Poker Pro MJ Bernstein's Blog
* Below you will find a slightly edited version of my original post. I'm certain that the intended point, which I firmly stand by, will not be lost on any of you.
In the 90's it was the .coms feeding the Nasdaq and in 2000 we saw the beginnings of a blooming real estate driven economy. Although both ended with busts, individuals that got in early became wealthy. This is capitalism at its finest and a testament to the genius of former CEO of Pepsi/Apple, John Sculley, who once said, "the future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." This is a true enough maxim that has been proven right again and again throughout history. What I wonder is why people still don't take cues from the past in order to formulate a path for the future. Once again a sentiment reiterated adinfinitum, but to how large an audience? Not too sizable as you will see.
Let's go micro as it applies to poker. Rewind to 2003 when Chris Moneymaker took down the WSOP. Chris's win opened the door for poker's rapid expansion, in particular the growth of online rooms and televised poker. Companies like WPT, Party, Paradise (and later FT and PS) were out there from the beginning paving the way for the poker world as it exists today. The problem, which some will argue lead to the leveling of our industry, was over saturation from some less then reputable companies looking to make a quick buck and the ridiculous UIGEA regulations. We have had some attrition over the last two years -the market has slowed considerably- and I suppose a lot of that is behind us although we are all (go PPA) still fighting to get these laws overturned. Withstanding the above, the tragedy to me is that some people are still trying to come into the market so late in the game. You would think that at this point they would have at least something fresh to introduce. You would think, but you'd be wrong. A prime example of this are some recently launched poker skins.
Does anyone remember Pamela's room? A skin off of the Doyal's Room network, Pamela's room was set up to capture a bigger stake in the predominantly male poker market; In other words, they tried to combine sex with poker. In most cases, this kind of set-up works and I could easily site any number of examples. In this instance, however, the market was already too far along. Players were more interested in keeping their money on Doyal's main site or some of the other larger sites which were viewed, in part, as more reliable and having a more varied game selection and/or larger tournament crop to choose from.
Fast-forward to 2009 and you find more poker network skins coming onto the market, promising increased customer service benefits and more player oriented tournaments and bonuses. Unfortunately, for the skins that is, these aren't the ingenuities people are looking for and it's evidenced by any number of negative 2+2 posts. Forums like 2+2 are the epicenter for the online poker community's information exchange (AKA customer base) and the feedback just hasn't been good. The ironic thing is that given the fact that these skins operate within an industry that is sometimes plagued with scandals, you would think that increased player service offerings would make these sites and players natural allies. But, it just isn't so.
Now, I'm not picking on any site in particular because I don't like them. On the contrary, I'm sure these sites are run by fine groups of people. Rather, I'm spotlighting prosaic platforms which, in my opinion, should have never come to market to begin with. The inherent problem with the "idea" of these networks is that they are simply pedaling a product which has already run it's course. At this point, it's going to be overwhelmingly difficult to recapture a piece of the market by offering a would-be improvement in customer service. I mean, the idea strains credibility to begin with. How could you possible offer comparable, let alone better, services to that of your competitors when you have a fraction of their resources? Do you know how massive some of the online sites have become? They're titanic. Their revenue streams could be quantified in the neighborhood of astronomical and that, my friends, yields far more in the way of money for advertising, customer care etc. Yes, you can make the argument of "smaller shop = individualized service" but, if you believe what you read, that's not what has been provided to date.
Moving forward, now that we've covered market scope, it's not particularly difficult to assess motivations. With billion$ of reasons in tow, you have an idea why many would-be operators rush to market looking to get their piece. The problem is that this type of "nothing new" business model is just not sustainable and I think everyone should know better. Put it another way, when people stand on the shoulders of geniuses, they tend to fall off. I think the takeaway here is that whether it's flipping houses two years ago, or online rooms popping up all over the place looking for a quick buck, it's pretty safe to say that you've reached the end of a market. If there was ever a time to find gaps in the poker industry, it's now. Things have tightened quite a bit and attaining a standard for niche innovation may be the only hallmark for future success.
I will end with this:
Last month I was reading an article in Fortune Magazine. The article detailed the plight of a fledging online startup which, after many "back to the drawing board" sessions, finally came up with a successful model. When asked what his recipe for success was, the CEO simply said that he never married himself to any one idea and that it took several revamps before they found a winner. He also said that many times people get stuck on their original concept not realizing that the market will not support it.
With that, I hope everyone can look at this post as constructive criticism. Thoughts contained herein are simply that and I am not attacking anyone personally. As players, we just want to see meaningful product in the market. I'm not certain of the fate of any of these skinned sites, but if history is anything to go by, it just doesn't look good.
* Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments
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