Dear community, especially of course, dear Diamonds and Blackies,

The Black Member status, and the parties associated with it, are being reformed and will come into effect on 1st March 2010. These changes are not just in response to the feedback and the wishes of many VIPs, they are also being introduced for logistical reasons. One of the advantages of this change will be that a wider range of cities could then be considered for our Diamond events.

The ninth Black Member Event to be held in Munich in February, will remain as before, and all Diamonds and Black Members would be welcome to the event. Starting with the summer 2010 event, however, Diamond Events and Black Member events will be held separately.


From Black Member Party to Black Member Event

A quick review:
It all began in 2007, with the first Black Member party in Hamburg. Back then, the first dozen Black Members met for dinner, which was followed by a party. Several parties later, the event has evolved quite a bit:
• In addition to the Black Member Suit, members also started receiving a gift - a different one for every event
• Diamonds were included as guests from the third party onwards
• Better hotels were picked on each successive occasion
• Recreational events were introduced for the afternoons
• Eventually the event was extended to last 2 whole days – and so the Black Member Party developed into a weekend event.

The improvements were possible not least due to sponsors’ involvement in the events.

2009 saw the tempo pick up as there was a marked increase in the number of new Black Members. At the moment there are already over 130 Black Members, of which about 100 graced us with their presence in Berlin.

Although it’s been a success story so far, your feedback has also revealed some issues: Not only do some of you miss the cosier atmosphere of earlier parties the size of the event also forces logistical compromises, such as choosing a suitable venue.


Separation of Black Member from Diamond Events

All of this has led to the primary change at the core of our reform: from now on, the Black Member Parties will be separate from the Diamond Events.

Both events will continue being the quality events that you’ve come to expect, and by focusing on each group separately, we would be able to improve the individual quality of each.

What this means for the Diamonds:
• Wider pool of cities to choose from
• Location and programme can be customised to your wishes
• The focus will be on you as VIPs, at these parties

And for the Black Members:
• Hosting of more exclusive Black Member events
• Wider choice of parties, and so, concentrated focus on the quality of each specific party
• Most importantly, active Black Members will obviously also be invited to Diamond Events


This will result in you having the best of both worlds: there will be continued interaction between Black Members and Diamonds via some events, while Black Members will be honoured exclusively also, as their status dictates, in accordance with the wishes of our top players.


The various Black Member packages

For PokerStrategy.com these changes will result in some additional overhead:
• Planning costs will rise as a result of more frequent events
• Black Member Parties will be less attractive for sponsors – thus costing us more
• Black Members will gain significantly, as they will be invited to Diamond Events, as well as to Black Member Parties


As a result of the above, we are going to modify the criteria that differentiate between active and inactive Black members:

Package No. 1: Invitation to Black Member Party
Conditions
None.
The package includes:
• Invitation to the Black Member Party for you and your partner
• Access to the VIP area
• Free drinks all night
• Snacks
• We would be happy to receive you on Saturday afternoon itself, so that you can participate in our sponsors’ workshops


Package No. 2: Invitation to Black Member Party
Conditions
You must have earned 25,000 StrategyPoints within the three calendar months preceding the event*
The package includes:
• You and your partner are invited to stay for two nights including a breakfast buffet / brunch
• The Grand Dinner
• A gift
• Recreational events for you and your partner
• An invitation to the Black Member Party for you and your partner
• Access to the VIP area
• Free drinks all night
• Snacks


Extra: Travel expenses
Conditions for extra:
You must have earned 75,000 StrategyPoints within the last three calendar months preceding the event*
Extra
• $600 travel money into your promo account at PokerStrategy.com (cashout via Moneybookers is being worked on)

Special: Your first Black Member Event
If you’ve achieved Black Member status for the first time, you will automatically get Package No. 2, the invitation for the whole weekend. Additionally, we will take your measurements for a bespoke Black Member suit which serves as a visiting card for our elite club.

* - Example: If an event takes place between 23rd and 25th September, your eligibility will be based on activity during the calendar months June, July and August.


Why introduce new requirements:

As we have mentioned, the costs of Black Member Events has steadily risen. From a Party + Dinner, it has turned into a far more luxurious event, spanning an entire weekend.

What’s more, it’s going to be hard to recruit for exclusively Black Member events, not least due to their separation from the Diamond Events – ironically, it was the involvement of the sponsors that made the evolution of the event, from party to weekend, possible in the first place.

Unfortunately our income per StrategyPoint from high-volume players such as yourselves has decreased. This is the result of top-heavy bonus systems like at Mansion and the numerous Rake Races that we have recently negotiated. This was obviously the right decision with regards to your financial interest, but ultimately we as a business bear the cost, and that cost is becoming rather noticeable.

In order to lower the requirements for Package No. 2 we would have to cut out the second day and so compromise the quality of the entire event – this cannot be a solution, as per your feedback. The 25,000 StrategyPoints requirement bases itself on the criteria for Diamond members, and should be easy for a Black Member to achieve – we know this from the statistics of our 120 Black Members.

The same applies to the travel money: It is meant to support the cost of travelling, not serve as hidden rake-back. If you read our promo-policy, you will note that we want to be the best poker affiliate to our poker rooms, in terms of monetary rewards. This means that over and above the Black Member events and our other content and services, we also want you to have the best financial incentives.

Strict adherence to this policy has resulted in improved conditions for our most active players in the last few months. However, since all the Diamond and Black Members tend to rank the highest in these races, it’s also meant that we’ve little left over to finance our offerings.

While we barely had any rake races at the start of the year, they have definitely picked up in the recent past:

Month - Exclusive Rake Races (+ Top250)
January - $0
February - $0
March - $10,000 [Cake]
April - $0
May - $20,000 [Cake]
June - $4,000 [Everest]
July - $30,000 [888, Cake, Mansion, Everest]
August - $65,000 [Party, Titan, Everest]
September - $90,000 [Titan, Cake, Full Tilt, Everest]
October - $50,000 [Full Tilt, bwin, Cake, Everest]

With all poker rooms that allow affiliate-based rake races this will be a continuing trend. Also we will modify the rake races to suit your needs aided by the Top250 Promo.


What would the alternatives have looked like?

The alternative would have been to reduce VIP events to the level that we had initially planned and calculated. Those included:
• One day instead of two
• One third of total value
• Cheap hotels
• No Diamond Parties


We think it’s a much better solution to continue to host luxurious weekends for our active Black Members. The new criteria have been chosen in order to guarantee the financing of the events, while still being easy for any tracked Black member to attain.

This shouldn’t come across as negative – the separation of the events is essentially to the advantage of both Black Members and Diamonds, and fits the wishes of the latter. Nearly all Black members will easily make the cut and ensure that the quality of the events stays at the highest level.


Your feedback

Overall we hope to serve the needs of our Diamonds and Black Members better than before, to bring them together under one roof – and hopefully even delight some of our members. The reform would serve the interests of both, the new Black Members, as well as the “veterans”.

Please do give your comments on our work so far - we look forward to your feedback, and questions of any kind.