The opportunity to work with WPT Global was unique
- Worldpokerdeals (WPD): Hello, Mr. Scott. We appreciate the opportunity to talk to you again. The last time we spoke, you were the Managing Director of the Poker division at MPN, but shortly after that, you switched to the tech industry. How do you feel about returning to the online poker world?
Alex Scott (AS): I was enjoying my time in Fintech, learning new skills and a new industry. I always thought I’d return to poker at some point, as it has long been a passion of mine, and I still intend to leave a legacy behind in this game. To be honest, I didn’t plan to return to poker this quickly; however, the opportunity to work with WPT Global was so appealing and unique that I couldn’t turn it down!
- WPD: How different is the tech industry from the poker one?
AS: I often found similarities between the poker industry and the tech role I was working in. My previous role was in the investing industry (stocks, commodities, crypto, etc.), and there are many similarities between investors and poker players. Successful investors and poker players tend to have a similar mindset and believe that by learning, working hard, and putting in the hours, they will be rewarded in a very competitive field. Investors and poker players must both control their emotions and avoid being results-oriented. Both must carefully manage their bankroll or investing capital.
I also worked a lot on cybersecurity, a subject that has always fascinated me and which has a great deal in common with poker game integrity. Both are a constantly-evolving arms race between hero and villain, with a lot of money at stake!
Partnership with a major Asian operator
- WPD: Now, let's talk about WPT Global. What drew your attention to this new project?
AS: Over the years, I have seen many poker startups, but almost all disappeared without making much of an impact. Typically these startups underestimate how challenging it is to get off the ground - to develop software, attract players, prevent fraud and cheating, deal with regulatory complications, fend off competitors, and so on - all while turning a profit! But the bigger challenge - the most important challenge for long-term success - is how to differentiate yourself in a crowded, red ocean market.
WPT Global has a strong, unique proposition which I think gives us an excellent chance of success. Firstly, through our partnership with a major Asian operator, we already have an extremely large cash game liquidity pool.
Secondly, our games are really, really fun! Besides some unique innovations that improve game fairness and give recreational players a better chance to win, which I’ll come to later, we have fun features like bomb pots and straddles. Our software has a fresh, modern UI. We have the WPT brand, perhaps the best-loved brand in poker.
Finally, we have an amazing team that combines expert poker players with professionals experienced in eGaming, data, and tech.
- WPD: Is there any roadmap to add new games to the WPT Global lobby?
AS: Yes, we have a very ambitious roadmap, which includes some new game varieties and things you won’t have seen before. But we are keeping it to ourselves, for now!
I think WPT Global proposition solves poker’s biggest problems
- WPD: What measures is WPT Global taking (or planning to take) to protect the poker ecosystem?
AS: The WPT Global proposition was so exciting to me because I think it solves poker’s biggest problems. For me, these problems are:
- GTO software and real-time assistance: I am very concerned about the potential of GTO to be used in real-time to assist players. I know that software exists which can look up situations in pre-solved databases, and even software that calculates situations on-the-fly is becoming fast enough to use in real-time in some cases. In the past, software like this killed online backgammon, and it’s also why chess and rummy are rarely played online for big money.
- The learning curve and skill gap: The typical new player has very little chance to win or even enjoy themselves because they will be playing at the tables with opponents who are dramatically more skilled than they are. It’s no fun to get destroyed by the ‘end boss’ in your first 30 minutes of playing, and when this happens too often, players tend to quit the game and never come back. In my opinion, this is a big part of why some of the older sites are declining.
A fundamental improvement to the way that online poker works
The two problems are closely related, and we solve them with similar technology. First, we have our unique, machine-learning-based skill prediction model. Our model can quickly identify what type of player you are - whether you are skilled or a novice, how close to a GTO strategy you are playing, and so on. Our goal is that, in cash games, every recreational player will have an opportunity to play against other recreational players.
We limit the number of seats at each table that can be occupied by extremely high-skilled players, which results in a better experience for everyone - if you’re a pro, there are fewer pros at your table; if you’re a new player, there are fewer pros at your table! Importantly - there is no segregation. Highly skilled pros aren’t prevented from sitting at any table, and a seat is always available.
I can’t overstate how much of a game-changer this is. This is a fundamental improvement to the way that online poker works, which makes the game more fun for everyone, pros and recreational players alike. It could be the best thing to happen to online poker since the Moneymaker Effect.
Secondly, we also have deep learning techniques for identifying gameplay that is not human. Gone are the days when you could reliably detect bots by looking at session length or reaction times. Our techniques allow us to spot non-human play very effectively, as well as to spot groups of otherwise unrelated players who are using the same automation or RTA software to cheat.
Eventually, I expect to be in a position where I’m no longer concerned about bots, GTO, and real-time assistance. Right now, we can ban these kinds of cheaters, seize their funds, and redistribute them after the fact, which is a deterrent and a reasonable way to defend the game’s integrity.
But the advantage in using RTA or bots only arises when your opponents are not doing the same, so hypothetically, instead of banning cheaters, we could sit them with each other. This would be an even bigger deterrent than the threat of confiscation and would probably be the best way to ensure that RTA and bot use didn’t affect legitimate players, but I’m not sure if the poker community would accept this approach.
- WPD: About the software, is there any reason to restrict the games to one table? Will multitabling be enabled soon?
AS: Our software was developed with mobile in mind, so multi-tabling was not really a priority until recently. This will change in the near future.
- WPD: We noticed a strong focus on the Latin American market (according to the WPT Global country's availability and influencers). Why was this region chosen, and what are its specific plans?
AS: We believe that Latin America represents a huge opportunity in online poker, and none of our competitors have really cracked this market yet. The WPT is already well-known in Latin America, and we believe we can grow very quickly in these countries.
- WPD: A particular feature of the client is the currency (Chinese CNY). What is WPT Global relationship with the Asian market? Are there any strategic partnerships with local companies? And by the way, will the client be able to switch the interface to other currencies?
AS: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve partnered with a major Asian poker operator, allowing us to immediately reach the podium positions of cash game liquidity. You may have noticed that we have games in both CNY and US Dollars, and of course, we expect to grow our US Dollar games over time as our liquidity grows further. In time, we may support other currencies as well.
- WPD: What does WPT Global expect from the multiverse and the NFT world?
Poker Hero NFTs are much more than a token
AS: We know that many of our players are interested in crypto and NFTs, and so we have partnered with Gamavrs to explore opportunities. In the near term, we want to make it much easier for players to use their crypto assets with us - to deposit and withdraw cryptocurrency and to use their Poker Hero NFTs in our software.
Poker Hero NFTs are much more than a token on a blockchain - they are membership of an exclusive club that, in the future, will give you access to special promotions on WPT Global, where you can play for a share of massive prize pools, and compete against celebrities and more.
WPD: Are there plans to create a poker network (separate rooms for specific markets)?
AS: This is not a priority for us. Our priority is to keep players happy, and running a network would be a major distraction from this.
Thank you, Alex, for this interview; we hope is not the last one! We wish you and the WPT Global team the best of luck in implementing all the plans.
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