Full Tilt experience a blip in traffic numbers after making wholesale changes towards their recreational player model, but it’s all part of the plan according to Dominic Mansour.
Online poker rooms are plagued with the same old question, “How can we get poker players to like us and play on our site? I think they should be posing a different question, “Why should poker players like us and want to play on our site?”
Don’t ever tell your kid that winning isn’t everything. That’s a crock of shit. It’s biological. Winning stirs the alchemy of feel good chemicals that see you bouncing along like Tigger, not dragging your chin on the ground like Eeyore.
If you don’t win then you lose. If you feel great when you win, then life sucks when you lose.
My introduction to online poker was playing cash games on partypoker. The World Poker Tour (WPT) grabbed my initial attention, and a game in my local pub extended that. I deposited money on the site. I lost it all. I deposited some more. I lost it all.
Each time I lost, my enjoyment deteriorated. It became more about fixing the problem rather than enjoying my time on the site. I moved to Full Tilt Poker. I deposited some money. I won. Then I won some more. I kept winning. I was happy. I loved this site. Then I lost. I lost some more. I lost it all. I deposited money I didn’t have. I lost that to.
Someone told me that PKR was soft. I deposited money. I won. I won again. I built up a decent bankroll. I remember looking forward to my days grinding at PKR. I was having fun daily. Then one day we had a disagreement. Like a petulant child I removed my money vowing never to return.
I don’t play cash games online anymore. I lose all the time. I don’t enjoy them because of that. There is a hierarchy in the world. Pride. I want to be better than everyone at everything. It’s not a conscious matter. It’s sub-conscious. I know this because I feel this.
Back to my initial question:
“Why should poker players like us and want to play on our site?”
This is like a pizza with many toppings, but I feel the tomato sauce and base is having fun and not losing a lot of money. I think the two of them are inextricably linked. Like fish and chips. I used to watch the world of online poker through a red, white and black haze. I would like to go back, but I would like these two problems solved first.
I like the approach that Full Tilt has made. They removed heads-up matches and nosebleed stakes, they increased minimum buy-ins to 40bb, and introduced a 30-minute clock limiting the number of table swaps. They were like a young woman wearing too much make up. We will soon see the real beauty as they take a piece of alcohol soaked cotton and wipe it all off.
Whilst it’s true that cash game analytics have noted a decline in traffic, it’s nothing to be unduly worried about. The mission is to provide fun and enjoyment to the recreational players who are finding that fun and enjoyment elsewhere. A drop in traffic is all part of the strategy to get from A to Z.
I reached out to the architect of this new design, Full Tilt’s Managing Director, Dominic Mansour, and this is what he had to say:
“Full Tilt has removed a number of different games. Our focus remains on creating a healthy economy, one with a smaller skill gap. Some declines in traffic were inevitable and expected in the short term. We’re aggressively implementing changes and in order to return to growth we are expecting a short-term decline in cash game traffic. In the long-term, we believe that the ring game changes will make play easy and accessible, and level the playing field for players of all poker skill levels.”
It’s important that people believe in Full Tilt’s new story, but that cannot happen unless Full Tilt give you something to believe in. The level of action that they took provides trust and belief that they are deadly serious about achieving their mission. That’s why they took a chainsaw to the lobby redesign and not a pair of scissors.
There was a time when everyone was in such a rush. The current vogue is mindfulness. Eckhart Tolle is cited as being as inspirational as Elon Musk. Chill the fuck out seems to be the new motto of life. The smartest companies recognize this. They chill the fuck out, they take a stranglehold on their focus, quick wins are thrown into the bin, and value is everything as they take their time diligently figuring out how to solve their customer’s problems.
How do we provide enjoyment, and ensure that people don’t keep losing all of their money?
When I put a £20 note into a slot machine, I am not expecting to win. I have hope, but no expectation. The sense of anticipation I get generates a buzz. I know the worse case scenario is that I lose £20. It’s highly doubtful that all my spins will turn to shit. I will win some, then lose some, and ultimately lose the lot. I walk away happy.
How do I feel when I play online poker?
How do I want to feel when I play online poker?
If everyone is far superior to me then I will lose my money. The difference between poker and slots is gladiatorial. It’s about annihilation, me versus the world. I want to play these suckers like a trombone. When I lose I feel like a mug.
Make me the hero, but do it in an authentic way. Help me feel like a winner. If I feel like I stand a chance, if the environment isn’t as threatening then I will enjoy the experience. I might even come back.
So overall I like Full Tilt’s vision. The blip in traffic was inevitable. Now think forward to a utopian future when the site’s mix is 95% recreational players. How much fun will that be?
I will leave this little rant with one word of caution.
“In a crowded marketplace fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.” Seth Godin.
When Jonas Odman first introduced the Recreational Player Model back in the days when people were walking around with Walkman’s, his model stood out, so much so that people threw sticks and stones at it.
Today, the penny has dropped. Everyone is creating the same thing. They are fitting in. This doesn’t work for me. Shouldn’t someone be zigging whilst everyone else is zagging?
What else are we missing?
Who is going to find it first?
Will it be Full Tilt?