Both major poker rooms recently introduced their new loyalty reward programs. A more chance-based reward system, catering more to recreational players or a classic rakeback model which is more in line with the needs of high-volume regulars: which one is better? So long regs! - the new PokerStars Stars Rewards
PokerStars' new VIP scheme is called Stars Rewards. The system, as it used to be, is based on the amount of rake/fee the players pay, but the exact value of the rewards one gets is randomly determined in each case. On top of that, on the long run a player is expected to get a lot less percentage of their rake back than in the old system.
Meanwhile it's now easier for frequent depositors - in most cases, these are losing regulars - to get a reward and for the winning high-volume players who don't deposit as much have a harder time doing just that.
How does it work?
You don't receive your Stars Rewards automatically, you have to opt-in for them. After you've done that you'll find a "progress bar" on the top of your screen - you can track your results there. This one is very similar to the old progress bar where your points you got for your StarsCoins were tallied. Every $1 raked gets you 100 Reward Points. Reward Points are not exclusive to Stars' poker client, you can also earn them by playing casino games on the site or betting on sports on BetStars, the bookmaker client of the poker room - they are calculated differently on those platforms, however.
If we earn enough points by raking the sufficient amount we get a Chest. You don't get to know what that chest contains beforehand.
You can get a "boost" which allows you to collect Reward Points at a double rate. For example, you earn 45 reward points, meaning you raked $0.45, if you have a Boost you'll actually get credited 90 points instead. After you use up a Boost you'll have to wait 8 hours before you can get a new one.
The Chests come in different colors, the color of the Chest you get depends on your Point requirements. Your requirements, in return, are determined by the stakes and volume you play. also on how often you deposit. The best scenario under this system if we play a lot on high stakes and lose, thus depositing often.
The Red Chest is the smallest one, only needing 150 points to obtain them - but also gives the smallest rewards. Then, from the next lowest to the highest value it goes: blue, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. What's actually in a chest is determined by a Random Number Generator. It typically contains some StarCoins, or Reward Point, but it can also have things like tournament tickets, cash or live tournament packages.
So, essentially, rewarding players in this system happens very much like the way it does with Stars' "Spin & Go's": with a hefty amount of luck we can score big, but for the most part, we will get smaller rewards.
How much rakeback exactly all this equates to is very hard to tell - it depends a lot on mere luck. What is certain though is that the rakeback players used to get under the previous VIP program will be cut drastically. Eric Hollreiser, communications director at Stars did not sugarcoat it: he admitted point-blank that rakeback for high-volume regs can decrease by as much as 85%... One winning reg on PS claims he can only get around 4% cash back these days.
You're welcome here, regs! - the new partypoker Cashback program
Partypoker announced in March that they are revamping their VIP rewards program - it was launched in May and boy did it make a splash! At a time when Stars started doing everything they can to cut down on their players' rakeback, partypoker decided to go on the exact opposite direction and double down on rakeback. Their whole new system is called Cashback and you can earn as much as 40% rakeback through it, or 50% even if you get in the Diamond Club - more on that later.
For every $1 you rake in a cash game or pay in a tournament fee you get 1 playerpoint on party. If you reach 25 points in a week you get 20% cash back credited to your account. This rate jumps up to 25% if you reach 150 points, and can go as high as 40% if you reach 1200 points.
You can take a look at the full breakdown of the levels here.
If you rake over 2000 points, you get an additional 40% rakeback after every 200 points you earn.
Just like for the Stars Rewards, you have to opt-in for this promotion too. You'll find a small opt-in button on the top of the screen in the partypoker lobby - click on that and all the points you raked that week before you opted in will be credited as well.
The Diamond Club
This program is essentially a new VIP level which is very much akin to the former Supernova level on PokerStars. You need to rake 100,000 points - that is $100,000 - within 12 months to qualify for the Diamond Club.
Members of the Diamond Club get 50% rakeback and other special perks like 24/7 VIP Skype support.
Once you reach the 100,000 player points you can get in - if you manage to do that in 3 months, you don't have to wait till the whole 12-month period passes. Until you reach the threshold you get your cashback rewards according to the loyalty program levels.
If you wish to join the Diamond Club you have to contact partypoker at DiamondClub@partypoker.com.
We can see a stunning difference between how the two major poker rooms organize their loyalty rewards programs. We dare to say that while PokerStars is straying further and further away from what they used to be, partypoker is going in right that direction. A great testament to that is the partypoker Diamond Club which, as we mentioned earlier, is very similar to what Supernova used to be on Stars. But there are other examples: the 3-handed "Spin & Go"-type game, SNG Hero; and, industry rumors say, party is planning to introduce a new client which is both visually and functionally similar to the old PS's, on purpose.
Whether PokerStars or partypoker will come out on top in the online poker market, time will tell. For what it's worth, however, partypoker openly admits they're going for the number 1 spot in the market - that is a tall order as PokerStars has been occupying the top spot for such a long time, at this point it's hard to imagine anyone else there on the top.