Wednesday, January 04, 2006

An Open Letter to the Poker Sites of the World

Now that I've covered 2005 ad nauseum, it's time to be a little more proactive and look towards the shiny, glittering future, with all its possibilities.

The Software

Here's the thing. At heart, poker players aren't hard to please. We'll put up with a lot of annoying shit, just so that we can get our poker fix in. This should be pretty apparent based on the fact that so many of you have buggy, poorly-designed software that's been jacked up literally for YEARS with no improvements.

So I'm not even going to go down that road. Fine, ignore us when we complain about your client stealing focus for no apparent reason. Continue to use clunky software that makes it difficult to get on waiting lists for multiple tables, because, Jebus forbid, we actually be able to quickly sit down and start paying you rake. Go ahead and implement a chat system that would drive even Koko crazy.

Whatthefuckever. You know what's broke yet you still won't fix it. You're right, we'll still play, so I won't even tilt at the GUI/client windmill.

Mixed Games and Poker Variants in General

I will, though, tilt at the windmill next to it. Ignore mixed games at your own peril. People are getting fed up with only HE, all the time, and I think that trend is only going to continue. This is a natural evolution when players hit a certain stage of their poker career, and not a fad or a one-time thing. More and more players enjoy and want to play mixed games and variants. This population of players will only increase over time.

There's absolutely no reason major sites shouldn't offer every poker variant out there, mixed games, dealer's choice, everything. Yes, I recognize the peril and danger in making changes to your client on the fly, in a live environment. In the end, though, it would be well worth it. And don't base the decision just because you monitor the traffic on the Badugi tables at Doyle's or Triple Draw at UB or the dealer's choice games at GamesGrid or Razz at FullTilt. If you build it (and promote it), the players will come. Hell, if you build it and offer it, the players will do the promoting for you.


While near-instant cashouts are nice, no one gets too upset if it takes a day or two. That's cool. But if you're going to accept my money instantly, with no further identification, then don't delay my cashout by requiring me to send you a scan of my driver's license, etc., or otherwise hold up my cashout for "internal review". The money was good enough for you to instantly take it from me, so it shouldn't require any additional scrutiny on the way out.

Yes, I understand issues with Neteller fees and transferring funds quickly in and out. I'm not talking about that. Not many sites delay withdrawls purposefully, but the few that do hold up cashouts for inexplicable reasons need to cut that shit out.

Rewards and Customer Retention

If you listen to one thing I say, listen to this next one. At the moment, none of you, not a single solitary site, is doing even a passable job as far as customer retention and loyalty programs go. You're all ignoring what motivates and retains players and are effectively setting money on fire, each and every day. The bulk of your customer loyalty efforts are offering bonuses for playing a certain number of hands, with a few hats and beanies that no one wants thrown in, here and there. That's pitiful. Really, really pitiful.

You have all of the data you need to offer an effective, attractive, PERSONALIZED loyalty program. Did you notice the emphasis there? The PERSONALIZED part?

Because here's the deal. Not everyone is motivated by the same things, even us greedy degenerate types. And here's the dirty secret. The fact that not everyone is motivated by the same incentives IS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE, and something you could capitalize on if you'd get your heads out of your asses.

If someone typically multi-tables 6 15/30 tables and is averaging 2BB/100 in profits, guess what, they're a damn good player that understands the score, as far as rake, rakeback, and all that jazz. Treat them accordingly. Proactively offer them either direct rakeback or equivalent rewards, such as trips to Vegas, high-end electronics, etc. Proactively engage them and treat them like a professional, whose business you appreciate and want to retain. Because they are. And you have the data to see that, without even having to ask.

(And understand that engaging customers doesn't always mean calling them on the phone. Many people vastly prefer email contact. If you insist on calling them on the phone, hire customer service agents that can clearly speak the native language of the recipient of the call.)

Let's say instead you have a rich guy who plays 30/60 and is absolutely terrible, blows tons and tons of money every month, but plays because he's loaded and enjoys to play. Offer him an all expenses paid weekend vacation to anywhere he wants to go in the world, or Superbowl tickets, or a choice of similar rewards. Don't offer him rakeback. He's not motivated by rakeback. You have all of the data to see this, without ever contacting him.

If you have a sportsbook client who lives in Austin and bets huge sums on the Longhorns every weekend, losing $20,000 over the course of the season, you're missing a huge opportunity if you don't offer them a couple of free Rose Bowl tickets, completely out of the blue.

If you offered people the chance to play 10,000 hands at $1/2 or above to get a free iPod Nano, would they do it? What if you'd already contacted them and knew they liked electronics and gizmos? If so, would they play 15,000 hands for the same Nano?

Single white males age 18-25 are motivated by completely different rewards than black women age 50-60. Residents of the state of Wisconsin are motivated by completely different rewards than a resident of Kazakhstan. Men are motivated by different things than women. Some people will accept (and welcome) tangible goods over cash rewards, even if the cash reward was actually greater, if they purchased the goods themselves. This isn't rocket science.

And don't even try to claim it would be a logistical nightmare. Because it wouldn't be. I'm only talking about implementing a personalized retention and rewards program that targets your highest value clients. Because you know exactly who they are and what they're worth. Let the casual players do their casual thing, without lifting a finger or exerting any energy or expense on them. If they step up their play and become more valuable, step up your own retention efforts. If they leave the site and cease playing at all, step up your retention efforts.

If you can't implement and manage a program like this yourself, then hire someone that can. Someone who understands and plays poker and knows what motivates people, and can mine lots of useful information from individual player activity on the site.

The best absolutele best advertising you can get is word of mouth, from people on blogs, conversations at home games, etc. What do you think might prompt people to gush positively over your site, that you offered them a $50 reload for playing 400 raked hands or that you sent them, completely out of the blue, a $50 retail gift basket at Christmas (which you likely only actually paid $20 for)?


WillWonka said...

Right On, Brother...

As usual, you are spot on.

Now, if only they would listen.. or better yet.. hire you.

Felicia :) said...

You continue to amaze me. I'm not sure whether you have been reading my archives, then coming back here to state things in a better fashion than I could, or if you are simply channeling my mind somehow.

At any rate, thanks for saying what I obviously cannot express correctly.

And as a black woman between 50-60, I say we need more jazz CD's in the rewards program ;)

Semi-Pro Poker Player said...

Excellent post (as always)!

And you know just that a well-constructed personalized loyality program would add more dollars to the poker site's bottom line than the current way of offering reload bonuses to general population and worthless merchandise rewards.

EN09 said...

Personalized?!?! After 1GR in rake Party sent me a hat!!! What more can a Donkey ask for???

Cut-Paste, fire the email off!

The Bracelet said...

The system as it stands right now is truly an abortion. You have captured that perfectly with this post.

As for me, a middle aged small Korean woman, I couldn't care any less for bonus money. I want free trips to Vegas so I can play Baccarat and Pai-Gow.

Unknown said...

If one site offered something like that, I'd play exclusively there.

I love poker trophies and free swag