Thursday, December 24, 2009

’Tis the Season

'Tis the SeasonFor online poker sites to give back, that is. Lots of bonus programs and other incentives being doled out here at year’s end, it seems.

Been playing more on Full Tilt Poker than usual, mainly because of that bonus they offered me over there this month. Am still only having limited time to play, so I’ll probably only end up earning about half of the hundy they’re giving me in ten-dollar increments as I slowly accumulate those Full Tilt Points.

I continue to play primarily the $25 buy-in pot-limit Omaha games, usually six-handed, and usually only one or two tables at a time. Meaning I can only earn FTPs at a relatively slow clip.

Full Tilt Poker game variationsI generally like the new lobby Full Tilt rolled out a few months back, although sometimes when looking for a game I find all of the little codes a bit headachy. Just a matter of getting used to them, I suppose. I have now and then unintentionally pulled up tables that feature certain variations on my desired game -- e.g., the “cap” games, the “ante” games, the “deep stack” games. And every now and then I’ll even sit down at them before realizing my mistake. (It really doesn’t take much to confuse my jingle-brain.)

I have now and then purposely played the “cap” games -- at my level, those games are capped at $10, meaning no player can put more than that in the middle on a single hand. Kind of pushes most of the play to the first two streets, as that limit tends to get reached with a raise and reraise on the flop. Basically requires everyone to play a short-stacker’s strategy, and I’ve found one often comes across one or two players at each table who are mainly just looking to gamble it up.

The “deep stack” games are the opposite, requiring at least 50 big blinds ($12.50) for the buy-in. One can also buy in for as much as $50 in these at the $0.10/$0.25 tables, so, really, if I’m a PLO25 player (as I am these days), I should be scooting back down a level rather than play these. Meanwhile, the “ante” games require everyone to kick in an extra nickel on top of the $0.10/$0.25 blinds, sweetening the pot a little more before that first action.

Otherwise, I’m strictly a PokerStars player. I do still have some cabbage over on Bodog. I like Bodog (a site supporter), but I only open it up every once in a while as their poker room traffic is usually fairly low. PokerStars, meanwhile, always has a ton of tables going, and the site remains my personal fave for other reasons as well (the interface, support, etc.).

PokerStars' Silver StarSpeaking of bonuses, I got an email yesterday from PokerStars passing along their plans to change and add to their rewards system. Once again they are lowering the requirements to reach Silver Star, making it necessary only to accumulate 750 VPPs in a month to get there. That’s down from the current 1,200, and way down from the 2,000 it was when the VIP program was first introduced back in 2006. (I don’t believe they are lowering the requirements for the other levels: e.g., still 3,000 VPPs to get to Gold, 7,500 for Platinum, etc.)

Another new feature will be something called the “VIP Stellar Rewards” program which essentially gives extra cash for playing.

To clarify, FPPs are “Frequent Player Points,” and one earns those according to how much rake is collected. FPPs can be used to purchase various items or cash, or used to enter tourneys. VPPs, or “VIP Player Points,” are earned the same way, but cannot be redeemed -- they are just to gauge where you are status-wise. However, if you move up a level, you can earn FPPs more quickly (e.g., Silver Stars get 1.5 FPP for every 1 VPP). Make sense? If not, you can read more here.

VIP Stellar RewardsAnyhow, this “VIP Stellar Rewards” thing basically gives players extra cash on top of all the other benefits of the VIP program. Starting on January 1, 2010, everyone begins a new yearly balance of VPPs. Once you reach 750 VPPs total, you can spend just one FPP and pick up ten bucks. Then, when you get to 1,500, you get another $10. And so forth according to the schedule (see the table at left). As a recreational player, I’ve earned a little over 13,000 VPPs this year. If I earn the same number next year, I’ll pick up an additional $150.

I might be encouraged, though, to pick up the pace a little -- indeed, there were a couple of months in there during which I earned 2,500-3,000 VPPs or so, so I know I can probably easy pick up more.

Definitely like the way Stars is gearing these programs toward the small-timers, giving them a little bit here and there to keep ’em playing. Seems like a smart strategy. It’s always nice to be constantly getting something back while playing, meaning that even a break even session is technically going to be a small winner.

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