Improvement Suggestions for Online Poker Rooms
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2009-09-13, by OzoneOnline poker rooms have collectively made huge strides from an operational standpoint since their infancy. Buggy software, games with a maximum buy-in of 50 big blinds, and puny sign-up bonuses are now, for the most part, a thing of the past. But most online poker rooms are by no means a well oiled machine that offer players little to complain about. And being that we, like most poker players, love to complain, here are a few ideas for the consideration of online poker room operators:
Better Freerolls for New Players
With as much money as online poker rooms are willing to spend on marketing in order to acquire new players, it surprises me that they don't put up more money in freeroll tournaments for players who have never made a deposit. Most online poker rooms have a massive player base of non-real money players. Why not give them no choice but to convert by offering them entry into hefty freeroll tournaments? Consider the following idea: a monthly $100,000 freeroll (with a particularly flat payout structure) that is open to players who finish in the top 1,000 of a play money sit-'n'-go leaderboard for that month. Such a promotion would cost the poker room $100 per player but I would be willing to bet that it would more than pay for itself. Once players get a taste of real-money action, they won't want to go back to the free games. Over the course of their lifetime playing on the site, surely they will generate more than $100 in rake on average. If the poker room is too small to budget $100k a month, they could do a quarterly $50k freeroll or whatever makes sense.
Advanced Security Options
As it stands, online poker accounts are too easy to hack. Very few online poker rooms are doing an adequate job of addressing this problem. Most online banking or brokerage firms offer customers advanced security options such as an RSA security device or a plastic card with hundreds of unique passcodes. Why too can't online poker rooms extend such offerings? These devices cost money, but surely mid- to high-stakes players would be willing to forfeit a few dollars from their account in exchange for significantly upgraded account security.
Fully Customizable Filter
Through the years, online poker rooms have made filtering through their games to find what you're looking for easier, but it could still be improved significantly. All of these filters allow you to decide what you see and do not see within one game category. In other words, when you're on the "Tournaments" tab, you can only filter the types of tournaments you want to see. Why not have a completely customizable filter where you can choose exactly what games are displayed? For example, this would allow one to see the open $10 sit-'n'-gos as well as the $.50/$1 Omaha Hi-Lo games all on one screen as opposed to having to click through a bunch of tabs.
Recently, a non-reputable online poker room added tables where if you win a pot with Seven-Deuce offsuit, all other players at the table have to give you two big blinds. This is just one small example of the virtually endless related gimmicks online poker rooms could add to their tables. The gimmicks could even be taken so far as to constitute a glorified rakeback system for players. For example, starting on the 11th time you're dealt pocket Aces that month (and on every subsequent instance), your account will be credited with five big blinds from the game you were playing in the event that your Aces get cracked. Or why not take a queue from the world of penny slots and offer "bonus rounds" after making a huge hand (like a straight flush). Allow players the chance to spin some wheel where they win prizes determined by where the wheel stops. The options are really endless and all of them result in making the game more fun and appealing to players.
Listen More to Players
The online poker rooms that have increased their market share the most over the past few years are doing something that the losers are not: listening to their customers. Online poker rooms should devote less resources to "analysts" and more to customer service liaisons. Send players questionnaires by email and reward them with some type of small bonus for responding. Hire one or two people whose sole job is to interact on the larger poker forums with players to help answer questions and take suggestions. Or even better, have a CEO who takes the initiative to do this a few hours each week himself! Expose players to a short newsletter with the latest information about the site when they log on. Make public the story of how one player received a generous bonus in exchange for sharing a valuable idea that later gets put to use. Open your doors to popular media members and bloggers to take a tour of company grounds and share with readers a few interesting notes about the inter-workings of the company. In short, be more creative and more active. Online poker rooms seem too detached and foreign to their customers.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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