Why Don't We Start Our Own Site?
The Monty Memorial Tournament did not go off as planned, thanks to a clusterfuck at Pacific Poker. After telling Iggy that all systems were go this very morning, they suddenly turned around and said that we couldn't play due to "technical difficulties". What those difficulties may have been we know not. Somewhere in Kitty Heaven there's a cat sharpening his claws, ready to scratch the karmic shit out of those folks.
The quality of customer service at most poker sites ranges from "ehh" to appalling. PokerStars seems to have a pretty good reputation, but everyone has their Party/Empire horror stories, getting the same formulaic emails as reply to the same question asked over and over again. And then you have tonight, when Pacific didn't have the wherewithal to accomodate 75 customers, many of whom were new to their site, and many of whom write about poker and are no doubt going to slag them for this infamy. If they can't be bothered to give decent service to us
, what about your run-of-the-mill low-limit player?
There's been a lot of stuff written lately about Dutch Boyd, and how he's trying to start up yet another online poker room. The difference between Rakefree (or Zerorake, or whatever it's called) and the other sites is that they don't charge a rake during each hand (but then you probably figured that out from the name, didn't you?). Boyd's idea is to charge players a monthly fee, instead of chipping out a bit of every pot.
I may get around to dissecting the business plan Boyd has posted on the site, but let that pass for now. What do online poker players look for in an online room? I think they want:
1. Vast numbers of fish playing at all hours.
2. A large number of tables, meaning you can play any game you want at any time.
3. A feeling of security, that they won't log on one day to find the site has shut down and the owners are held in a Venezuelan jail.
4. A reasonable rake structure.
5. An easy-to-use interface and graphics pleasing to the eye.
6. Occasional treats and gifts tossed their way (deposit bonuses, VIP points, etc).
7. Customer service good enough to promptly and accurately answer their questions.
I'm sure I'm missing a few items here, but oh well. But what can an online poker room do to make themselves as attractive as possible to players? They can't get thousands of people to play there on their own hook--the players either show up or they don't. To get them to show up, they can make their site more attractive than others, by improving the other attributes. They can upgrade their servers so they can offer lots and lots of tables, but without lots of players you don't need too many tables.
The sense of security is somewhat difficult to instill, since poker sites can't advertise and it's hard enough for even "legitimate" businesses to build goodwill. The rake is how the site earns its money, so while you can charge less of a cut than brick-and-mortar casinos, you don't have that much room to maneuver without killing your bottom line. Same thing with the deposit bonuses and givebacks--you can only go so far with them before they start killing your profitability.
The easiest, and cheapest, way that a poker site could differentiate itself is by offering tremendous service. Good customer service would keep current players happy, and would hopefully attract more through word-of-mouth. The better reputation the site gets, the more players will migrate to it, players both good and awful.
Good service gives players confidence that this is a well-run business, one that'll be around for awhile. Good service means it's less likely that players will up and move to another site that offers them a $25 deposit bonus, since they won't want to leave what is, to them, a comfortable place to play.
I haven't played at PokerStars for a long time, but I've heard their customer service is the best around. So why aren't they the most popular site? Why are there 50,000 people playing at Party, not Stars? That I don't know, but maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Maybe PokerStars has fewer players than Party, but is making a bigger profit. Party does offer lots of bonuses and jackpots and tournaments with serious overlays, so maybe the reason Party is hanging onto so many players is because they're giving their profits away. Not the way to run a successful business, not for the long haul.
How many of the 75 players who got screwed tonight are computer geniuses, IT gurus, or just your run-of-the-mill geeks? 70? 71? I'm not any of the above, but I do have a lot of experience dealing with customers and making them happy (or at least not plotting to firebomb our headquarters). Couldn't we band together, program a site, get it up and running, and take over the online poker world? Screw the Crew, let's beat Dutch Boyd to the punch and start our own casino. We'd have 75 players right off the bat, at least. Lots of good poker, an acceptable rake, and a quick answer to your questions. All we need is a few million in seed money. Greg Raymer, are you reading this?