888poker will introduce a completely remodeled rewards program, effective from March 28. The new scheme, designed to tip the balance in favor of the recreational player, is to be branded “888 Poker Club,” and will eschew the rake-based player rewards model that has been the industry standard for the past 15 years.
Instead, it will adopt a system of challenges, where players will be invited to “level up” to earn Gold Tokens, the new reward currency.
By ditching the rake-based system and adopting some of the cozy elements of social casino gaming, 888poker is squarely pitching for new recreational players, or so called “net depositors,” i.e., customers who deposit more than they withdraw.
These people keep the poker economy rolling. Recreational players, who, by definition, view poker as entertainment, are the game’s bottom line and are needed in their droves.
This is the demographic that will deposit small sums so they can enjoy a night in playing poker instead spending a similar amount going to a movie theater, for example. But this demographic, so prevalent in the early-mid-noughties, has disappeared from online poker, at least in high volume, which is damaging to the “ecosystem.”
One theory suggests that that modern online poker, with its tracking software (which poker sites are beginning to ban), and with its multi-tabling pros, and predatory its seating scripts (also on the way out), are sucking the fun out of the game. The skill gap is greater than ever and amateurs are not being given a chance to stick around, before they are swallowed up.
Rake-based reward schemes were initially designed to benefit the high-volume, high raking regulators. And why not? These are, by definition, the online poker site’s best customers.
Except they are no longer as desirable. They are net-withdrawers not net-depositors and so they are upsetting the ecology that so efficiently they dominate.
“The main objective of the new plan is to reallocate the loyalty budget from the heavy grinders to the masses,” an 888poker representative said on the 2+2 forums. “We want to reward players for other activities, including long term loyalty to 888poker, rather than only for grinding,”
The representative explained that “the vast majority” will be better off from the new program. Some “challenges” would still be based on rake, said the rep, but he also admitted others might be achievable only to customers who show their “loyalty” by playing in the 888 casino, or sports book.
While there is a strong argument that changes need to be made to “fix” online poker, this last point is merely attempt to convert players from poker to casino, and is likely to upset poker purists who prefer not to gamble against the house.