After a year spent fending off critics of the site’s shift from professional to recreational players, PokerStars rolled out an ambitious plan to please both communities.
In a statement issued December 15, PokerStars announced plans to award 320 seats to its newly created Players No Limit Hold’em Championship.
Boasting a buy-in of $25,000, the Players No Limit Hold’em Championship is a live tournament scheduled for January 6-10 of 2019. The event will be held as part of the recently revived PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) tournament series, which has been hosted annually at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas since 2005.
Throughout the entirety of 2018, PokerStars players will have several opportunities to win a “Platinum Pass” satellite package – valued at $30,000 apiece – to the Players Championship.
Platinum Pass packages are comprised of a $25,000 entry to the Players Championship, plus a six-night stay at Atlantis Paradise Island, $2,000 for travel expenses, and “yet to be announced rewards and surprises.”
All told, between the 320 free seats and another $1 million to be awarded to the tournament’s champion, PokerStars will be adding $9 million directly to the prize pool. Additionally, all buy-ins – either directly or via Platinum Pass – will be rake-free, meaning PokerStars won’t withhold the typical operational fee.
As part of the rollout, Rafi Ashkenazi – chief executive officer of PokerStars parent company The Stars Group – described his vision for the Players Championship.
“We expect the PokerStars Players No Limit Hold’em Championship will set the new global standard for live poker tournaments.
We want to demonstrate and reinforce our commitment to the game, and give something back to the players by investing in our live events in a meaningful way.
Our objective is to create an event that brings professionals and amateurs together, creating many winning moments and unforgettable stories.”
While the prize is an entry to a high-roller tournament, players across the bankroll spectrum are invited to compete for their Platinum Pass.
Winning a key tournament on PokerStars’ yearly schedule – including the Sunday Million, Sunday Storm, MicroMillions, Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP), and World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) – will trigger a Platinum Pass in specified cases.
The first opportunity to win a Players Championship entry online begins with the PokerStars Winter Series, which runs from December 25 through January 7.
Randomized “chests” dispensed as part of the Stars Rewards program can also include a Platinum Pass.
Participants in the PokerStars Live series – including Main Event, National, Cup, and High Roller winners – will have their own chance to take home a Platinum Pass. The first prize packages were doled out at the recent PokerStars Championship Prague series, and the upcoming Italian Poker Open, PSL Macau, 2018 PCA, and PokerStars Festival London will all do the same.
In each case, Platinum Pass rewards carry a “must-play” provision, precluding players from amassing several packages and selling the surplus for profit.
In an interview with Frank Op de Woerd of PokerNews, PokerStars Team Pro Daniel Negreanu offered his take on the yearlong promotion:
“I’m super excited about the Players No Limit Hold’em Championship.
This is going to be an incredible experience for those who participate and everyone, no matter their skill level, has a chance to win a Platinum Pass.”
Negreanu also spoke candidly about the site’s underlying motivation for putting $9 million back into the poker economy:
“We want to make it different than every other poker tournament.
We want to roll out the red carpet and show a commitment that PokerStars hasn’t abandoned this community. We’ve had a tumultuous relationship of late, so with the changes that have happened, this tournament is one way to let people know we haven’t forgotten what our roots are.
This is a good way to do that. Like why would you not play this one?”
The “tumultuous” relationship Negreanu alluded to has included a series of policy changes undertaken since The Stars Group, formerly Amaya, purchased PokerStars in 2014. Those adjustments – which include downscaling “rake-back” promotions and introducing lottery-style poker games appealing to casino players – were designed to reduce PokerStars’ reliance on high-volume professional players.