888poker Changes Likely To Bring Traffic To Sports Book, Casino Products

888poker Moves To Challenge-Based Loyalty Model: Answers And Analysis

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Effective March 28, second largest online poker room 888poker will steer away from traditional rakeback in favor of a loyalty model that preferences consistency, task completion and casual play across multiple verticals.

Loyalty program overhauls designed to distribute wealth more evenly among high-volume and net depositing players have become commonplace of late, with the most notable example being the recent changes at PokerStars.

Yet, whereas most other operators who made the shift – Stars included – retained aspects of their old loyalty programs, the changeover at 888 appears far more drastic in nature.

Here’s a look at what players can expect later this month.

What is the 888poker club?

At its core, the reworked scheme (entitled 888poker Club) functions by awarding players who complete challenges with points. These challenges will come in many different flavors, and in some cases will be personalized.

Once a specified number of points have been earned, players will “level up,” at which point they will receive a number of Gold Tokens. According to the operator, Gold Tokens can be redeemed for a variety of prizes – likening them to a sort of virtual currency.

As far as the prizes themselves, their nature and underlying value are currently unknown.

What is known is that upon reaching a higher level, players will be tasked with completing a new set of challenges. There is no apparent level cap.

The new scheme comes with a few additional perks:

  • For every five levels attained, players will win what’s called a Club Scratchcard, which presumably will reveal some sort of randomized reward.
  • Each month 888 will give away more than $100,000 in daily Club Tournaments. Entry into these tournaments is not entirely free however, as eligibility requires players to first hit “certain levels.”
  • There have also been allusions to Bonus Levels, although at present, we know little about how they’ll function.

Multiple vertical play encouraged

The challenges are not exclusive to poker, instead spanning the operator’s casino and sports book verticals.

Although completing non-poker challenges isn’t a prerequisite for advancement, it’s been stated on the site’s dedicated Two Plus Two thread that “by playing other games and variants, you will be able [to] complete the challenges and climb levels faster.”

The term rakeback “no longer relevant”

Players will no longer be able to measure their progress exclusively in terms of rakeback, as challenges will rarely be tied to rake.

Which begs the question, “What will the poker challenges look like?”

Although the operator has yet to provide specifics, a few clues have been provided:

  • Some challenges may entail winning a cash game hand with a specific holding, such as a full house, or a pair of sixes as a starting hand.
  • Other may include playing a set number of cash game hands, sit & go’s or tournaments.
  • Others still may task players with finishing in the money of an MTT or sit & go X number of times.

If these types of challenges sound familiar, it’s because PokerStars bases many of its newer promotions around achieving similar goals.

888poker to honor 2016 cashback obligations

Players that have achieved an annual rewards status (VIP) on 888poker in 2015 needn’t worry about the operator pulling a one-over on them, as these players will receive cashback in accordance with the existing plan throughout the year.

Going further, as per the operator:

“Moreover, any rewards points players accumulated in the current rewards program will be automatically transferred to Gold Tokens, with equal value, in the new 888poker Club and will continue to be redeemable any time.”

In my estimation, these two facets of the transition are being handled more fairly than they were on PokerStars, which announced reduced benefits for its two annual loyalty tiers (SuperNova and SuperNova Elite) less than two months before the changes were enacted.

Not only that, high-volume players on Stars that exchanged their FPPs for cash – and all players who traded FPPs for tournament tickets for that matter – experienced a sharp devaluing of their existing virtual currency when the switch was made to StarsCoin.

How will the shift impact 888poker?

While 888’s announcement has already provoked the ire of some high-volume players, I don’t expect the backlash to be as vehement as it was when PokerStars made known its intentions, for reasons stated above and the following:

  • 888 is not nearly as trafficked as PokerStars. The latest PokerScout numbers show that liquidity on Stars is roughly seven times greater. Fewer players, fewer complaints.
  • High-volume players have ample time to find a new playing arena before losing their cashback, should they desire.
  • More and more, players are coming to expect huge paradigm shifts from online poker operators.

However, over the long haul, I believe the changes at 888poker will be more damaging to players who rely on mass multi-tabling and small edges to generate profit than similar changes were at PokerStars. There’s a few reasons behind this line of thinking.

For one, many players that play poker for a living generally steer clear of sports, and especially casino, betting. These players will be pigeon-holed into completing poker challenges, and thus, will receive already reduced rewards at a sub-optimal rate.

Secondly, despite all the changes on PokerStars, the top loyalty tier still offers 30 percent rakeback. By comparison, the cashback cap on 888poker will be drastically reduced from an already mediocre starting point of 27 percent.

Also, PokerStars has shown a willingness to reinvest tons of money into promotional events. Not only do these promos add value on their own, but they attract net depositing (i.e. soft) players. Outside of the $100,000 in monthly freerolls, there’s been no real word on whether or not 888poker is going to open up the promotional floodgates. For now, it’s safe to assume that it won’t.

Finally there’s the rake. Both rake percentages and caps on 888poker lean toward the high side, at least compared to PokerStars.

Taken together, these factors tell me that by the end of 2016, 888poker will become a very hostile environment for grinders that refuse to adapt to the modern online poker climate.

As a counterpoint, if the shift is successful at acquiring and retaining net depositing players, then the games should become softer – maybe soft enough that it becomes profitable for professional players to return to the site, despite the lack of rakeback.

One final note on liquidity

Until the cashback grace period runs its course, I expect traffic on 888poker to outpace the global industry. Once January 1 hits, expect to see an immediate loss of volume.

Moving to other verticals, the changes should drive increased traffic to the operator’s casino and sports book – which I believe is 888’s primary aim.

- Robert DellaFave is a game designer and avid poker player. He writes for several publications centered on legal US online poker and the regulated online gambling industries in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
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