Sunday, 1 January 2012

PokerStars New VPP Award Method - 'Weighted Contributed'

As of today, January 1st 2012, PokerStars have switched to a new method of assigning VPPs to players in ring games.

Old and New

In the past each player dealt into a hand was given an equal share of the VPPs earned in that hand. The new method assigns VPPs proportionally based on how much each player contributed to the pot.

With this 'weighted contributed' method the loose players will be rewarded more than they previously were, and the tighter players rewarded less. Winning players, in general, play a much tighter style than losing players, so are likely to be the ones most negatively affected by the change. This negative effect could be anything from very slight, to enormous depending on how tight a player is, but there will also be a few of the loose aggressive winning players who benefit.


I played my first PLO session of 2012 right after midnight ET. There were a bunch of the usual nitty regs there, probably trying to figure out how much this change is going to cost them. Most of them stopped playing after the first hour and the tables were much, much softer.

I played 2004 hands, would have earned 800 VPPs with the old 'dealt' method, but earned 635 VPPS with the new 'weighted contributed' method. I played 22% VPIP and the table averages were around 33% VPIP.

Of course as poker players we know it's not smart to make assumption based on small sample sizes.

I ran a SQL query on my HEM database for all my hands played in the December 2011 (CAP NLHE + full stack PLO, mostly 6-max). Based on that data it looks like I would take a 10% reduction in VPPs overall.

I also checked to see how the change would affect other regulars.

Most players playing a typical full stacked reg style were affected around the same as me, but mass tabling nits and short stackers were affected to a much greater degree.

I check├ęd how the biggest nit that I know would be affected. A guy with screen name b****f**** who buys in for 30BBs and plays a 7.5/1 vpip/pfr style over 5500 hands of full ring PLO. This is a slightly losing player who has previously been making a lot from the PokerStars VIP program. He will be taking a 70% cut in VPPs with the new method. Safe to say his days of leeching off other people's rake and stinking up the games are now over. He and his obnoxious chat every time he loses a pot won't be missed by me, that's for sure.

Most of the 6-max 30BB SSPLO hit and run merchants look to be taking a significant cut. H******J*** who plays 12/7 looks to be losing around 50% of his VPPs and s***t***** who plays 23/17 style a 35% reduction.

Looking at some of the huge laggy fish that make the games juicy, some of them are getting a 300% increase in VPPs.

Going Forward

I expect with this change that most of the break-even and slightly losing nits and 30BB hit and run rats that made the games terrible will either quit or perhaps change their style, with a few of them just taking the hit and playing longer sessions to make up for their pay cut.

So while I see around a 10% reduction in VPPs for myself, I don't mind taking that hit if a lot of the mindless short stack nits who are terrible for poker are basically shot in the head. I'm likely to more than make up for my loss of VPPs though an improved winrate in better games, not just because of less short stackers and break-even nits but though the higher activity of loose losing players. Loose recreational players gaining higher VIP status (e.g. FPP multiplier) and having many more FPPs to spend on higher value bonuses, tournament tickets and satellites will be good for the games long term, as most of that value is going to end up back on the tables.

Of course. what the net effect of the change to the weighted contributed method is will likely take several months to find out. I am feeling overall positive about it but I'm prepared to eat my words if in the middle of the year I have no improvement in winrate and I'm having to grind an extra hour a day to make up for the reduction in VPPs.

Whatever the result though it's hard to argue that the weighted contributed method of assigning VPPs is much fairer than the dealt method. In the past certain players have been getting way more than their fair share.

Of course there will still be a lot of negative reaction to the change from the people that are to be affected the most, the ones that have historically contributed little and taken a lot. Most people only care about their own bottom line, and of course that is perfectly natural, but changes like this are made with the bigger picture and all players in mind. The players that are hurt the most by this will be far more vocal, venting on forums about their outrage, than the many recreational players that have never even heard of twoplustwo that benefit from the change. You end up with 1% of the players making 99% of the noise.

For anyone that accuses me of bias, I'm obviously not happy about my own 10% reduction in VPPs either but I do feel like I will benefit in the long run through better games. I think that a 'winner take all' method', rather than a weighted contributed method of distributing VPPs would be way the fairest method overall, as it would still take away from nits that leech off other peoples rake in the dealt method, but reward the more active winning players more fairly. After all, the player who pays the rake is he who wins the pot.


The same number of VPPs will be awarded as before, but the VPPs are worth less to a casual player than they are to a high volume player because of their lower VIP status. A Silver Star VIP status player's VPPs translate into milestone cash credits and FPPs at a much lower rate per VPP than a Supernova.

Rake attributed to a Supernova is worth roughly a 36% return to that player.

That of a Silver Star VIP is roughly 16%, Gold Star 20% and Platinum Star 25%.

As far as I'm aware the criticism from players is that this difference in value is basically being swallowed by PokerStars as profit.

I think the difference in value is being overstated somewhat, as the increase in VPPs will mean that casual players will end up in higher VIP brackets for the same amount of play (or get close enough that they play more to achieve it).

If we make the reasonable assumption that high volume players will receive less VPPs under the weighted contributed model, and low volume players will receive more, then yes, the dollar amount returned to the player base as a whole will be reduced.

There were some changes planned including a reduction in rake from 5% to 4.5%, that were supposed to balance that out somewhat. Those changes were dropped at the last minute due to negative feedback on the forums. Some players generally thought that the details of this rake reduction, that included a higher cap for 5-handed play, would make the overall rake higher rather than lower. I believe though that it was intended to be a rake reduction for most players, and an overall reduction in rake.

PokerStars are inviting player representatives to the Isle of Man this month to discuss this. I believe that they are open to a resolution that will result in a slight reduction in rake overall, as was their original intention.


  1. Nice review, much appreciated! I guess the change is a step into the right direction and hope for some positive effects long term. All in all I'm very satisfied with PokerStars yet, they are no fools. But I'm not overly excited about the plans of kinda Rush Poker. Not sure if this is another story. Anyway! All the best for 2012!

  2. Dale - I personally think the change to WC is the way forward. However given the non-linear value of VPPs (they are worth more to SNEs than to bronze stars by multiple times), Stars are simply taking money off the table here. I'm all for the nipping in the bud of nits effectively taking more than their fair share, but the 28th of December was not the time to announce this. This should have been out there long before. There should be no need for people to go to the IoM - most of this OS easily resolvable via the forums. Stars have blamed the players for the withdrawal of rake reduction - it can't be a surprise they got a few knee-jerk reactions?