStars and GGPoker and get the best of both. Whichever way you slice it, PokerStars’ new system is impressive and is a credible alternative to GGPoker’s Fish Buffet.