At the end of March 2019, PokerStars significantly changed the Stars Rewards program. Prior to this change, we wrote an article explaining the original Stars Rewards program. At that time, we naively believed that PokerStars were making a legitimate effort to improve the online poker economy by increasing rewards for losing players at the expense of winning players. The idea being that winners are already winning, so rewarding them is unecessary (their rewards are their winnings). In order for winners to keep winning, they need "net depositors", and yet most online poker sites reward the winners and ignore the players who are the lifeblood of the game!
With the changes introduced in (and before) March 2019, PokerStars showed their true intent, which is to simply add as much profit to their bottom line at the expense of the players who have supported the company for years. Under the guise of "simplifying the program", PokerStars further reduced rewards by as much as 50%...something they had already done to tournament players for no valid reason. Under The Stars Group (previously called Amaya Gaming), PokerStars has continually gotten worse, which is why we recommend that you do not download PokerStars.
With Stars Rewards, you earn 100 reward points for every $1 paid in rake (1 point per 1¢). As of 15 Feb 2019, you inexplicably earn just 45 points for every $1 paid in tournament fees. And if you play pot limit or no limit at stakes of $5/$10 or higher, or limit games at stakes $20/$40 or higher, then you will not earn ANY reward points from those games!
Once you earn enough reward points you receive a Stars Rewards chest, which gives a random prize. The reward point requirements to receive a PokerStars chest varies based on your player profile (and the variation can be HUGE). Although other factors contribute to your profile, the biggest is whether you are a break-even player, net depositor, or net withdrawer.
PokerStars chest rewards are not always cash. Instead, your rewards may be any combination of:
Although PokerStars claim to use your player profile to customize your rewards to your preferences, plenty of PokerStars cash game players have complained about receiving tournament tickets. StarsCoins can be exchanged in the PokerStars Rewards Store for cash, tournament tickets, or various PokerStars apparel and paraphernalia. The exchange rate is 1¢ per StarsCoin, although you can get more value from your StarsCoins with The Deal. Learn more about how to get the most from your Stars Coins in the maximizing your PokerStars rakeback section of our PokerStars review.
To move up to the next chest level, you must earn 10 chests of the same type over a 28-day rolling window. However, the increase in average rakeback between PokerStars chests is minimal. To remain at the current level, you need to open just 1 chest during the 28-day window.
Although the Blue chests always give the same reward (60¢), the rest of the PokerStars reward chests vary in value, with the top reward equal to 20 times the lowest reward (e.g. $1.50 to $30 for Silver chests). This randomized reward, combined with the animations for opening PokerStars chests are obviously designed to attract gamblers and be as addictive as possible.
In addition to the regular rewards, each chest also has a 10% chance to award a ticket to one of the weekly PokerStars freerolls:
Although the $5,000 Weekly Stars Rewards Freeroll tournament has just half the prize pool, the value of this tournament is significantly less than half of the $10,000 freeroll because it gets so many entries.
Because we use the average weighted value of each chest to calculate your expected PokerStars rakeback rewards, your actual Poker Stars rakeback will be signficantly higher or lower due to the variation in rewards chest values. In the long run, your actual PokerStars rakeback will be very close to the amounts we have calculated.
Each time you open a Stars Rewards chest, you often earn bonus points towards your next chest. Due to a lack of information, we have had to estimate their average weigthed value. However, bonus points are an insignificant contributor to the PokerStars rakeback calculation.
It is difficult to provide each player with an accurate rakeback calculation because your PokerStars rakeback is entirely dependent on your player profile. Players frequently see the cost of their PokerStars chests increase tremendously (sometimes permanently, and other times just for a chest or two).
One of the biggest mistakes players make when calculating their own rakeback is averaging the rakeback from each chest. For example, let's assume you have earned 8 chests during a 28-day window:
- 7 Gold chests for 13,000 points (8.0% rakeback each)
- 1 Gold chest for 48,500 points (2.1% rakeback)
Let's assume you earned exactly the average reward from each chest ($10.23). You might think your average rakeback was a measly 7.3% (the average of 7 x 8.0% + 1 x 2.1%). However, it's actually just 5.9% (8 x $10.23 x 100¢/$1 / [7 x 13,000 + 48,500]). The reason you cannot average the rakeback of each chest is that it took far longer to earn the higher cost chest.
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Although we have attempted to summarize the PokerStars chests rakeback in a table, there are often chest costs between those shown in the table, and the cost for each chest will often fluctuate for each player. That is, if you are a net depositor, your actual PokerStars rakeback rewards will likely be somewhere between the "Best" and "Typical" cases. Likewise, net withdrawers will likely receive rakeback rewards between the "Typical" and "Worst" values. Only the most extreme net depositors and net withdrawers will receive the average rakeback rewards shown in the table for the "Best" and "Worst" combinations.
You may have seen similar analyses on other poker websites and noticed that our equivalent rakeback numbers are slightly higher. This is because our analysis is far more comprehensive and includes many of the factors that most others leave out (freeroll tickets and bonus reward points).
Pretty much every online poker site offers better rakeback rewards than PokerStars! Although most sites get prickly about the use of the word "rakeback", any reward can be boiled down to a simple percentage. Virtually every online poker rewards program gives a cash reward for a specific amount of rake/fees. Divide the reward by the cost and you will quickly realize their loyalty rewards is just rakeback with extra steps!
The overall best online poker site for rakeback rewards is Americas Cardroom, who offer 27% rakeback with no conditions attached. Not only do they offer high rakeback with no condtions, but they also charge very low rake and fees. To join Americas Cardroom today (and return to playing poker with a site that actually rewards its players), simply click the banner below:
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Another good option (with less rakeback rewards, but more traffic) is PartyPoker, which you can download by clicking on the banner below:
However, if you generate less than $1,250 in rake and fees per year, then you will not get ANY rakeback rewards with PartyPoker and should instead download Bwin (same network, but with different rewards). You can download Bwin poker by clicking the banner below:
To find out which poker site offers you the lowest net cost (rake/fees - all rewards) for your specific playing preferences, answer these 4 simple questions.
The current state of PokerStars is truly sad, especially when you consider that PokerStars used to offer one of the best poker loyalty rewards program online!
The Supernova VIP program was easily the most recognizable online poker rewards program. This was a traditional rakeback-based rewards program that rewarded players purely on volume of play. That is, the more money you contributed in rake and fees, the more money you received as rewards. Since winning players are the ones most interested in playing as much as possible, they were the primary beneficiaries of the Supernova rewards program.
|Game||VPPs / $1
|Tournaments & Sit-and-Go's||5.5|
|Full Cash Games >5¢/10¢||6|
|Heads-Up Cash Games >5¢/10¢||5.5|
|6-Handed Cash Games >5¢/10¢||5.5|
|1¢/2¢ NL & PL Cash Games||10|
|2¢/5¢ NL & PL Cash Games||8.5|
|5¢/10¢ NL & PL Cash Games||7|
Like many online poker loyalty rewards systems, the Poker Stars Supernova program used status points. Players earned a number of VIP Player Points (VPPs) for every dollar of rake or fee paid, based on the game they were playing (between 5.5 and 10 VPPs per $1 rake).
The number of PokerStars VPPs you earned in a month determined your status level for that month and the next. VPPs were only used to determine your status level. Frequent Player Points (FPPs) were the PokerStars reward currency, and your status level determined how many FPPs you earned for each VPP. This is a fairly common online poker loyalty rewards program format, and is still used on many online poker sites, such as bwin, True Poker, BoyleSports Poker, William Hill Poker, and Winner Poker.
||VPP Requirement||FPP / VPP|
|Bronze||0 / month||1.0|
|Chrome||100 / month||1.0|
|Silver||500 / month||1.5|
|Gold||2,500 / month||2.0|
|Platinum||7,500 / month||2.5|
|Supernova||100,000 / year||3.5|
|Supernova Elite||1,000,000 / year||5.0|
Similar to StarsCoins, Frequent Player Points could be exchanged for various rewards such as tournament tickets, cash, or PokerStars apparel and paraphernalia. The biggest difference between FPPs and StarsCoins is that players with higher PokerStars VIP levels received access to higher cost rewards, which offered better FPP exchange rates.
In addition, Poker Stars players earned milestone bonuses (called VIP Stellar Rewards) throughout the year upon reaching certain VPP milestones.
As you can imagine, the Supernova and Supernova Elite status levels were highly sought after. Not only were these players earning more FPP per $1 paid, but they also received significantly better FPP exchange rates. As a result, Supernova players were earning as much as 46% rakeback, and Supernova Elites were getting as much as 69% rakeback from PokerStars.
While these are some industry-leading rakeback figures, it was no mean feat to earn these status levels. To become a Supernova player, you needed to contribute roughly $20,000*/year in rake or tournament fees, and for Supernova Elite, it was $100,000*/year!
*The amount varies slightly based on the games played, since you earned different VPPs/$1 by game type
So, how does the Stars Rewards program compare to the old Supernova system? Well, if you were previously a Supernova or Supernova Elite player, you have undoubtedly already figured out that you are getting the shaft.
Winning Supernova Elite players suffered a rakeback decrease from 69% to 5% with the new Stars Rewards program. PokerStars then reduced their rewards further to just 2.1% (0.9% for tournament players)! Click to Tweet
|$0 - $200||11.2%||12.9%||0.0%||0.0%|
|$201 - $800||15.5%||20.2%||3.0%||1.5%|
|$801 - $4.5K||22.2%||20.4%||4.7%||2.4%|
|$4.5K - $13K||29.1%||18.2%||7.2%||2.1%|
|$13K - $30K||31.5%||23.3%||8.2%||2.1%|
|$30K - $100K||39.9%||28.1%||10.3%||2.1%|
The issue is that most Supernova and Supernova Elite players were either winners, or break even players (who made their money on rakeback rewards alone). Not many poker players are willing to pay in excess of $20,000 in rake if they are losing! Since net withdrawers earn such little rakeback from the new Stars Rewards program, these players are probably better off playing their online poker elsewhere.
In March 2019, PokerStars suddenly doubled the points requirement for net withdrawers with no notice, halving the already paltry rakeback winning players were receiving. Things are even worse for tournament players with PokerStars, as they earn just 45% of the listed PokerStars rakeback rewards. The goal appears to be to drive away all winning poker players!
Our rakeback comparison table shows just how awful the Stars Rewards program is. Although it is slightly better for losing casual players, it is significantly worse for everyone else (especially break-even and winning players)!
Although we initially applauded PokerStars for their efforts to protect the lifeblood of the poker economy (the "net depositors"), it has since become clear that Stars Rewards is just another greedy money-grabbing policy in a long string of greedy money-grabbing changes implemented by The Stars Group.
Below is a brief history of the changes made to the Stars Rewards program since its launch:
- 2017: PokerStars scraps the SuperNova program and launches Stars Rewards
- Supernova Elite players see their PokerStars rakeback drop from 69% to 5%
- Feb 2019: PokerStars reduces reward points for tournaments to just 45 points for each $1 in fees (a further 55% reduction in rakeback for PokerStars tournament players)
- Mar 2019: PokerStars "simplifies" Stars Rewards
- Boosts are scrapped, eliminating the ability to earn double points
- Red chests are eliminated and all chest costs are significanly increased. As a result, many casual players earn 0% rakeback with PokerStars!
- PokerStars uses the simplification process to further reduce rewards:
- 25.5% average rakeback reduction for "net depositors"
- 67.8% average rakeback reduction for "break-even" players
- 42.5% average rakeback reduction for "net withdrawers"
These reductions in PokerStars rakeback rewards are in addition to 3 to 4 rake increases implemented by The Stars Group since they acquired PokerStars in 2014!
When Stars Rewards was first introduced, it looked as if it might have been an innovative attempt to reinforce the poker economy (by rewarding the depositors, and no longer rewarding the players who were already winning). However, PokerStars have shown their true intent by constantly increasing rake and reducing rewards for all players. Now, even the majority of "net depositors" are worse off with Stars Rewards than they were with the Supernova VIP program (and the Supernova program notoriously ignored casual and losing players).
It is shocking that PokerStars are still the world's largest online poker site! However, that is begining to change with many online poker players realizing that there are plenty of different online poker sites available to choose from.
What do you think? Have you abandoned PokerStars following the introduction of Stars Rewards, or do you still consider them to be the best online poker site?