Exclusive interview with WPN's CEO Phil Nagy: bots, HUDs and prospects
Founded in 2001, the Winning Poker Network has turned the idea of hosting online poker games for US residents into the largest networks serving the US and other countries. In the past ten years, led by Phil Nagy, the network jumped from the 46th position to the top ten in terms of traffic. In this interview, Phil shares with us his roadmap, and plans for fighting bots among other things.
Worldpokerdeals (WPD): Hello Phil! We really appreciate you for taking the time for this interview. Tell us something more about you, how old are you, where do you live?
Phil Nagy (PN): I’m 46 years old and have worked over 1/3 of my life in the gaming industry (wow I’m old), I live with my wonderful wife and 2 children (7 and 4 years old) in Costa Rica.
Phil and his family sharing an amazing meal
WPD: For how long have you been the WPN's CEO? What was your strategy for taking WPN from the 46th position to the top ten in terms of traffic?
PN: Well, the short answer in terms of my history is that in late 2010 I took over the Yatahay Network and in 2012 we rebranded it to the Winning Poker Network, because let’s face it, winning is always more fun.
In terms of my overall strategy from the beginning? Well, I didn’t reinvent the wheel. It was proven in the industry that if you offer big tournaments that it attracts players. We’ve made it a point to constantly push the limits in our guarantees and selection of tournaments, and that was key to growing our poker network.
WPD: What do you think about the bot problem that most poker networks are facing right now?
PN: By most networks, I’m assuming you are talking about the ones that admit there is a problem. Most operators aren’t doing that. Let me give you an example as to why I believe this is the case. If any online gaming site discovered there was a bot that could beat their Blackjack game, that operator would throw every resource possible in making sure they solved that problem.
But the reality is that bots don’t beat the house, they beat players. Beyond that, they create rake and fill seats that poker sites need to create critical mass. Fighting them and creating a fair gameplay environment is also extremely expensive for operators.
So, it really becomes a question of ethics, and what kind of company it is that you want to run. I need to sleep at night, and we’ve committed to making the Winning Poker Network the safest online poker site to play at, and we are in the process of attacking this problem.
WPN headquarters view
WPD: Artificial intelligence (bots, automated seating scripts, GTO tools, etc.) is perhaps the most significant risk for the future of online gambling. How is WPN preparing to face these problems in the short-term?
PN: Head on:
- Step 1: Admit that these things are a problem. They are.
- Step 2: Start talks with the poker community currently supporting the business to find the best/fastest ways to find and beat the problem.
- Step 3: Commit the resources necessary to both refund affected players and improve security that is sustainable so we can continue the fight for as long as it takes.
WPD: In the future, will we see HUDs banned on WPN?
PN: Banning HUDs is not in our plans at this time.
WPD: What are your prospects for online gaming in the USA in terms of regulation?
PN: Well, believe it or not, I am a big proponent of U.S. regulation, but in the current structure and growth rate, I don’t see much hope for its success.
WPD: What is the WPN strategy for expansion? Does the network have plans to venture into other markets like Spain, Colombia, China, or still focus on the U.S. market?
PN: I think in order to grow you have to look into tapping into as many markets as possible. For many markets processing money is a huge issue, which is one of the reasons why we’ve invested a lot of time and money setting up our poker site to take over 60 different cryptocurrencies.
WPD: The Venom is guaranteeing $5MUSD in July, which is a fantastic number for the US market. It should have been risky even to mention the project. Why did WPN decide to take a chance with such a big event?
PN: Poker is only good if it’s big. Four or five years ago when we announced our first $1,000,000 GTD tournament everyone said we were crazy, to date we’ve now run about 25 of them. If you want to grow, you have to take chances and give the players what they really want. A $5 million massive event where the winner gets a guaranteed $1,000,000 is appealing to every poker player around the world, and something that everyone can get behind.
WPD: WPN is the biggest network working with cryptocurrencies, what are your thoughts about the future of the crypto market?
PN: We think it’s going to revolutionize how people send money around the world. When we first started taking Bitcoin back in 2005, it accounted for roughly 2% of our overall business. Fast forward to today, and it now accounts for 60%. I know what it’s done for our business, and what it will do for others. It’s just getting started, we are at the forefront of a payment revolution.
Players testing the new WPN software
WPD: We have tested the new WPN software, it works smoothly and looks great. Besides Blitz Poker, are there other formats coming to WPN in the future?
PN: Our main priority is to see that the transition over is smooth with all of our current products. That being said, the move to the new software will allow us to develop games, promotions and new formats ten times faster than we ever have before, so be on the lookout for lots of good things to come in the near future.
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