Full Tilt’s New Black Card

Exclusive VIP program brings curious changes to rakeback game

by , Oct 4, 2010 | 12:00 pm

For those of us that like to eke out every percentage point of value out of VIP programs/Rakeback/dumb fish, Full Tilt certainly made an effort to change the game with the Black Card system. But is this really good value for poker players? Lets find out.

Before we can even talk about black card, there were two other changes to Full Tilt’s system that are worth mentioning. One is the change to how points are gained within Full Tilt. Before, you’d get 7 FTPs per $1 of tournament rake and 1 FTP per $1 of cash rake. Now, the value has been increased from anywhere to 10-500% depending on how you play. You now get 10 FTPs (up 43%) per $1 of tourney rake, and anywhere from 1.1 in Full Ring, through 1.5 for 6-max, all the way up to 5 HU FTPs per $1. This increase makes it obviously easier to gain Black Card status or the Iron Man status of old, and there certainly isn’t a problem here.

Where things start getting murky is how FTP has changed rakeback. In the past, you basically could have played like an uber-nit and let the fish give you 27% for every dumb hand they played in the dealt system. Now, they have moved to the “weighted contribution” system, which essentially means you only get rakeback for the rake you put in the hand. Much anger has been spewed on 2p2 over this, but in reality this system is technically the most fair of them all.

Think about it: rakeback pros no longer get a percentage of your rake for all-in hands you take with fish, and conversely if you fold pre-flop with 72o you shouldn’t feel entitled to rakeback if things get crazy at the table. That said, the fact the rake percentage hasn’t changed is a little problematic, as people will in general be potentially getting less than usual, which is going to hit at the nerves of many players. They are still shelling out the same amount of money, just now its only for the people that deserve it, and for some that still isn’t fair.

So more FTPs but a rakeback system that may or may not give you more money, how does this fit into Black Card?

Black Card, in essence, is Full Tilt’s answer to Pokerstars Supernova. In order to get and maintain this new VIP level, you have to have a 500 FTP point average across 100 days of play. Once you get on Black Card, and you fall under, you do have 50 days to work your average back up, so its not like the second you hit 499.9 per day you are done. The grabs are that you get 2x the FTPs, and you get additional bonuses that do not hit MGR as hard as they would in the regular FTP store. You get hit rakeback-wise for actually clearing the bonus, but you wont get double-charged for spending the points as well. They have other things too, such as 3D TVs and luxury cars, but realistically if you want to get the most value you’re only going to go for the cash bonuses anyway. Iron Man Plus is a casualty of this new system (no sense in giving extra medals when you have an entire new system built for those people), but it seems like they at least replaced it with something decent.

So the big questions are: is this a viable SN/SNE alternative, and what does Pokerstars have to say about all this?

Well with regards to the first question…no, it’s not. At least not if you are already a supernova on Stars. If you have any change of getting Supernova this year, its also not for you. The rakeback equivalent with 27% RB + Iron Man + Black Card varies depending on who you ask and what mood that player is, but the range is anywhere from 0-44% (yea, that 0% isn’t a typo). The problem with the Black Card system is that they simultaneously changed the rakeback to a system that doesn’t favor tight play, and if anything encourages people to play more so they can get rakeback (the paradox of the rakeback pro playing hands is noted). Supernova is still just plain better. If you AREN’T supernova though, and have no expectation of getting it, and you are a regular Gold Star or Platinum Star, and you can get rakeback, then Black Card may be for you. The rakeback equivalent for those players is generally the same as what you get in plain rakeback + Iron Man from Full Tilt, and if you tick up the volume just a little bit the likelihood of hitting black card is high.

So, what is Stars doing with all of this? Well, they increased the VPP generation at their microstakes tables, which is nice…I guess. But also they made all cash bonuses purchased on the site instant as opposed to having to clear them. This would be better news…if it wasn’t already pretty well assumed you were going to clear the bonus anyway if you were SN/SNE. I suppose it helps out the lower tier players more than the Supernovas, and if you are trying to avoid attrition amongst your Gold and Platinum level players this is a good place to start. Just as well, these don’t seem like colossal changes, and it may be part because Stars overhauled their program at the beginning of the year, and part because they might not feel threatened by Full Tilt’s changes.

I find it really hard to say that Black Card is a good deal. Its too early to tell, but the changes to the rakeback system and the fact that you still have to take rakeback hits for clearing BC bonuses make it a tough sell, and in some cases the last straw for Full Tilt players (warning: hyperbole galore in the preceding link). In the coming months as Full Tilt tweaks its new system, it might become better value, but if you were on Stars before you are still on Stars now, and rakeback warriors might  be making the transition to Stars as well. In the end, its hard to say that Full Tilt came out ahead here. At least you get a fancy black card for getting in the program, which totally blows Pokerstars out of the water…right?

2 Comments to “Full Tilt’s New Black Card ”

  1. JamesDaBear

    Some non-sponsored online pros might also like the Black Card getting them access to Fult Tilt’s suite at the WSOP.

    To me, this might be a little more fair for the rakeback players who actually play rather than just nit it up to rack up FTPs, but it sure seems like FTP just keeping more money for themselves and not giving a whole lot of it back.

    This could be a good thing for the tournament players which are getting a boost in the FTP bonus. Might keep some more action there.

  2. Deco

    “They are still shelling out the same amount of money”

    This is untrue. If everyone had rakeback you would be correct in this assumption. This is not the case. The new rules mean that the player that benefit most will be the fish. Fish generally don’t have rakeback so this extra money the fish would have been getting is just being kept by FTP.