Top 5 Poker Letdowns of 2015

TAGs: Alex Dreyfus, John Juanda, PokerStars, WSOP 2015

PokerStars battling with their VIP players; every online poker room for themselves; and the Black Friday style lines at the World Series of Poker – just a few of the biggest letdowns in poker during 2015.

Top 5 Poker Letdowns of 2015What were the moments in 2015 where the poker industry left you feeling as deflated as a fat man’s air mattress?

Here is mine.

1# PokerStars VIP Changes

I’m not disappointed that PokerStars decided the time was right to change their VIP program. As a publicly traded company that operates within the gambling business, you don’t need to be Nick Bostrom to understand the goal to make money ranks highly.

It’s the way they went about it that rankles me.

PokerStars middle management are operating with the horn of a rhinoceros up their ass. This rhinoceros is called Amaya Gaming. The decision to remove agreed upon rights from Supernova Elite players was a hard move. The piss poor communication materialised because the people handed the job of delivering it didn’t feel it was right. That’s my personal view taken from 20-years of living in the world of business.

Professional players continue to play on their site, not because they want to, but because they have no choice. It’s a sad indictment of a once great company. Their vision and values whiteboard is clean. There is one mark on it. It’s a dollar sign. The foundations are rotten. It’s only a matter of time before the walls come tumbling down.

2# Devilfish Fails to Make The Poker Hall of Fame; John Juanda Doesn’t Turn up

Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliott was a male chauvinist. He was uncouth; controversial and said things that would make you turn around to check your Grandma wasn’t around. But his role as a pioneer in the growth of poker shouldn’t be challenged. Neither should his ability during his pomp.

The Devilfish will one day make it into the Poker Hall of Fame (PHOF). It’s inevitable. I was criticised in some quarters this year when I suggested his immediate inclusion so his friends and family could celebrate his life so close to his death. I stand by that view.

The fact that he didn’t make it was not a surprise. The lack of non-American poker community members is becoming such a joke that even the Americans are embarrassed each year. The misery, mainly for the English, was compounded when John Juanda failed to turn up for his inauguration, because, rumour had it, the games were too good in Macau.

3# Online Poker Rooms Lack of Customer Focus

I am currently starting my own business. I am going through my learning phase. The smartest minds in the entrepreneurial space have a myriad of ways in which you can create the most fantastic products. They all have one thing in common. You need to understand what your customers pain points are before creating a product that takes that pain away.

I now realise that I can’t establish a product unless I know those pain points. I can’t understand those pain points unless I ask my customers questions. I need to figure out what it is that they want, and then build it. I cannot be arrogant enough to believe I know what is best for them.

I am a believer in the recreational poker model. Most of what I read makes sense to me. But as a member of all the top online poker rooms, I can tell you that I can’t remember a time when I have completed any survey of note that leads to the creation of a poker ecosystem that is right for me.

This lack of questioning builds mistrust. Now when an online poker company mentions the urgent need to fix an ecosystem that is failing, I believe they are only making changes to create larger profits. If they were changing the ecosystem to make the games more enjoyable to the fish, then why aren’t they asking this particular fish for his opinion?

4# No Cohesion in the Poker Industry

Fewer things have captured my attention more than Alexander Dreyfus’s vision to change the way people view our industry. I have been very vocal regarding my distaste at the choice of some of our poker sponsors. However, I recently tried to get a prominent health company affiliated with several poker outlets and they didn’t want to touch us with a barge pole.

Dreyfus knows this. He has done his homework; asked the right questions; mulled over our answers and came up with a series of new platforms to push poker out of the gambling niche and into the entertainment niche.

What has bothered me this year is the lack of vision from poker company leaders. I believe poker becomes more powerful if it unites. Dreyfus has the vision, but he could do with a helping hand. The World Poker Tour (WPT), World Series of Poker (WSOP) and European Poker Tour (EPT) are singular, powerful entities that could flourish if they worked together with Dreyfus to change poker’s image.

There was no sign of that happening during 2015.

5# The Queues at the WSOP

Even an industry as backward as the airlines understood a long time ago that their customers valued reduced waiting time. They reacted by automating as much of the process as possible. They took a leaf out of Toyota’s book, adopted Lean Principles, and started hacking away at non-value added waste.

The length of queues at 2015 WSOP were unacceptable; archaic even. Defenders of the WSOP point the finger at the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), and while they are likely responsible for the lack of automation, there was so much more the WSOP could have done.

I arrived on the eve of the Casino Employee’s Event. I stood in line for well over an hour. Everything I had to do once I reached the cage I could have done from the comfort of my home in the UK. The NGCB limit the possibility of that happening. What the NGCB does not control is the management of the process at The Rio.

One person was serving a line with over 50-people in it. There were five people stood idly at the Total Rewards desk, and several others managing the main casino cage with barely five people standing in line. Elon Musk recently sent a rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) and landed it. My wife’s Fitbit told her how long she slept last night when she got up to pee, and how many times she was restless. I am sure we can all register for a WSOP event without having to stand in a line.

Those were my biggest letdowns of 2015.

What were yours?


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