Lee Davy sits down to talk to Lucas Hipkins, a contractor for Voidbridge Gaming Limited, to discuss the launch of a new Open Face Chinese Poker app from PokerAce.
If you cut Lucas Hipkins open; dice, chips, and all sorts of gaming paraphernalia will spill onto the floor.
Since leaving school with a degree in event management, Hipkins has been in the gaming business in one role or another his entire life. It started with a position in the family business: Mind Games, before a certain Joe Hachem changed things for him, in a big way in 2005, when victory at the WSOP in Vegas sparked a poker boom down under.
Hipkins fell in love with the game and soon found himself working as the European and Asia-Pacific Player Manager for Full Tilt Poker circa 2009. Black Friday was a particularly tough time for Hipkins because he found himself out of work, but he bounced back and has since been involved in several gaming projects, including his most recent working for Voidbridge where they have just released an Open Face Chinese Poker app.
Lucas, I want to start out by talking about your role with FTP. Firstly, how did you get the job?
“I actually met one of the guys who was working for FTP in the Aussie Millions in 2007. With my degree in event management I helped him organize a few events for the online qualifiers in Australia. He liked my work and I ended up doing some work for him in Vegas and then got a full time position in 2008.”
What was it like working for FTP?
“I loved poker and had been playing it all of my life. Then after the boom, in 2005, I got into it even more so it was an absolute dream job for me.
“I got to see the world, and met some wonderful people. I loved being on tour. I didn’t have a family or children, back then, and had an absolute ball. The days were long and a there was a lot of hard work but very rewarding nonetheless.”
Did you ever get the impression that there was anything-untoward happening during your time there?
“I definitely thought of the position as a long term job. I spent a lot of time around PokerStars people as well. We all seemed to be doing the same thing so there was no reason to feel that anything untoward was going on behind the scenes. It was a real shock when it all happened.”
“I met Ray twice, but both times were mere handshakes. I spent a lot of time with the other two in Vegas. I never looked at them as being my boss, but just someone I had to look after, like the other Full Tilt Pros. I had more dealings with Chris than Howard, who always seemed very busy, whereas Chris always seems to have more time for people. He would sign more autographs and pose for photographs with fans and things like that.”
Talk me through the first moments when you were made aware that FTP may be in trouble?
“I was in the UK actually. I was in an event at Dusk till Dawn and there were a lot of Chinese whispers going around that something was wrong. I didn’t really believe them at the time, then as the day wore on it became apparent that this was more than a minor bump. It was even more worrying for me because I was on the other side of the world, and about to embark on a two month European trip. Everything was up in the air and I was home 2-3 weeks after Black Friday.
“We were due to do a TV show in Cardiff, and it was supposed to be 10 episodes. We did two and then we had some problems getting money through. There was always this black cloud hovering over our heads about how we would get the money? The filming ended after four shows and I knew the writing was on the wall after that.”
When did you get laid off?
“I got a phone call. I was never an employee of FTP – I was a contractor. I actually missed the phone call, and rung her back and said, ‘this is the phone call I have been dreading right?’ I was paid up for the month and that was the last of it.”
How difficult was it going through that period in your life?
“It was tricky. We had decided at that stage that we were going to start a family, so my wife was pretty happy that I wasn’t going to be going away 2-3 months at a time. But it’s tough to leave that lifestyle. A lot of my best friendships were formed during those times, and when you see everyone at the WSOP you do wish you were over there.”
You are now working for Voidbridge Software Limited – who are they and what do they do?
“It’s a social gaming company. Free play. We do applications for iPhone, Android and Facebook. We have this new Open Face application that we have just launched called Open Face by PokerAce.”
Tell us a little bit about the product.
“It’s a free play game where you are playing against your friends. You log in via your Facebook account and your Facebook friends are all there. You can keep statistics on games so you can keep track of that and settle up at the end of the month. We can have up to 100 games open at any one time. We actually show the disc cards in Pineapple as well, which is nice, so it’s basically taking the best elements of a lot of different apps and combining it into one basically.
“It’s a completely free app with ads. You can pay $4.95 to get rid of the ads and that frees you up to play 10 games at once (the free version plays just one). If you want to get up to 100 games then you need to buy diamonds, and each diamond opens up a different games. So you can pay for extra features, but the gameplay is purely for fun.”
Sergey Rybachenko plays Open Face Pineapple for $500 per point. Now that’s some serious rake, is this just a test bed for a future monetary gaming experience?
“I don’t think so. I’m not working for Voidbridge – I am a contractor – so I’m not privy to everything behind the scenes, but as far as I know we are focusing on social gaming.”
Open Face by PokerAce is available for download in the iTunes stor and on Facebook.