Marketing cryptocurrency to poker players

Marketing cryptocurrency to poker players

Ryan Gittleson

Ryan Gittleson

Earlier this week I interviewed Ryan Gittleson of Virtue Poker about the Ethereum based poker room they are developing, for PokerStrategy.com. During the interview I naturally asked a few questions about the marketing and industry side of things that I felt was less interesting to the PokerStrategy.com audience but very interesting to my own small fledgling poker B2B audience, so here it is. There is some crossover between the interviews and I suggest you check out the PokerStrategy.com piece first to learn about the interesting ways in which Virtue Poker plans to solve shuffling, money management and dispute resolution. You can also see their very interesting White Paper which covers all of that and more. This wasn’t originally planned as an interview for my blog, it just fit here better, so I may follow up in the future with more questions specifically targeted for poker affiliates, media etc. 

Barry Carter: Most people trust RNGs these days, are you solving a problem that doesn’t need fixing?

Ryan Gittleson: I did a lot of market research over the last few years to see what our ultimate selling proposition was. The most important thing to players was first quality of games but the overarching theme of not having to trust and operator with your money and shuffling the cards. The core value proposition of the smart contract means we can’t touch your money. There is a long pathway to gaining people’s trust, we are a new startup, so how can we gain people’s trust? This solution not only addresses concerns people have previously had, it allows us to gain a lot of trust and build our brand quickly.

BC: While impressive and reassuring, I fear that your USPs might actually scare casual players off by drawing attention to some of the worst scandals poker has faced.

RG: The first question is how we communicate these value propositions to a broad audience. I have a marketing background and content marketing is a great way to help people understand what problems we are looking to address. Part of our value proposition is positioning ourselves as different to what has existed in the past. Even though PokerStars is a trusted brand, people still remember them getting shut down by the DOJ.

The second question is how do we get recreational players on the site? That’s the audience that needs incentives to get them depositing. We are looking to create a series of freerolls and satellites and our first and most loyal players can compete to win tokens. Also, it still blows my mind that rakeback for 15 years was based on volume, incentivising high volume play. We are using rakeback to support losing players, and will limit multi tabling.

NC: To begin with do you think Virtue Poker will be the toughest poker room, because anyone with a knowledge of Etherium probably self selects as an intelligent tech savvy player?

RG: My intuition is at first we will be able to bootstrap initial liquidity based on the enthusiasm of the growing Ethereum community when they see a decentralised app in action. I do expect us to launch next year and we can be one of the first applications with a broad appeal, creating a bridge to mainstream adoption for blockchain-based applications. There also is a lot of new money in this ecosystem, if we can get a fraction of that user base and users, it should be enough initially when we launch.

“We eliminate server and payment processing costs”

ethereum-coins-435x200BC: It strikes me that because there is a big knowledge gap with Cryptocurrency, maybe the best way to sell the USP of Virtue Poker is just to incentivise people to test it out for themselves and learn that way, instead of explaining the benefits, to show it’s not the big scary hacker thing it first appears.

RG: That’s the power of creating a token that’s native to your platform, we are creating Virtue Player Points. We can take those tokens and leverage them to acquire players. We will host one of the largest tournaments of all time, and conduct a massive PR campaign to generate interest in playing in that event. That would incentivize people how to use our software and download the platform. This is what drove me to Virtue Poker, I saw it as a bridge to the mainstream adoption of Blockchain technology. It’s a simple to understand use-case for helping people understand the smart contract.

BC: How big a saving in operating costs do you potentially make compared to a regular poker room?

RG: The two areas where can eliminate costs are server costs and payment processing costs. Poker sites are not making money on Neteller and Paypal transactions. I spoke with somebody who created a poker room in the mid-2000s and he said payment processing can be up to 10% of the operating costs. Then there is server costs, I don’t have an exact figure here, but with us every thing is peer-to-peer, and that can scale to tournaments. With the smart contracts, once you have one table working, the system works, there isn’t much upkeep. It’s similar to Spotify vs BitTorrent, there is almost no costs to BitTorrent, it’s peer-to-peer, it has the same output of the world’s music library, without the upkeep of Spotify.

BC: The price of Cryptocurrency is so volatile do you think it would need to stablilise for Virtue Poker to work? That $10 million tournament you mentioned could be a $5 million or $100 million tournament by the time it ended.

RG: The Justice system and this particular issue are the two biggest technical issues for us. We intend to integrate these other products called Stable Coins which are essentially an options contract where you lock in the value at the buy-in stage of the tournament. The other question is what will the table stakes look like, will it be 1c/2c? Is it going to be in Ether or VPP? How do people even know the stakes people buy in to? We’ve built the back-end software, now our focus is shifting towards user experience to address these difficult problems.

Check out Virtue Poker for more information.

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