A few months ago, the market was shocked by the announcement of a brand-new poker room led by Bryn Kenney and several ex-PokerStars staffers: 4Poker. In this exclusive interview, Heath Cram, Chief Operating Officer (COO), shares with us their strategy for success and what will be their unique selling points.
Recreating something that is so close to industry personnel’s hearts
Worldpokerdeals (WPD): What has been the 4Poker strategy to attract high-profile people in the industry?
Heath Cram (HC): The proposition of recreating something that is so close to industry personnel’s hearts – i.e., the PokerStars or Full Tilt Poker of old – has made it relatively easy for people around the industry to want to engage and take an interest in the company and project. I guess it is then a bit of a snowball effect, whereby having so many respected people in-house naturally leads to others being more curious and, in some cases, eager to join!
WPD: A quick search on Linkedin reveals over 70 people already working at 4Poker. Why did the company decide to have such a massive team before having an MVP?
HC: To set up a legitimate competitor to market leaders, it is simply not possible to do with just a few people, like perhaps a mobile app or social gaming start-up or even an online casino – where you are building so little in-house.
Building a proprietary poker offering and back-office platform simply requires more than just a few developers, so engineering makes up most of our pre-launch staffing.
We also can’t prepare for activities such as licensing without compliance and legal support. Operational coverage is also required if you consider planning for activities like Responsible Gaming readiness and all of our integrity and security readiness.
Interestingly, although almost 80 people have now been onboarded, we don’t carry a lot of surpluses. We have a two-person marketing team, a one-person Poker Operations team, and a two-person Payments team, so we are far from bloated, but all the same - in a good position with the level and quality of talent that has been hired to hit the ground running once live!
Our business model is different again to the likes of GGPoker
WPD: 4Poker's overview says, "once again, put the game and its players first." What's your vision about the current status of the industry?
HC: If I think of the broader industry encompassing sports betting and casino, the industry is certainly contracting, with the bigger companies consolidating and acquiring non-organically, thinking of the likes of Flutter Entertainment and Entain’s M&A activities.
Naturally, with such progress, we are expectedly seeing fewer notable players/competitors and more corporate operations that are a little more price and efficiency sensitive and perhaps more risk-averse in nature. I would liken this to online in general, whereby the likes of Amazon, Google, Meta, and Microsoft become so prominent in their field/s of interest, but I believe GGPoker has proven that there is still very much a place for a privately-owned challenger brand.
Our business model is different again to the likes of GG, so I would suggest we would be a second challenger to the more mature operators, which will be interesting to see play out and understand to what degree the appetite remains with poker players for our proposition.
Geographic availability is key to liquidity
WPD: In what "key pillars" (players, promotions, software, geographic availability, etc.) are the 4Poker team focusing during the development of the project?
HC: Of those examples, we have certainly focused on building a platform that will, in the future, have standalone value - that is robust, flexible, and easily able to scale - but beyond our software, would suggest that Geographic availability is key to liquidity.
We will launch in 166 territories with the goal of building a strong global base before expanding into other licensed jurisdictions.
There will be many of the world’s biggest markets for poker that we can’t go live in from day 1, but there will also be many others that the likes of PokerStars, PartyPoker, and 888Poker are not so interested in offering anymore.
WPD: How is 4Poker learning from other projects like Run it Once Poker that, although offered an exciting product, unfortunately, had to shut down due to low traffic?
HC: The fact you mentioned "exciting product" is philosophically the biggest difference. We will not be the best product from day 1, or even year 1, but we will offer a clean and clear, transparent experience with the best pricing, best rewards and give poker players an environment to chase that poker dream once again because winners are welcome at 4Poker.
Our focus is not to cross-sell players into casino or other products but to facilitate a fair, rewarding game.
We’ve learned many things from Run It Once and even took on a full case study to make sure where we invest both our time and money is different. As mentioned previously, liquidity is king, so we will constantly look at both geographical reach and running an attractive core product (e.g., Poker Series with High Guarantees) rather than gimmicky new products or loyalty schemes.
I believe the attractive USPs that Run It Once had were simply not enough to cover the fact that player churn outpaced acquisition. We will be locally targeting regions, not only through brand ambassadors but player and payments agents, to give ourselves the best chance of having games running at all times that players want to play.
We would like to thank Heath again for sharing his thoughts with us, and we look forward to the room's launch.
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