Unless you have been living under a rock you can’t fail to have known that PokerStars have just dealt their 100 Billionth hand – Yes one hundred billion hands have been dealt at PokerStars.
I remember when I first started writing this blog, Stars announced their 1 billionth and then their 5 billionth hand promotion, back then those numbers then seemed huge but nothing to the latest landmark.
The staggering success of the latest 100 billion promotion offers some valuable lessons for the industry and some pointers of what gets players engaged, creates loyalty and what it really takes to keep players playing and enjoying poker.
Poker rooms should have million hand promotions running constantly IMHO.
Milestones prove popular with everyone
The figures speak for themselves:
Biggest ever player traffic figures of 150,000 players at the peak which is the highest any site has ever recorded online at anytime, ever.
$2 million in total prizes awarded during the 20 million hands running up to the 100 billionth hand.
The eventual winner of the 100 billion hand was Greek “micronlis69” who took away $103,800 (and the $31.55 pot) while his table mates got between $12,460 – $13,440 each.
In addition everyone playing the same stakes and game (0.02/0.05 6max) took away a slice of $830,790.34 averaging $84.72 each.
Players like simple, fair & luck based prizes
Unlike most bonuses, VIP programmes or rakeback the whole promotion is incredibly transparent, inclusive and most importantly random. So it has a wide appeal to everyone introducing a chance to get lucky without any real bias to any particular player.
I have to admit I got landmark fever myself, logging on far more often than I would normally to play a 100 or so hands just on the off chance I might win something, watching my potential win calculator in the corner of the window chugging up to $400-$500-$1200 made the possibility of a decent bonus prize seem like it could be just round the corner.
Anyone could win if your playing at a table at the right time to get lucky.
And that is the nub of it – For a short period of time the average Joe player (like me) had a fair shot at winning a decent slice of the pokerstars profits / marketing or VIP rewards budget however you want to look at it – Without having to become a super nova elite player grinding away 87 hours a day multi-tabling 50 bazillion tables.
Reward everyone equally – actually no don’t
Currently a very small niche of pokerstars (and other poker sites) players have the ear of management, those professionals, semi pro grinders and player advocates that hang out in the upper echelons of 2+2 dictating their demands and needs of the “player” when in fact for all their probably good intention, demands they are speaking for at most only 10% of the player “community”.
The reality is that 90% of players simply do not belong to “the community” or have any kind of voice – They’re just recreational players who in all likelihood have no idea what the rake structure is like across the stakes or the effective rakeback rates between bronze and super nova elite.
They just want to play a bit, enjoy it, maybe win and if the poker room wants to put on a simple promotion that gives them a shot at winning some additional prizes then it’s all good.
Much of the time once a player has had their first deposit bonus, most end up looking at their bonuses or VIP rewards as insignificantly small or just an unobtainable bonus that they will take an eternity to clear or never get. Either that or it’s a incomprehensible promotion with arduous rules or requirements that don’t appeal to most occasional players.
That fact and that fact alone should be reason for poker rooms to take note and change where their promotional and marketing money goes.
Make landmark hands a permanent feature
Unlike bad beat jackpots which you can’t really predict when they will be won, utilizing the landmark hand formula for giving out a chunk of the rakeback / bonus / marketing budget would increase activity and loyalty across all stakes and games because while its random which table will win it’s guaranteed how often the payout will be.
The really great thing about adding landmark hands to the regular rewards is that it isn’t something that the grinders can factor into their nitty valueback calculations (it’s not guaranteed or really very grindable).
This random factor / chance of winning something extra is exactly the sort of thing poker players (let’s not forget there is still an element of a gamble in poker) love – It puts some excitement back, some fun into the game again, it’s like having a free loto ticket every million hands – and it keeps people playing.
This would be a truly random affair where everyone would have a chance at loyalty cash. Grinders could increase their chances by playing more tables or being even more savvy by playing more tables across range of stakes and game types and styles – but it’s a far more equitable way to give money back to loyal players.
Poker rooms still focus on rewarding the wrong players
Stop giving it to players who don’t “need” it because as winning players they will stay wherever their is profit to be made from losing players and start giving it to players you need to retain – the average Joe, the 90%, the silent majority of now and again players.
I’ve hinted at this previously in Why Are Poker Rooms Are in Decline ? that poker rooms focus on the wrong players rewarding winning players and high raking, high grinding players with far far too much of the “bonus pie”.
Basically at the lower and micro-stakes games the rake is relatively higher than the rake paid at the higher stakes games. In addition to paying less rake in percentage terms and to a degree in real terms as well the higher volume and higher stakes players benefit from more rakeback / valueback and better VIP rewards.
In short the smaller number of higher stakes and winning players get far more of the marketing / bonus pie in the form of higher VIP rewards than the micro / low stakes majority who’s money (deposits) are ultimately working their way up to the higher games.
It’s a win win for winning & high grinding players = not healthy long term
Clearly 150,000 players can’t be wrong
When the biggest poker room (by a long way) can increase it’s player traffic by such a large amount basically bringing previously inactive players out of the woodwork and getting those not very active players to get on those tables –
It really proves that online poker isn’t dying – it’s being killed off
By overly greedy grinders who expect too much of the rewards pie in addition to winning fairly
By poker rooms who pay too much lip service to those higher stakes players, winning players and the nitty grinders.
By the poker rooms currently lack of imagination when it comes to re-engaging the 100’s of thousands of occasional players who only need these sorts of promotions to throw them a bone or the chance of a bone for them to return to the game in their droves.
The sites and the grinders would do well to remember – You can shear a sheep many times but you can only skin it once.
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