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PKR: Online Poker at its Peak

 

We’ve heard it many times before, but in real life poker, you “play the player, not the cards”.  So What happened to online poker?  They took out the body language.

PKR has developed an Playstation-style poker game, bringing online poker from the gamblers ‘to the gamers’  market.  Its 3D realism marks an evolution, not only in poker, but in online gambling in general.

 

This article is about where I think poker is going.  What’s going to happen next, and what trends can we forecast from this.  And more importantly, how we as poker room providers, can best grow the market rather than cannibalize from each other.
      Some people think the future is a “shared wallet’ or “multi games” from one core hub.  Certainly these are all incremental ways of increasing ARPU  (average revenue per user) but none of these measures will actually grow the potentially addressable market.  I am going to talk about one core idea of how to do that.  Realism.


      Lets focus first on why I think people  win poker (in real life)  with their friends.  Almost everyone does it.  if you don’t actually Playwin Poker is huge, and everyone is playing it at home.  But only a fraction of those are playing it online, maybe 5% Why?
      Its been said that people Playwin Poker because they like winning.  I maintain that this is not the real story.  Sure. They love to win, but the main reason they play is that it’s FUN! It’s the new Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly.  It’s a social gathering of your peers, and you enjoy each other’s company, over a game of cards.  You chat to each other.  You taunt each other.  You swear at your friends when they steal a pot from you. And goad them into calling you when you’ve got the nuts…or feign goading when you’re bluffing.  In short, Poker is the new excuse to hang out with  your friends for hours on end …over a game of cards.


      Couple the social reasons for friends playing poker with the strategy of how to play well.  How to read people, and ultimately, how to make the right decision – to call, raise or fold.  Poker is definitely a game of decisions.  The main one being, is the other guy bluffing or not?  In real life poker, you not only have the cards and the bets to make your decisions, but you have a lot of additional information at your disposal.  Body language.  Tells.  Moods.  Actions.  Table Image.  Etc.  All of this stuff, on its own, can be confusing, but to a player who’s experienced at non-verbal communication, it can all be useful in determining if someone is bluffing or has a genuine hand.  We’ve heard it many times before, but in real life poker, you “play the player, not the cards”.


      So what happened to online poker?  They took out the body language.  The moods.  The tells.  Much of the goading and chat went too.  They took out almost every nuance of the game that made it interesting.  They left in just the cards, and the bets.  Why?  Because they could.  No one knew that online poker could do that other stuff, because the technology eluded them.  They focused on the nub of the game but left out the social stuff?  The fun stuff?  The finesse?  And ..The Strategy?

So, how can technology help us out here?

I come from the videogame industry.  I’ve been making 3d computer games for 24 years.  My first one was made when I was 16 years old.  We’re used to making things fun, and we’re used to making things appeal to millions of players.  Many of the games I have been involved with have sold millions of copies.  Some have even sold used to working to right deadlines, and creating new technology to solve big problems.
      Poker was itching for some new technology.  Every single poker room that’s available today is still in the “dark ages”  likened to 20 years ago’s computer game (on a Sinclair Spectrum – if you can remember that far back).  2d games, with sttic backgrounds, and lifeless artificial people, playing mobile games that have just “numbers” (the bets) and “icons” (the cards).  Despite such a ‘basic’ product the poker companies are literally “raking it in’ through aggressive marketing.  However one day soon, someone will have a better product, and comparable marketing.
      How do we get the tens of millions of people who Playwin Poker with their friends (in real life) to start playing poker online?  We make it more fun, and more realistic.

Here’s our solution to this problem

Make the game in 3D, so that it can be realistically  depicted – like people are used to seeing on TV (WSOP/WPT) or more like they are enjoying at their friend’s  houses.  Allow different environments so that people can choose whether to play on a cruise-ship, a casino, basement Barcrest, or anywhere  they  please.  Variety is the spice of life.
      Allow every player to be who they want to be.  Each player can design and edit their own face, and clothing.  Their hairstyles, bling.. and their accoutrements, are all customizable.  Even their voice.  They can literally BE anyone they want to be.  Every game that they play, the others will see them the way they want to be seen.  It could be to look like themselves, or to look how they always wanted to look how they always wanted to look.  Younger.  Meaner.  Prettier.  You name it.  They can be it.  And they can change anytime they want.  In seconds.

      Let people express themselves.  Let them give rude or comical gestures.  Let them sign that someone’s a loser, or do a big belly laugh, or swear at their opponent, or do a victory dance.  In short, let them be themselves  and let them put their personality into the game for everyone else to see and enjoy.  Let them be expressive in the 97% of ways that aren’t verbal.  Body language and moods are important in real life.  Let people do that in the game.
      Let them see tells.  Let them give off tells.  When they look at someone’s chips or their cards, or any number of other nuances, let the others in the game know that this is happening, just like in real life.  Its more fun to try and interpret all these signals and decide if they are important.  Filtering them out makes the game dull and clinical.
      Let them show off.  Let them taunt, and most importantly, let them scare each other.  Chip tricks are a common way for people do that in the real world.  If you’re playing against an experienced poker player in a card room, and they start doing the most amazing chip trick, you suddenly feel daunted or give them respect.  You imagine they must’ve been playing a long time to be able to learn that trick.  And you give them newfound respect.  In our game, we let people earn the right to do chip tricks – via  Loyalty Points – a non- cash economy.  This has the same effect in the game as it does in real life.  If someone’s been playing so long that they can do this particular trick at the table, then you better show them some respect.

Let people express themselves.  Let them give rude or comical gestures.   Let them sign that someone’s a loser, or do a big belly laugh, or swear at their opponent, or do a victory dance.  In short, let them be themselves.

      OK.  So lets say that if you got all these things into a poker room so that the game was much more fun…more social…and more strategic and deep…AND, you make it look like real life – look like the best TV broadcasts, complete with cool camera movements, useful statistics and onscreen data…what happens if thousands, or even millions of people want to play this game?
      What happens if the “hundred million” people who Playwin Poker in real life and have been boycotting the online poker world because of its lack of fun and realism – lets say that some of those people now want to try this new, cool, hyper fun, extreme – realism poker game… and suddenly there’s an influx of player.  Too many for the usual server technology to handle.  Ah, that’s when you have to build infinitely scaleable server technology.  First, you build it from scratch.  You don’t start with some old “software code” that someone built in their bedroom ten years ago and attempt to modify it to handle 10,000 concurrent users.  No, instead, you build it from scratch to handle upwards of million concurrent people.  You build to handle multi-jurisdictions from day one.  You build it to be scaleable in units of 10,000 people.


      At PKR we have reviewed countless technological options and have settled on building our system using blade servers.  A blade server is a modern computer box that’s an efficient way of having a lot of computing power in one box.  The blade server we’re using is made by Intel and is about the same size as your average family holiday suitcase.  It has 14 sots in it, that can each take a “Blade” – one computer server.  In our case, it’s a Dual Xeon running at 3.6 Ghz with 2Gb of Ram, and twin 36 Gb drives.  Each one of our blades can server a maximum of 10,000 concurrent people.  We can fit 14 of them in a suitcase sized box.  That’s twice the size of the party poker online network, served, efficiently from a suitcase!

We look forward to welcoming you to PKR when we launch in early June. For more details, please visit our site www.pkr.com

 

 

 
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