PokerStars Director of Online Poker Experience Chris Straghalis opens up in this exclusive interview about the just-announced new PokerStars Rewards Program. Over the course of our 30-minute discussion, we spoke about how long this program overhaul has been in the works, the player feedback the company received that led to the overhaul, the goals of the new Rewards Program, and much more.
Beyond that, the fact that this candid conversation happened on the record for public consumption via a poker media outlet indicates a marked, very welcome and much appreciated shift in PokerStars policy, demonstrating a heretofore unparalleled level of authenticity and transparency behind the actions taken and roll-out of the new Rewards Program.
I hope you enjoy tuning in to the conversation I had with Chris, a recap and highlights of which are included below the video embed.
Chris Straghalis Interview: Recap and Highlights
Chris has been with PokerStars for 20 years and is currently the Director of Online Poker Experience. The company has has been in the news lately as they announced a major revamp to their Rewards Program.
(1:05) Chris shares some statistical information regarding the old PokerStars Reward program and what sort of data and player feedback led to the company deciding to make changes in the first place.
(3:45) Why this interview is so radically different than other conversations I’ve had with PokerStars representatives in the past: no questions were submitted in advance, nobody from PokerStars knew what I was going to ask, and the conversation is being made public completely unedited.
(5:20) The evolution of PokerStars during Chris’ 20-year tenure at the company to now being part of Flutter Entertainment. Now, “the shackles are off and I can speak freely; I love being able to do that and be open.”
(7:45) Typically anytime a change like this is announced, it’s almost always an indicator that an operator is making it more difficult for players to earn the rewards, keeping more of the pie for itself. This shift to the new PokerStars Rewards program is different. Chris discusses what the catalysts were that sparked the change in the first place.
PokerStars Rewards is NOT Reviving the Old Supernova Scheme
(10:00) Chris explains that while the comparisons he’s hearing of this new PokerStars Rewards program to “the old Supernova/Supernova Elite” program are understandable, they’re actually incorrect. He explains how and this new program differs. Plus he shares that these changes were first conceived of six months ago and have been being worked on for the last half year until their currently impending implementation.
(12:30) Chris explains why every reward in the new program is now cash (e.g., no more tournament dollars, etc.), and how the PokerStars team evaluated all of the pertinent factors when constructing the new rewards scheme.
(14:10) There has been a noticeable shift away from internal terms and language PokerStars had been using, including “loyalty”, “bonusing product”, and “customer retention management (CRM)”. Now there’s an “Associate Director of Generosity”. Chris speaks to what’s happened internally that has led to the lexicon shift.
(17:25) It’s been reported that the company’s ambition with making changes to the PokerStars Rewards Program was “to significantly increase spend and frequency of promotions to recreational players.” Chris explains the reasoning as to why this is the case. Moreover, he explains the shift to rewarding recreational players “through their frequency rather than their volume”.
(22:00) There had been a cap of 25% rakeback up until now, and that’s now being expanded to 40%. In addition, players who rake the most money will be eligible to receive even more (up to 60% rakeback ) if they qualify for “Select” levels. Obviously this is very likely to affect many players’ bottom line. We’re talking the possibility of getting in the neighborhood of $60K a year for the top rakers.
(25:00) While most players will happily be seeing these changes to the rewards program soon, unfortunately not all player markets will be shifting to this new model. For example France, Portugal, Germany, USA, etc. Chris explains why this is the case, as it primarily has to do with regulations and licensing, as well as differences in player liquidity in different markets around the world.
(27:00) Chris discusses the key performance indicators and types of metrics that the company will be using in order to evaluate the success of the new PokerStars Rewards Program. In particular, player sentiment — in the form of “NPS” (net promoter score) — plays a primary role. “It’s not just the numbers; it’s how the players feel about us.”
(31:20) Chris invites player feedback via the PokerStars Discord Channel: psta.rs/Discord.
Thanks again to Chris Straghalis for joining me for the interview, and thank you all for checking it out here on Cardplayer Lifestyle.