Monday November 2,2015 : FAR REACHING CHANGES ANNOUNCED AT POKERSTARS
PokerStars announces changes that will affect pros, high rollers but benefit recreational players.
Eric Hollreiser, communications chief at PokerStars and Amaya Inc., issued a statement via the company blog on Sunday regarding important changes designed to enhance the recreational playing experience and re-emphasise the fun and social aspects of online poker while attracting and retaining more players.
The changes include a new VIP club program and the release of innovative new games, and Hollreiser says the company is investing in research and development in order to ensure future growth through more new players and bigger spend from existing customers, commencing in the first half of 2016.
New policies will reinforce the fundamental elements of human competition by limiting certain software programs that may provide an unfair advantage to some players, Hollreiser observed.
"For more than 95 percent of our players, the most obvious change will be the introduction of the VIP Steps program and changing our variable FPP currency into a constant value which will be called StarsCoin," Hollreiser revealed.
"This will simplify the reward system and enhance its visibility during play, so that players can follow their progress in real time. VIP status players from BronzeStar to GoldStar will continue to be able to receive up to a similar level of rewards to what they receive now. In some cases, players will receive less; in some cases, players will receive more, but it's very much in the same ballpark.
"PokerStars will also revamp the loyalty program to effectively incentivize and reward more players and to encourage competitive play over high volume play. The changes will result in improved rewards for the vast majority of players,” he continued.
"Approximately two percent of players – including our highest volume and high stakes players – will have significantly reduced rewards. The reason we are focused on the highest status levels is because these rewards have become so enticing that we have inadvertently altered why some people play and how they play.
“We are introducing these changes to move towards a more balanced long-term poker economy and to return the game back to one that rewards skill via winning at the tables rather than playing primarily for volume."
Hollreiser summarises the changes as follows:
Introduction of VIP Steps
• Simplified rewards mechanism replaces FPPs, Stellar Rebates, and Milestone Rewards with StarsCoin.
• StarsCoin value will be one cent each for all statuses.
Reducing Rewards for High-Volume and High-Stakes Players
• VIP Club rewards will be capped at 30 percent, impacting mainly high-volume Supernova and SupernovaElite status players.
• PlatinumStar status will have up to a 10 percent reduction in their overall rewards.
• In recognition of the players who have already-earned SupernovaElite status or will by the end of the year, the benefits cap for players who earn Supernova Elite in 2015 will be 45 percent in 2016.
• No VPPs for pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5-$10+, 8-game $10-$20+, and other limit games with blinds of $10-$15+. This change is implemented due to high transaction costs and operation costs of monitoring these games.
The communications chief revealed that PokerStars will soon have a dedicated web site with full details.
Third-party software restrictions will be aimed at protecting a fundamental principle of poker – that it is about human competition, Hollreiser observed, noting:
"The game should be about combining logic and an ability to steel your nerves to make that big call or bluff; it shouldn't be about clicking a button because harvested stats tell you to. For this reason, we are on a path to eliminate many of these technological advantages that are used by a minority of players.
"People have differing views on where the line around third-party software in poker should be drawn; it's certainly something that we constantly debate and review. Technology can aid, but it shouldn't take over.
"Today, we want to make clear that the line will be drawn to preserve poker as a battle of wits and a test of heart. This will only have a direct effect on a small proportion of players and builds upon our responsibility to provide a level playing field for all players.
"The new restrictions on third-party software will extend recent changes to our third-party software policy. Last month, we reduced data mining in Zoom!, restricted the use of heads-up displays, and limited the use of Spin & Go seating scripts.
"Our intention is to expand these restrictions through major changes within our own software that we will communicate in more detail through 2016," he pledged.
Hollreiser's communication also deals with product innovation and marketing investments, where he revealed that the company is investing in acquiring new players and revitalising existing or lapsed members.
The company already uses high-profile sportsmen like Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. in its promotions, and Hollreiser revealed that they will part of "the biggest global consumer marketing campaign in PokerStars history" in the near future.
"Our investment includes the most significant research and development initiatives in years, some of which will come to market in early 2016,” Hollreiser notes.
“These will include a standalone PokerStars branded app that the company believes will bring a brand new twist to poker. This will be followed later in 2016 by an even more bold take on poker that we believe will be very exciting."