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Design Portfolio – Edge Loyalty Program

  • Alex 

‘Edge’ Loyalty Program
Full Tilt Poker
Q4 2011 to Q2 2012

One of the first things that I wanted to accomplish after I joined the Full Tilt Poker team in February 2011 was to revamp and simplify the loyalty schemes that the company offered to its players. When I joined, the loyalty program consisted of several diverse elements that had evolved over time, and were somewhat fragmented and distinct from each other.

The existing scheme consisted of:

  • The Iron Man Challenge, which rewarded players for playing on a regular basis. Unlike many other promotions, Iron Man didn’t simply focus on high-volume play, but also rewarded players for coming back to the site frequently, even if they only played a little.
  • Rakeback, which was a form of cashback promotion, with the amount of rakeback generally set at 27% of the net revenue generated by the player. Rakeback was enormously complex because of the non-transparent way in which revenue was calculated (with a complicated rake attribution mechanism and numerous deductions from the gross revenue). It was impossible for a player to reliably estimate their rakeback in advance because of these complications. In addition, rakeback was only given to players who had joined the site through certain affiliates, meaning that the majority of players did not have access to it. Rakeback was also the root cause of some common security problems.
  • Full Tilt Points (FTPs), which were a reward that players could spend on various items in a loyalty store.
  • Black Card, a relatively new promotion that rewarded very high-volume players with bonus points and other benefits, based on the number of FTPs they earned during a rolling 100-day period.

I felt that the many separate elements made the overall rewards scheme difficult to understand and advocated switching to a unified system based on rolling averages, like Black Card.

As we were planning to relaunch the Full Tilt Poker brand under the new ownership of Groupe Bernard Tapie in late 2011, we had a unique opportunity to change the rewards system, and so we began to design a unified system based around extending Black Card downwards. The system had to compete effectively against our anticipated closest competitors.

We identified several weaknesses in competing loyalty programs and aimed to address them in our own. The competing programs had several traps for players which could cause them to lose out on value – a common trap being that the system was based on calendar months and years, meaning that if you started playing late in the month or year it was much harder to qualify for a VIP status than it was if you started early. Since the majority of people are paid in the last week of the month and this is when most deposits are made, this meant that many players felt disenfranchised by such programs. We decided to base our own system around the rolling periods, which had worked well for Black Card and avoided this problem.

Another common trap in competing programs is that in order to get any cash for your play, you must spend the points you have earned through playing on cash rewards in the VIP store. If you spend your points on the ‘wrong’ items, you get significantly less cash value than you would otherwise. We decided to avoid this issue in our own program, by not requiring players to spend points in the store to get their cash rewards.

Our new system was divided into several tiers. To keep the nice aspect of Iron Man, where you could qualify by playing little and often or by playing a lot but less often, you could qualify for each tier in the new program by maintaining an average level of play over 7, 30, or 100 days.

Once you reached the appropriate tier, you would begin earning a cash reward which would be paid on a weekly basis – much like rakeback, except available to all players and without any deductions. The size of the cash reward varied depending on how much you played and your tier within the program, and you could track it in real time in the client as it accumulated. We were the first poker site to allow the player to choose the day of the week on which their weekly reward was paid, and the first to provide detailed tools allowing the player to measure their past level of play, and make projections about what level they would reach in the future.

My working title ‘Edge’ (which is a synonym for ‘advantage’ in poker terminology) was selected as the name for the program, with ‘Edge Reward’ becoming the name for the weekly cashback reward.

With Edge, we were actually able to increase the rewards on offer (the highest tier offered cashback of 25% of gross revenue plus FTPs, which was significantly higher than the 27% of net revenue offered previously) while simultaneously making cash rewards available to all players, and not just a select few.

I’m very proud of the product that Edge became – we made very few compromises to bring it to market*, and in my opinion it improved significantly on the existing Iron Man and rakeback systems while also competing effectively against the other loyalty programs in the marketplace.

More information:

*Some minor changes were made to Edge after my departure Full Tilt Poker was acquired by the Rational Group, but for reasons of confidentiality they cannot be discussed here.

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