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Nov 19, 2015

PokerStars overhauls VIP Program to improve Ecology - This Pro Hates It

By RTR Dennis

PokerStars will soon make massive changes to its loyalty program in hopes of balancing out rewards between low-stakes and high-volume players. Beginning January 1, 2016, rakeback will eventually be capped at 30% for most PokerStars players, Supernova Elite (highest VIP level) will be eliminated, and Frequent Player Points (FPPs) will be replaced with StarsCoin (worth 25% less).

The 30% rakeback cap is huge because some high-volume players earn upwards of 70% rakeback by reaching Supernova and Supernova Elite status.

Another notable change is that $5/$10 No-Limit and Pot-Limit tables, as well as $10/$20 Fixed-Limit tables, will no longer offer any rewards. PokerStars' reasoning is that the "high transaction costs and operation costs of monitoring these games" diminishes any incentive to offer rewards to high-stakes players.

"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," wrote PokerStars spokesperson Eric Hollreiser.

Not long ago, PokerStars announced that they would be banning certain third-party tracking software to prevent skilled players from taking advantage of recreational players. And the upcoming changes to the loyalty program also reflect Stars' commitment to recreational players. It certainly seems like these are good long-term moves for the world's largest online poker site, given that amateurs will be encouraged to play more. But professionals are obviously not happy with the changes, which you can read about below.

Dani 'Ansky' Stern hates what PokerStars is doing to VIP Program

One pro who doesn't appreciate Stars' new philosophy is Dani 'Ansky' Stern. Appearing on Joey Ingram's popular podcast, Stern takes issue with how PokerStars uses Supernova Elite players to "pump up" their brand, only to take this advertised dream away. He's also miffed with how PokerStars has essentially reneged on their promise to Supernova Elite players.

"The VIP system is a two-year program," says Stern. "One of the rewards for achieving Supernova Elite per given year is that you maintain the status for the next year. And this is advertised and written on their site — it's still written on their site right now! And it's not true anymore, they're saying they're not going to honor it. So they know that players on Stars that made a decision to go for Supernova Elite in 2015 under the assumption that they will be able to maintain Supernova Elite status into 2016, which is part of the value of being Supernova Elite."

Another problem that Stern has with this deal is that he doesn't believe PokerStars gave players proper warning before making these changes. In fact, news of the VIP alterations would not have been public knowledge yet if they hadn't been leaked through a Russian website.

Still waiting on a Response from Daniel Negreanu

Whenever PokerStars makes a big move, many immediately look towards Daniel Negreanu. After all, 'Kid Poker' is not only the most-prominent spokesman at Stars, but also an overall ambassador for the game. Negreanu has asked fans to be patient while he crafts a longer response to the VIP program changes. Here's a look at his latest tweet on the matter:

"Lots of big decisions to digest and I approach each with my integrity at the forefront of where I choose from."

Odds are that Negreanu will be in support of the changes, given that he works for PokerStars and also believes in doing whatever is necessary to help the game grow. But as Stern's rant shows, no matter what Negreanu says, high-volume pros aren't happy