I'm Bill Rini, Head of Online Poker at WSOP.com, Ask Me Anything (starts 12/11)
  1. Hi, I wanted to introduce myself and thank Adam and Dan for the opportunity to come on P5’s and answer questions.

    My name is Bill Rini and I’m the Head of Online Poker at WSOP.com. I’ve been involved in the online poker industry since 2005 and have been a Product Manager at Full Tilt Poker, Poker Room Manager at PartyPoker, and until earlier this year was with the World Poker Tour.

    I started a poker blog back in 2003 and over the years I’ve had tons of questions in emails and in the comments about various aspects of the online poker industry so I’m here to answer as many as I can over the next day or so.

    Starting at 3pm (PT) on Wed (12/11), you can ask me anything about the industry, WSOP, etc. I’ll try to keep up with you until about 6pm when I head home and then I’ll check in through the night and catch up on anything left over in the morning.

    I’ll try to be as open as possible but, obviously, there are some boundaries around what I can discuss.

    So, feel free to start firing away. I’ll get to answering on Wed around 3pm.
    Add WSOPBill to Rail
  2. Really excited to have Bill doing an AMA here. For those who aren't familiar, Bill's blog has been around for many (10?) years and is second to none in this industry. He's been writing less the last couple years, but there is so, so much good content to check out on his site.

    I'll start with some simple ones:

    -How are you feeling about WSOP's place in the pecking order in both NJ and NV so far? The WSOP/888 team seems to be running in second place so far in NJ behind Party. What do you think has been the difference so far between the two, and what type of offers and promotions do you expect players to see as everyone races for market share?

    -What are some of the biggest differences for you between working with a regulated US company like Caesars vs. working with Full Tilt several years ago?

    -Pretty obvious the biggest issue so far in NJ - and to a lesser extent NV - is geolocation. Talk about how that's slowed things down so far, and what will be done to get past this issue long term.

    -What about other issues, like banks refusing transactions because they're coded online gambling?

    I'm going to chime in again later if I can with some more
     
    Add Adam to Rail
  3. Hey Bill!

    -Is WSOP.com going to use the 888 software platform for many years to come or is WSOP.com working on their own software platform?

    -Will WSOP ever support HUDs in the future like Holdem Manager or Pokertracker?

    Thanks!
     
    Add RicanPhenom to Rail
  4. Currently there are (I believe) 4 poker networks in New Jersey: 888/WSOP, Party/Borgata, Betfair/Nugget and Ultimate. Gamesys is clearly coming in sometime next year with Virgin Poker and Trop (at least), so there will be 5 relatively soon. How many of these will survive without interstate compacting? How about with compacting?
     
    Add Adam to Rail
  5. I applaud your efforts to cater to the casual players by offering good value and lots of games to choose from.

    My question:
    With only two sites up and running with online poker and having a small player pool as well, can Nevada support the three to five sites that have postponed their start up until next year?

    This is assuming that there will be no compacts between states for at least six months to a year.
    Add stevebrogan to Rail
  6. Hey guys, I just had to moderate this thread to remove some customer service related complaints/posts. Please keep the AMA focused on more general questions for Bill. Feel free to post your specific issues on the NJ local wall, in a different thread, or directly to WSOP.com support.
     1
    Add Cal to Rail
  7. Hi Bill,

    Firstly, I love WSOP's software as well as tournament structures. Both are far superior to UP and I'm playing about 90% of my online play with you guys.

    I want to know when there will be compacts between NV and NJ? It was upsetting to see that within 3 days of launching, the NJ site already had an $11 rebuy with $5k gtd while here in NV we are a few months in and the $11r only hold a $500 gtd (although the pool usually is $1000-1500).

    Also, what actions is WSOP taking to increase traffic to the site as well as incentives for new players to the site? It seems as though tournament registration is consistently around the same amount of people. This Minifest seems to be bringing in some people but I'm wondering when Sundays will host $11 2ks, $22 3ks, $3r 1ks, etc. and the nightly tournament schedule will be expanded.

    As far as geolocation, will that always been the means by which to determine eligibility for play? The other night I was HU in a tournament as well as in a few cash game hands and unbeknownst to me my phone died. By the time it booted back up in 5 minutes I had blinded out of the tournament in second and had lost the cash games hands obviously.

    I probably have quite a few more questions but I will have to ponder over them.
    Edited By: ZenEnso Dec 11th, 2013 at 05:39 AM
     
    Add ZenEnso to Rail
  8. Stations in NV and Caesars in NJ both have deposit/withdrawal at the cage. Why not Caesars in NV?
    Add lvkid7 to Rail
  9. Hey bill do you think we will ever have tournaments with 11-55 dollar buys ins with 1000 plus players playing in a single tournament on a consistent basis. Because that would be great
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  10. For example an 11 dollar buy in with a 20k gaurenteed or even 10k gaurenteed 22 dollar buy in 15k gaurenteed or 20k. Would be great for low stake players if u could have low buy in tourneys with these kind of gaurentees running on a daily basis
    Add tjmullen07 to Rail
  11. I guess I'll get started a little early on these since I'm up :-)

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post


    -How are you feeling about WSOP's place in the pecking order in both NJ and NV so far? The WSOP/888 team seems to be running in second place so far in NJ behind Party. What do you think has been the difference so far between the two, and what type of offers and promotions do you expect players to see as everyone races for market share?

    Obviously, we’re very happy with being the biggest poker room in NV and we plan on continuing in that position going forward.

    As far as NJ, I think you have to look back to how we entered the NV market. We were careful to ramp things up in a controlled manner. We’re taking a similar strategy in NJ where we’re making sure operationally we’re in a good place before we ratchet up the marketing push.

    In terms of what types of promotions, I can’t really speak for anybody but WSOP and I really don’t want to say too much about what’s coming because I want that to be a surprise both for players and the poker market in general.

    What I can say is that I spent several hours this week in meetings focused on what we can offer people in terms of ways to qualify for WSOP packages and what we’ll have available to WSOP.com players at the event. But I’ll hold off saying more until we lock down specifics and make the announcements.


     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -What are some of the biggest differences for you between working with a regulated US company like Caesars vs. working with Full Tilt several years ago?

    Obviously there are tons of challenges of operating in a regulated environment. But I welcome those challenges. I have long been a proponent of many of the rules that the GCB (Nevada Gaming Control Board) and the DGE (New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement) have developed. Anything that protects players and promotes the integrity of the game and the platforms the games are served from, is absolutely important. There simply is no excuse for operating in this industry any other way.

    At the same time, I understand player frustrations around some of these issues. The technologies aren’t perfect. Not all of the payment processors have bought into regulated gaming yet. Of course, I know these things impact players but you have to take the long-term view. Online gaming in the US is less than a year old. No site was doing geolocation a year ago. Things will get better but it’s difficult until you get it out there in the real world and really do it. Then you can refine and improve.

    Every day we make a little progress.

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -Pretty obvious the biggest issue so far in NJ - and to a lesser extent NV - is geolocation. Talk about how that's slowed things down so far, and what will be done to get past this issue long term.

    Actually, I would disagree on the premise of the question. The geolocation failure rate in NV is higher than the failure rate in NJ. I think the problem appears greater due to the greater number of people who live in NJ vs. NV. Percentage-wise, it's a different story.

    The biggest issue in NJ is that you have many more people living near the borders and more people who live in rural areas that are not near other wifi networks. As far as the borders go, that is a decision made by the DGE in terms of how close they drew the digital borders. I’m sure as they become more confident in the accuracy of the technology they’ll adapt the rules accordingly.

    Geolocation is always going to be a difficult issue but it will improve. It has already improved between the launch of the first site in NV to the launch of online gaming in NJ. We just rolled out another update from GeoComply the other day that helps increase the reliability of their service.

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -What about other issues, like banks refusing transactions because they're coded online gambling?

    I'm going to chime in again later if I can with some more

    We’ve got our people talking to all of the major payment processors and banks almost daily trying to tell our side of the story. We understand their caution though.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  12.  
    Originally Posted by Dlorican View Post

    Hey Bill!

    -Is WSOP.com going to use the 888 software platform for many years to come or is WSOP.com working on their own software platform?

    -Will WSOP ever support HUDs in the future like Holdem Manager or Pokertracker?

    Thanks!


    First off, I have to hand it to 888. They’re a great partner and they’ve been fantastic in adapting to the regulated environment in the US. I’m on the phone with their guys almost daily discussing product roadmap or operational issues and they've been great to work with.

    That said, I can’t really make any predictions about the future like that. “Many years” in this business is a lifetime.

    In terms of HUDs, I’m fairly agnostic on the issue. I can see pros and cons on each side. At the moment, our interpretation of NV regs is that they can’t be used. In NJ, I’ve discussed the issue with the DGE since the regs don’t address HUDs or tracking software at all. We’ll comply with whatever their decision is.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  13.  
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    Currently there are (I believe) 4 poker networks in New Jersey: 888/WSOP, Party/Borgata, Betfair/Nugget and Ultimate. Gamesys is clearly coming in sometime next year with Virgin Poker and Trop (at least), so there will be 5 relatively soon. How many of these will survive without interstate compacting? How about with compacting?


    That’s an interesting question and my first reaction is to say that if you look at the world-wide market, all of the liquidity seems to be aggregating between 3 to 5 operators. Sure, there are many smaller sites out there but realistically when you talk about the online poker market, you’re probably not really talking about more than 5 sites.

    There will always be room for niche sites and smaller rooms that cater to specific crowds but I think you’re going to see a similar pattern in individual states. There will be 2 or maybe 3 major operators in a market. And even if compacts increase the liquidity pool, you’re far more likely to see the liquidity aggregate to the same operators than you are to see everyone rise equally.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  14.  
    Originally Posted by stevebrogan View Post

    I applaud your efforts to cater to the casual players by offering good value and lots of games to choose from.

    My question:
    With only two sites up and running with online poker and having a small player pool as well, can Nevada support the three to five sites that have postponed their start up until next year?

    This is assuming that there will be no compacts between states for at least six months to a year.


    I wish I could say differently, but no, I don’t. Like I said previously, liquidity tends to aggregate. And if you look at the current cash game numbers on the two sites already operating in NV, I don’t think you can operate a business on a fraction of that.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  15.  
    Originally Posted by ZenEnso View Post

    I want to know when there will be compacts between NV and NJ?

    Your guess is as good as mine. Well, okay, maybe I'm privy to slightly more behind the scenes information but really it comes down to politics. If it was a straight question of how long does it take to connect the pieces technologically and logistically I could give you an answer but there are so many factors in play that it's difficult to even speculate.

    First off, who are you suggesting NV compact with? We need more states to come online before you'll see any compacting that will have any sort of significant liquidity impact.

     
    Originally Posted by ZenEnso View Post

    It was upsetting to see that within 3 days of launching, the NJ site already had an $11 rebuy with $5k gtd while here in NV we are a few months in and the $11r only hold a $500 gtd (although the pool usually is $1000-1500).

    Also, what actions is WSOP taking to increase traffic to the site as well as incentives for new players to the site? It seems as though tournament registration is consistently around the same amount of people. This Minifest seems to be bringing in some people but I'm wondering when Sundays will host $11 2ks, $22 3ks, $3r 1ks, etc. and the nightly tournament schedule will be expanded.

    We're constantly reviewing our guarantees and the team is in the middle of yet another overhaul as I speak (or write). It's actually surprising how quickly the prize pools exceed the guarantees. We take a tournament that's averaging $300 on a $200 guarantee and move it up to $300 and a few weeks later it's averaging $500. That's a good thing and we have no problem moving the bar higher if the demand is there.

     
    Originally Posted by ZenEnso View Post

    As far as geolocation, will that always been the means by which to determine eligibility for play? The other night I was HU in a tournament as well as in a few cash game hands and unbeknownst to me my phone died. By the time it booted back up in 5 minutes I had blinded out of the tournament in second and had lost the cash games hands obviously.

    I probably have quite a few more questions but I will have to ponder over them.

    Again, I can only say that we are following the directives of the respective regulatory bodies for each state. We don't really have much choice in the technology or method used. Though, both the DGE and GCB are very open and receptive to feedback. And both are very interested in increasing the accuracy of geolocation.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  16.  
    Originally Posted by lvkid7 View Post

    Stations in NV and Caesars in NJ both have deposit/withdrawal at the cage. Why not Caesars in NV?


    Logistically we were not ready to go with cage deposits/withdrawals when we launched in NV nor was it a requirement (as it was in NJ). However, because we are still in field trial we are unable to make any changes to the client and adding the option would require some minor client changes. We can have a cage option in NV relatively quickly once we get GCB approval.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  17. [QUOTE=Adam;7594522]

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -How are you feeling about WSOP's place in the pecking order in both NJ and NV so far? The WSOP/888 team seems to be running in second place so far in NJ behind Party. What do you think has been the difference so far between the two, and what type of offers and promotions do you expect players to see as everyone races for market share?

    Obviously, we’re very happy with being the biggest poker room in NV and we plan on continuing in that position going forward.

    As far as NJ, I think you have to look back to how we entered the NV market. We were careful to ramp things up in a controlled manner. We’re taking a similar strategy in NJ where we’re making sure operationally we’re in a good place before we ratchet up the marketing push.

    In terms of what types of promotions, I can’t really speak for anybody but WSOP and I really don’t want to say too much about what’s coming because I want that to be a surprise both for players and the poker market in general.

    What I can say is that I spent several hours this week in meetings focused on what we can offer people in terms of ways to qualify for WSOP packages and what we’ll have available to WSOP.com players at the event. But I’ll hold off saying more until we lock down specifics and make the announcements.

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -What are some of the biggest differences for you between working with a regulated US company like Caesars vs. working with Full Tilt several years ago?

    Obviously there are tons of challenges of operating in a regulated environment. But I welcome those challenges. I have long been a proponent of many of the rules the rules that the GCB (Nevada Gaming Control Board) and the DGE (New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement) have developed. Anything that protects players and promotes the integrity of the game and the platforms the games are served from, is absolutely important. There simply is no excuse for operating in this industry any other way.

    At the same time, I understand player frustrations around some of these issues. The technologies aren’t perfect. Not all of the payment processors have bought into regulated gaming yet. Of course, I know these things impact players but you have to take the long-term view. Online gaming in the US is less than a year old. No site was doing geolocation a year ago. Things will get better but it’s difficult until you get it out there in the real world and really do it. Then you can refine and improve.

    Every day we make a little progress.

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -Pretty obvious the biggest issue so far in NJ - and to a lesser extent NV - is geolocation. Talk about how that's slowed things down so far, and what will be done to get past this issue long term.

    Actually, I would disagree on the premise of the question. The geolocation failure rate in NV is higher than the failure rate in NJ.

    The biggest issue in NJ is that you have many more people living near the borders and more people who live in rural areas that are not near other wifi networks. As far as the borders go, that is a decision made by the DGE in terms of how close they drew the digital borders. I’m sure as they become more confident in the accuracy of the technology they’ll adapt the rules accordingly.

    Geolocation is always going to be a difficult issue but it will improve. It already improved between the launch of the first site in NV to the launch of online gaming in NJ. We just rolled out another update from GeoComply the other day that helps increase the reliability of their service.

     
    Originally Posted by Adam View Post

    -What about other issues, like banks refusing transactions because they're coded online gambling?

    I'm going to chime in again later if I can with some more

    We’ve got our people talking to all of the major payment processors and banks almost daily trying to tell our side of the story. We understand their caution though.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  18. Welcome to P5s Bill. A couple of questions.

    Is WSOP prepared to fight attempts to ban online gaming?
    What are my chances that I'll be playing online poker for real money someday in NY?
    Add rebelfd to Rail
  19. How effective do you think Sheldon Adelson's Coalition will be at either eradicating internet gambling in the US or at least slowing down the state-by-state/Federal prospects?
    Add Dan to Rail
  20. Also, what are the prospects of a future Justice Department reversing/changing the December 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act? This was one of the main points about the Wire Act discussed during Tuesday's House Subcommittee hearing.
    Add Dan to Rail
  21.  
    Originally Posted by rebelfd View Post

    Welcome to P5s Bill. A couple of questions.

    Is WSOP prepared to fight attempts to ban online gaming?
    What are my chances that I'll be playing online poker for real money someday in NY?

    Thanks for the welcome.

    Well, it's still (technically) banned in 47 states so it's less about attempts to ban and more about demonstrating that online gaming can be offered in a safe and responsible manner and then convincing other states to legalize and regulate it. I've said this many times over the years but the best way to counter many of the criticisms and fear mongering about online gaming is to prove that it can be done without all of those nightmarish scenarios coming true. And I think both in NV and NJ, regulators have been very happy with the results so far.

    WSOP also has a team of people who do nothing but work with interested parties in other states and try to push forward legalization efforts. Obviously, states like CA, NY, and TX are priority states for the industry and you'll see a lot of effort going into moving the discussion towards legalization and regulation.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  22.  
    Originally Posted by Dan View Post

    How effective do you think Sheldon Adelson's Coalition will be at either eradicating internet gambling in the US or at least slowing down the state-by-state/Federal prospects?

    I think Adelson has his right to his opinion but facts are facts. The best way to counter his arguments is to demonstrate them not to be true.

    I don't think he'll be very effective in the long run. The ship has already sailed. When online poker could be talked about in the abstract, it was much easier to make various claims about potential disasters. Now that it's out there it's much easier to show that many of those fears are unwarranted and-or exaggerated.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  23.  
    Originally Posted by Dan View Post

    Also, what are the prospects of a future Justice Department reversing/changing the December 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act? This was one of the main points about the Wire Act discussed during Tuesday's House Subcommittee hearing.

    Dan, that's really not my area of expertise. Despite running my mouth sometimes, I have no legal training other than Business Law in college. :-)

    Several times since 2006 there were federal and state bills and people would ask me what I thought the chances of this or that bill passing, and to me, I have no interest in that kind of speculation. If it passes, it passes. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I never wrote about any of that on my blog because it's all speculation. Most of the time, it's wishful or completely uninformed speculation which completely taints the analysis.

    I try to focus on the things I can influence and the areas I can make an impact.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  24. Is WSOP.com hiring?
    Add rebelfd to Rail
  25.  
    Originally Posted by rebelfd View Post

    Is WSOP.com hiring?

    We're always looking for good people. :-)
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  26. Bill, A procedural question came up during Mini Fest Event #1.

    With 28 players remaining and only 25 cashing, the software had a lot of hand-to-hand pauses evoked until the money bubble had burst.

    Some of the players thought that this was somewhat excessive (they were nowhere near the bottom), and thought that the hand-to-hand should occur only at the bubble?

    Your thoughts?
    Add stevebrogan to Rail
  27. Will there ever be Open Face Chinese Poker on the site?
    Add gkon36 to Rail
  28. Hi Bill,

    something very startling happened when your servers went down last night. I posted in the 2p2 thread, but wanted to make sure you got a chance to see it:

    i went back and looked at the hand history from the last tournament I played, the $5,000 guaranteed $10 rebuy, and it turns out the tournament was not cancelled and DID play to completion. I can see my bust out hand and everything (i'm sitting out/disconnected, clearly)

    after 11:47, it looks like every player at my table is disconnected and sitting out. HOWEVER, by 12:07am, there is ONE player that is sitting back in at the table, and is raising every single hand, winning every pot. at another point around 12:30am, the first player is sitting out, and a different player is moved to the table who is also not disconnected, and begins to raise every hand. Both of these players now have massive chip stacks at this point while everyone else is being blinded out and sitting out.

    sure enough, when you look in the lobby, these two players finished in 1st and 3rd place in this tournament.

    it is completely ridiculous that this, and all tournaments, were not cancelled during the server shut down. giving people the chance to log back on and blind everyone out of the tournament, leaving people with $0 refunds.


    when you make a public message saying that your servers are down and will be down for 6 hours it seems like quite bad business to allow some players to log back in and win a whole lot of money while others cannot log in.

    finally, to give the other players in the tournament who were STOLEN from absolutely $0 in refunds is ludicrous. Not to mention the fact that I have received exactly 0 emails explaining what happened to the server, my tournaments, cash games, or my money.

    if I was not an active member of poker message boards, and was just a casual gamer, I would have NO IDEA what happened last night when the server simply seized up and all of my poker games closed expectantly.


    beyond issuing refunds, you need to inform your customers what is going on at all times, especially when they have money on the tables and the tables simply close.


    Please comment on, and help get this situation rectified immediately.
    Add Gags30 to Rail
  29.  
    Originally Posted by stevebrogan View Post

    Bill, A procedural question came up during Mini Fest Event #1.

    With 28 players remaining and only 25 cashing, the software had a lot of hand-to-hand pauses evoked until the money bubble had burst.

    Some of the players thought that this was somewhat excessive (they were nowhere near the bottom), and thought that the hand-to-hand should occur only at the bubble?

    Your thoughts?

    I agree. We've discussed this with 888 and they've placed it on the roadmap. There are things ahead of that but we're aware of it.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail
  30.  
    Originally Posted by gkon36 View Post

    Will there ever be Open Face Chinese Poker on the site?

    I would love to have open face but it's not a super-high priority for us at the moment.

    There's also an issue with getting the game through regulatory approvals. For instance in NV, only poker is allowed. Does this fall under the GCB's definition of poker? Even if it does, the entire system would need to go through the same GLI certification process.
    Thread StarterAdd WSOPBill to Rail