The Significant Changes

Last year, I wrote many blog posts detailing the high stakes, variance-filled roller coaster that was my first attempt at Supernova Elite.  It certainly wasn’t easy by any means, but about halfway through November I reached my goal and celebrated by taking the rest of the year off.

Most of my readers are likely aware of what ‘Supernova Elite’ is and what it means to a grinder on PokerStars, but for those of you who don’t have your hand on the pulse of the internet poker world, allow me to briefly explain.

In its most basic form, Supernova Elite is the top tier of a rewards program offered by PokerStars, given to poker players who earn 1,000,000 player points (VPPs) in a calendar year.  All player points are earned by paying rake (the house’s cut) at the rate of 5.5 points per $1.  When I load up a $100 9-man Turbo SNG, I’m not actually playing for all of that money as the $100 is divided between the player pool ($92.80) and rake ($7.20).  While it’d certainly be awesome if I didn’t have to pay rake at all, it’s unavoidable and simply the price of admission.  So last year, when I reached Supernova Elite, it means I earned 1,000,000 VPPs and subsequently paid $181,000 in rake.

Thankfully, PokerStars had a VIP Program that gave back a % of the rake (i.e. rakeback) based on your tier.  As of this year, first-time Supernova Elites receive 53% and repeat SNEs get 68%.  It actually was 5% higher in 2014 but PokerStars eliminated the $5200 WCOOP ticket, effectively removing 5% of the rewards from its most frequent player base.  I was obviously not pleased by that, but most players considered the loss of “only” $5200 to be a win.  In November, a representative for PokerStars promised further ‘likely significant changes’ for 2016 and since then the community has held their breath.

And currently, we continue to hold it.  Recently, PokerStars released the following:


As I tweeted PokerStars (and encourage you to do so as well), mid October is a fucking joke.  Stars announced the VIP Program was under review at the end of 2015 and only now they’re getting around to ‘evaluating and discussing’ exactly what they plan to do?  Come on.  For starters, it’s completely obvious that the changes in store aren’t net positives for current players, it’s clearly a reduction in rakeback and other rewards.  And while that’s certainly frustrating, it’s compounded by the fact that the decision to go for SNE hinges so much on the year after reaching it.  First time Elites get 15% less than repeats and both groups are at a severe disadvantage if the program abruptly comes to a close, without warning.

Let’s use me as an example.  I’m in the ‘repeat SNE’ group and am currently on 68% rakeback.  Currently I’m at ~420,000 VPPs and slightly behind pace to achieve it again this year.  I certainly *could* make a last minute charge and still might, but my plan was to wait until Stars released information about 2016 before putting myself through such a difficult and tedious grind.  Because if they simply cut the entire program, I’d have much less incentive to work long hours.  But now, by delaying their annoucement about the changes to SNE and the VIP Program, PokerStars has painted grinders like myself into a corner.  Only options are:

1) Keep grinding, paying rake and hope for the changes to be minimal
2) Quit now

To me, this is simply another example of the poor leadership and underhanded business practices exhibited by PokerStars since they were purchased by the Amaya Gaming Company.  If Stars had announced the changes before June, grinders would have more than enough time to decide if the decreased rewards were still enough for them to want to push for SNE.  Instead, the most likely scenario is that several high volume players will continue to pump out games and pay rake, only to have the rakeback rug taken out from under them at the last possible minute.

I’ve read (and participated) in threads about this subject on 2+2 and of all the responses, I thought one poster provided a very good solution to the problem.

“Grandfathering” in current SNEs (and those who achieve it in 2015) would allow them to get the benefits of the concurrent year, which makes sense considering the makeup of the particular tier.  It’s absolutely brilliant and makes a ton of sense, but at this point no one from Stars has responded to it.

What’s my plan?  Well, I’ve went back-and-forth on this quite a few times.  At one point I felt I should give it up and only earn 50,000 points a month to keep the 68% and ride it out ’til the end of the year.  For now tho, I’m going to try and grind out 100,000 VPP months and stay within striking distance of SNE pace.  If I can do that, I’ll have roughly 650,000 VPPs by the end of September and can make that intense, homestretch run *if* the proposed changes aren’t too detrimental to my bottom line.  Really hoping that nothing drastic happens, but when it comes to PokerStars I’ve learned to not hold my breath.