Lee Davy sat down to talk to two of the minds behind the new online poker site: LGBT Poker; designed to create a place for communication and fun in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.
Are you a member of the LGBT community who wants to play poker without fear of being judged? Or do you just want to play, have fun and meet other members of the LGBT community?
If so, then you are in luck.
LGBTPoker is the newest kid on the online poker block, and two of its creators: Shalva Tsibadze and Kim Alexander agreed to sit down with me to talk about their vision for an online poker playing LGBT community.
What was your original vision?
“When we think about the LGBT community we think about family. So we were thinking about how we could create a family atmosphere? We have been looking at some of the online gambling monsters that are out there and we were thinking that it’s somewhat like a closed room. Where somewhere in the basement you are playing and everything is orientated towards gambling.
“We think we have found a solution through the private chat areas and webcams. If you try our poker software you will find that it’s a very friendly atmosphere. Guys can meet each other, introduce themselves and create communication between people. We are trying to involve more of the LGBT community into poker.”
What have been your biggest challenges?
“The biggest challenge was to create our own poker room. We have our own software, which was pretty hard to make. Then we wanted to do something new so we created the private chat area and our webcams. This means people could have more fun playing poker, meet each other and communicate with friends whilst playing. This was our biggest challenge for us.
“After that the marketing was also very difficult. Advertising in the gambling industry is something that is really hard these days. We are surrounded by some monster sites such as PokerStars, Bwin, William Hill and many more. Our direction is to aim at the LGBT community. It’s really hard to promote gambling, whether it’s LGBT or not. That’s another challenge for us, but we are trying really hard.”
It’s such a shame that there are so few openly gay members in the poker community, otherwise you could have reached out to them to help promote your site. The two highest profile members: Vanessa Selbst and Jason Somerville are both contracted to other sites for example.
“We tried to communicate with them but there has been no answer from them. I guess this is a contractual issue. We would really have liked to make something big together. It’s not just about gambling or money. It’s about creating something for the LGBT community, so it was meaningful for us to reach out to them.”
Why do you think we have so few openly gay members of the poker playing community? Is poker just a microcosm of life in general?
“We are trying to get to the community that maybe hasn’t come out yet, or hasn’t tried poker yet. We have to all agree that the LGBT community is a minority. You only have to see what is happening in Russia right now as an example. We are just trying to create something new for guys who have maybe not come out yet.
“This is our goal, and our big hope, that we could create a site where players would feel comfortable. There are many countries where I am sure many players have not come out as gay yet. We are giving them a platform to speak, and play in their own community without being judged. This is our big hope. Giving players an opportunity to integrate in this big poker world.”
Is liquidity going to be an issue?
“This community is not going to be very large. A lot of people are going to know each other very well after months of playing. This is not going to be a monster company where millions of people play. This will make it easier to communicate and open up to each other.
“The best thing we like the most is the people who are playing right now already recognize each other, and they play more to continue those relations, and this is our goal in action. The new players will come I am sure.”
Do you have any plans to move into real money gambling?
“We are currently in communications with some Italian associations and are in a process of gaining all of the documents ready for licensing. We are not really working on the money thing right now though. We are introducing the product to people and are curious if they are going to like it. At the moment the feedback is good. If we introduce the money aspect we will not remove the fun aspects of the game. We have a lot of people who are not interested in the money and just want to use the site to meet people.”