21 questions online poker rooms should answer (part 1)

21 Questions Online Poker Rooms Should Answer (Part 1)

Inspired by a Bernadette Jiwa blog post entitled 21 Questions for Creators and Innovators, Lee Davy, tries answering them wearing the hat of an online poker room founder.

This morning, I received an email from the marketing genius, Bernadette Jiwa, called 21 Questions For Creators and Innovators and it’s21 Questions Online Poker Rooms Should Answer (Part 1) got the cogs whirring. As I search through the Internet looking for scraps of poker news like seagulls looking for castaway French Fries in a seaside resort, I wonder if the online poker rooms who so desperately vie for our attention, see us, hear us, make us feel loved?

So, as I look out across the veranda at the eagle soaring effortlessly in the bright blue sky, I’ve decided to take a look at Bernadette’s questions and share my thoughts when it comes to the online poker rooms adherence to them.

Before I begin, it’s important to explain that Bernadette believes that answering these 21 questions will bring a company closer to their intention.

Why does the idea matter to the online poker room? 

Why does it matter to the people they are trying to serve?

Let’s find out.

The 21 Questions 

1. What sparked this idea?

The answer to this question has to be at the very root of intention. Where did it all begin? Were you playing ping pong one day, babbling on about how to become a millionaire, and the idea to launch an online poker room came into your head in the midst of the backhands? Or did you decide to create an online poker room, because you could see that the rest of them had gotten intention wrong?

I’m assuming most online poker rooms emerge from the need to make money, and everything else dances to the tune of the balance sheet. I believe this is a mistake. It’s counter-intuitive, but the most valuable companies in the world lead with a much more profound intention to make a difference in the lives of the people who come into contact with their brand through millions of moments of truth.

2. What’s your motivation for starting this project?

For most online poker rooms, the motivation for starting the project would have been to make money. The problem with money as the motivating factor, especially if you are a publicly traded company, is you never reach a ceiling. There’s never a moment in time when someone says, “Right then. We’re making a $100m per year in revenue, that’ll do. It’s time to focus on the people.”

Phil Galfond is building an online poker room. Galfond isn’t a Bill Perkins, Dan Shak, or Talal Shakerchi. RunItOnce has to make a profit, but that doesn’t motivate Galfond. He doesn’t have that garage sale mentality.

The desire to build RunItOnce comes from the sheer frustration of his competitors not getting it right. And that disappointment comes from Galfond’s belief that they don’t understand the customer. I would prefer to play at an online poker room with a fundamental motivation to create a product that provides value for me, and not one designed to extract the maximum amount of money per hour.

3. Who is the ideal user, client or customer for the end product?

I only have to look at my email inbox to know the existing online poker rooms are not getting this right. Don’t get me wrong. If you’re running an online poker room it’s difficult to focus on a customer ‘type,’ and this is the case if you use demographics or psychographics as your yardstick.

Take PokerStars as an example.

Do you create an end product that provides value for professional poker players, or those that like to play a few minutes of Zoom while saying their morning prayers on the bog?

Trying to provide value for both is a right royal headache.

An impossibility?

I don’t think so, but it’s certainly a challenge.

I believe online poker rooms need to do a better job of understanding who the ideal customer is for their product. Building a product and then hoping people will like it is as frustrating as chasing a toddler around a swimming pool in case they fall in. Both include a lot of back-breaking work.

Understanding the ideal customer should be the first step. Only then should you create value, because it’s just at this point that you know what the value looks like.

Look out there, man.

Everyone is trying to do the same thing, pleasing everyone. A little bit of this for him, and a little bit of that for her. One day, someone will create an online poker room that sells nothing but the very best Omaha experience.

The emails I receive from online poker rooms reminding me of this or that new bonus go straight into the trash. They tell me that I am a number. That my wants and needs are being overlooked. That nobody cares. That my poker room is run by heartless, mindless robots.

4. Why will they buy into it?

This is a trust issue for me.

Most of the time, we use a product because someone has vouched for the integrity and quality. Word of mouth marketing comes from people who’ve placed their trust in a company and been taking care of.

People will buy into the dream if they trust you.

It’s for this reason that Galfond has to think long-term. He already has the trust of the professional, and semi-professional player base. But it’s going to take time for the word to spread to the recreational players that Galfond and RunItOnce are worth trusting.

There also needs to be consistency in ethics, morals, and message.

Once this wavers, so does trust.

5. Why do you care about solving this problem for these people?

Here’s one area where being motivated by money can help if that money is generated by people on the receiving end of value. If your drive comes from profit, and this ensures you solve people’s problems, then it could work.

But {and you know you should ignore everything before the ‘but’, right?}

Coming from a place where your intention and vision is to create an online poker room for the people and not for profit, creates a sense of camaraderie, trust, and togetherness.

If you believe the brand you choose listens and acts on your noise, then you are more likely to reciprocate by providing them with insight. If you are invisible, you give up, and by that time the brand has lost you.

To answer this question, you have to drive deep into the heart of psychographics.

What problems do they face?

What do they care about?

How does poker make them feel?

6. Why are you the person or team to bring it to life?

21 Questions Online Poker Rooms Should Answer (Part 1)You have to love poker to want to create an online poker room for the people. There is nothing more frustrating than people who love poker trying to explain their frustrations to people who don’t understand how they feel. Notice I didn’t use the word ‘game’ there. There is a world of difference between understanding the dynamics of the game, and the people who choose to play it.

If I were creating an online poker room, I would surround myself with people whose cells look like poker chips. Find these people, and you find passion. Witness that passion, and you develop trust, and compassion when things go little tits up, as they will.

7. Why this project and not something else?

It has to be love for the game.

I would also add, that it makes sense to focus on an area you excel. Take Galfond as an example, again. He didn’t immediately create an online poker room. Instead, he focused on an area he excels – coaching.

Galfond is a natural teacher and happens to be one of the greatest proponents of his art, a beautiful combination. Sprinkle a touch of emotional intelligence onto his IQ pie, and you have a guaranteed success.

Next comes challenge.

Galfond could remain at the tables, dragging in his millions, and using his RunItOnce monthly subscriptions as pocket change. But he is a driven man, and what more significant challenge is there in poker than to announce to the world that you don’t like the way online poker rooms are going about the business and that you believe you can do better.

Wouldn’t you want a piece of that?

8. What’s the end goal?

This question makes me think of the battle between instant gratification and long-term rewards.

If an online poker room’s end goal is financial, then doesn’t it follow, that there will be intense pressure (usually from people who know little about poker players) to hit that magical number year after year?

If there is a war between the annual balance sheet and the need to provide value to your customer, the balance sheet wins every time. Cutting costs to achieve EBITDA, when you have failed to grow revenue, is often needed, but you need to ask yourself how you got into this situation in the first place.

Thinking longer term, you can focus on providing the value, if you have the unwavering belief that in doing so the numbers make sense in the future. The burgeoning esports industry is an excellent example of this theory. Speaking at the European Finals of Alibaba’s World Electronic Sports Games in Barcelona last month, CEO, Zhang Dazhong told reporters that they were ploughing millions into the sport but didn’t expect to see a return for five to ten years.

One could argue that Alibaba’s end goal is to turn a healthy profit, but from what I read, it seems they intend to reach this end goal by providing value for their customers. 

9. What’s the first step?

The first step needs to be a greater understanding of the customer. Online poker rooms have not been great at this. The usual form is to solicit feedback through surveys that don’t ask the right questions and to focus on a core demographic that isn’t your most important one.

If I was establishing an online poker room, the first thing I would do is create a community. I would do this by creating a forum driven by the values that live in the guts, heart, and mind of my brand.

It’s during the interactions within this forum that I would learn who my customer is, build a rapport, and create something that solves the many problems that they face on a daily basis.

10. What resources do you need?

I imagine, when faced with this question, initial thoughts of the many point to tech. After all, running an online poker room is a complicated endeavour. There is the software, the cash transactions, the security of the money, and the legitimacy of the deal.

But the one resource I believe is sorely lacking in online poker, is someone like Bernadette Jiwa. A marketing and branding expert, who understands the power of building a brand through story, and not one playing a game of hanging the tail on the balance sheet.

Marketing is changing.

It has to, with the average American subjected to between 5,000 and 10,000 ads per day.

How do you cut through that noise?

You have to reach into the very essence of who your customer is and tell him or her a story that makes them feel like you know who they are, and what they stand for.

Read Part 2 here.