Here we are again with another edition of Meet The People. We have gone straight to the top this week and chatted with Head of Poker, Tom Waters.
Tom was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, before moving to Leicester where he attended university, before heading home to Hitchin where he currently lives with his wife and their two-year-old daughter.
Although Tom is the Head of Poker for partypoker, it was the finance industry, and then bingo, that gave him his first break.
“I started my career with an accountancy firm and my first client was a new online gaming company called PartyGaming. I worked with them for five years before they offered me a finance role at the company within the bingo team. Since then I have worked on a number of projects across bingo, casino and poker, before taking the head of partypoker role towards the end of last year.”
As you’d imagine being in charge of the entire poker operation, there’s no such thing as a typical day at the office, not least because there are almost 50 staff working in the partypoker team and many more who support them.
“There are currently 47 people working in the partypoker team. They are also supported by a much wider network of employees who support the product and customer services. A typical day will start with a strong coffee before checking how many players we had online yesterday. I will look at how busy the site was and whether tournaments met guarantees or not. I will deal with any issues that have fallen into my inbox and then spend time with the various managers to make sure the plans for the next few days and weeks are in place.”
We are trying to resurrect a brand that faces fierce competition on a daily basis
Ensuring everything is running smoothly is a difficult enough task in any business, but the online gaming industry is one that is fast-moving and highly competitive, which brings with it its own challenges.
“We are trying to resurrect a brand that faces fierce competition on a daily basis. Partypoker has had its problems over the last few years but it looks like we are now heading in the right direction and players are warming to the changes that we are making. It’s an extremely fast moving industry, meaning that we are constantly making changes to the product and offering in order to keep pace. Our player pool is not what it was, so we are constantly sweating over tournaments to make sure they have met guarantee!”
Tom has seen the online gambling landscape undergo sweeping changes since he first started working in the industry and believes changes will continue in the coming months and years, especially when it comes to regulating online gaming around the world.
“The biggest change has been regulation. Back in 2005 when I first worked with partypoker, you could pretty much just login anywhere in the world and play, including the US. Now it’s very different with individual licencing regimes in different countries and ring-fenced pools of players. Poker was probably the first online gaming product to boom but since then we have seen bingo and notably casino gain popularity online. Social gaming has challenged of late but, for me will always struggle to bridge the gap to real money gaming. Daily fantasy sports is interesting but I think that these companies will struggle to make an impact in the UK where the traditional bookies have such a strong brand presence in the market.
“Regulation will continue to dominate for a few years yet. More US states look like they are moving towards a regulated poker model. In Europe it would be great if Spain, Italy and France agreed to share liquidity. Smaller operators are going to struggle to survive without merging and I think that for poker, we will be left with 5 or 6 sites competing for the majority of the .com market in 12-18 months.”
Many of you who are reading this articles will have noticed plenty of changes at partypoker in recent months as we continue to roll out improvements to the software and playing experience of our valued customers under the banner of For The People. Tom sheds some light into how and why these changes took and continue to take place.
“Firstly, we realised that, as a company, we had made some mistakes in the past and perhaps neglected our players. This led to a detailed review of the business and we looked to see where partypoker could fit into the marketplace and offer something back to the players. Recent ecology changes and the removal of withdrawal fees, together with an increased focus on our social interaction with the players (both live and online), were the first steps in our plan to make partypoker a fun and fair place to play poker online. We are now far better placed to listen to our players and we hope to continue to make positive changes over the coming months.”
Come on you Spurs!
It’s not all work, work, and more work for Tom, he is allowed to leave the office on occasion!
“At weekends I try to leave online gaming behind and spend time with my wife and young daughter. I am a keen (and slowly improving!) golfer and like to squeeze in 18 holes whenever I can. I am a Spurs fan and so watching the Premier league has become a lot more appealing over the last few months!”
Tom’s beloved Spurs are now second in the Premier League and could win their first top-flight title since the 1960-61 season – let’s hope nobody Tom works with closely supports Arsenal if Spurs do go all the way this year!
Although he admits to playing poker badly, Tom gave us three people who he’d love to sit with at the felt and play a few poker hands.
“Mila Kunis – for obvious reasons! Gazza – I think he would bring a bit of character to the table (and after a few drinks would be easy prey), Dynamo – see what the guy can really do with cards!”
And Tom’s advice to his 18-year-old self?
“You only live once so make the most of every opportunity that comes your way!”