Team Online’s Jaime Staples recently sat down with Dusk Till Dawn supremo and key partner to partypoker, the one and only Rob Yong. Yong speaks openly and candidly about his partnership with partypoker, the continual developments of partypoker, overlaying tournaments, and much more besides.
Everyone knows Yong has a solid relationship with partypoker and our parent company GVC Holdings, but how did that partnership come about? Yong explains.
“Okay, so I had an agreement with GVC when they first bought partypoker, was like three years ago I think, and I didn’t really profess to know a lot about poker. partypoker had been declining a lot and I met the GVC CEO Ken Alexander at his offices and he said he likes poker down at “The Vic”, the cash games and he wants to kinda have a little bit of a go at poker. He said to me “Do you think you could help?” I had a think about it, and I wasn’t doing much else at the time apart from Dusk till Dawn and decided to come on board as a partner, to try and see whether we can do some good things in online poker.”
“I think we agreed like a 5-year business plan and we are 3 years through that plan now, I agreed to make some investment and put my money where my mouth was and GVC made the lion’s share.”
Is Rob Yong a Consultant for partypoker?
People often wonder how the partnership works with Yong and partypoker. Is he a consultant? Does he work alongside our Managing Director Tom Waters? Just how do things go down?
“We don’t really work together as such to be fair, well I don’t really work with GVC because the agreement with GVC was that I should be adding value and making good decisions on their behalf. Tom is a personal friend of mine, Chris is a poker room friend of mine, even Ross in charge of the product development is a friend of mine, we just all work as a team together, being really honest in terms of making a final decision.”
“They’re probably going to come to me because I have a bit more experience than them all, but you know ultimately it works fine. I mean we’ve got in the business over the last three years, year on year in what’s a climbing industry, and you know yourself from dealing with me, that I’ll clean the toilets and I’ll do whatever jobs necessary, stay up all night if I need to. I don’t like a hierarchy situation, where you have like, a boss, a director, board, all this crap, I just like to try and get stuck in and sometimes the work that can be done at the very bottom is more important than the work that can be done at the top, so I don’t really need like an official title with partypoker or GVC.
“The first couple of years, I think party was smashing it, 40% growth year on year, invested a lot of money, yeah there was some overlays, but the business is in better shape than it was 3 years ago and the turnover is 3 times as big. So kinda been okay, but yeah in terms of…I don’t want to hide and say i don’t make decisions.”
Software improvements have to be faster
Yong and the team have been busy improving the partypoker software over the past couple of year, with lots of headway made in the past six months. What does Yong think of the current state of the software and what can we expect to come in the future?
“Let’s assume PokerStars is 10/10 as a benchmark, I would have benchmarked partypoker software as like 2/10, Rubbish, now, I look at it and I’m feeling its at around 5.5, that’s a 3.5 increase, so its has significantly improved but i think players, want to move to partypoker, because they know partypoker cares, but they are getting more frustrated by things not being instantly delivered.
“I think people are thankful for this improvement. People are like, come on hurry up, we want to play on the site but it needs to be as good as the initial leader, and that’s where we are now, which is where some of the frustrations are coming from. The current table plays pretty well. In terms of development, they’re gonna have new features coming in December, but again it’s taken four months to add some of these, including run it twice, you know, it’s too slow! So they’re gonna have King of the Hill, for heads up. I’m not a big fan of heads-up, I think if King of the Hill does not improve the heads-up side of the ecology, then we will just get rid of heads-up. I’d be in favour of getting rid of heads up personally, but we will give it a shot and give the players a chance. So I think the client can get up to an 8/10 in the next six months, but I do think the mobile client for me is going to be phenomenal.”
Yong on the partypoker MILLION Tournament
Many people contact Staples while he is streaming his play on YouTube and Twitch and talk about tournaments that overlay, that is don’t hit their guarantees. One such tournament that has overlaid since its launch is the $1 million guaranteed partypoker MILLION. Yong sees two types of overlay, good overlay and bad overlay. What are the differences between the two?
“Shops, businesses, we all do promotions. Pubs you can go and get two for the price of one, so overlay for me is not a bad word. Overlay for me becomes bad when the site sets a target to hit a guarantee and misses. Let’s take the new $215 $1m, no one thought when we introduced the tournament, that it would hit the guarantee, the expectation was, we put a $1m tournament in there, and the $22 version of it is 200k, and we will make it a freezeout. We will have ample day ones so that people can play in different time zones. We knew if we made that a single re-entry tournament we could hit the guarantee, but we’ve chosen to put building blocks in place to create a tournament that has Day 1s at times that suit players and they call come together and finish at a reasonable time on Sunday.
“We expected that tournament to overlay $100-$125k a week unless we increase our traffic. If we increase it by 10/20% a week there will be no overlay. It’s like putting your stuff in a shop window with no customers. So that’s not a bad overlay, but a bad overlay for me would be, the $50K $109 if that was overlaying daily that would be a bad overlay. It’s not an investment for the future, but the $215, the festivals we do are what we call good overlay, they’re giving value to the customer. “We’re not gonna have a $109 tournament that overlays 3$K a day, it’s just what I call bad overlay, you’re just effectively failing. Will that $215 be overlaying if players like it and support it? No, so it’s an investment for the future.”
Will The partypoker MILLION Survive?
The partypoker MILLION has overlaid for the past seven weeks, how much longer will this stay as good overlay in Yong’s eyes?
“Put it this way, if that tournament is still overlaying in three months, It’ll go. We wanted a $1m tournament for $215 but we wanted one that would finish at a reasonable time for our customers, we didn’t want to make it same day re-entry, and wanted to have different online day 1s at different times. We are trying to hit different audiences and then the Sunday players, so it’s designed to have everyone involved at a friendly finishing time, rather than 09:00 a.m., which is not sustainable. If that tournament is not hitting the guarantee by Christmas time, or at least January, the tournament needs to be deleted because its a bad overlay.”
It Was a Mistake Upping the MILLIONS Buy-in to $10,300
Now onto the partypoker LIVE tour that saw the Main Event buy-ins increase from $5,300 to $10,300, a decision that Yong admits he may have got wrong.
“It was my decision to make it $10K this year, I don’t like what I decided. I didn’t like the tournament in the Caribbean this year, 950 players, biggest $10K in the world but I still didn’t enjoy the tournament because it was full of qualifiers against the elite pros; there was no middle ground. I think when we did the $5K before the Caribbean, the pros said their expenses were $3K, and we listened to the pros too much when they asked to increase the buy-in to $10K. We should have kept the buy-in $5K to cater for the qualifiers and let more people qualify.”
Are the buy-ins for the partypoker LIVE Main Events going to change in the near future?
“We have two $10K buy-ins left, for the UK and Latin America, but MILLIONS will go down to $5K now, but we won’t do many of them because I’m very happy with the performance of the WPT and WSOP brands that we sponsor. I think MILLIONS needs to run four times a year and do a really big festival from time to time, but I do think we need to make it a little more accessible. I’ve asked Neil and Rachael to speak with the Aria and I’ve suggested we do a $5K for $5M, so same guarantee but let’s half the buy-in. That means we can run $7K packages on party and try and get a lot of people in Vegas. So I think it was a mistake to do the $10K buy-ins, but the good thing about making mistakes then you can learn and adjust.”
Cash Games Won’t Survive in Their Current Format
One format of poker that Yong is passionate about is cash games, the format he likes to play when he’s not working 14-16 hours per day, seven days per week. Cash game traffic could be much better at partypoker and every other online poker site out there, but they need an overhaul such as these ideas from Yong.
“I believe that for cash games you need non-pros in cash games, and Yom is gonna be delivering fast forward on the new app in December, and then ring games in January, we can then start to build the cash games on the new mobile app. Again, I think we’ve made mistakes in the past with cash games, in the way that we reward players. For example, when we launched cashback we got a lot of criticism about giving money to winning players and penalising losing players. However, the actual truth about cashback, is this when we introduced that, in the specification, the idea was that if me, you and Jeff were in a pot, I win the pot, you and Jeff get the points.
So, let’s say there was $3 rake, currently it’s $1 for me $1 for Jeff and $1 dollar for you. The new specification for cashback was $1.50 to you and Jeff, I win the pot, and I don’t get any rakeback reward. But unfortunately, a few weeks before we launched cashback the back-end server wasn’t able to do that, it needed a complete rewrite of the rake system. I think in terms of cash games we need to look at helping the losing players out. Winning players want losing players to stay in the game and I think whilst we reward winning players for starting tables, keeping the games going, iI think we need to focus on more of the losing players.”
Getting Back to Basics
Yong believes online cash games need to follow in the footsteps of their live poker cousins. For example, how many live cash games do you see played on six-handed tables? He also believes the stakes will be lower as higher stakes players will be fearful of playing for vast sums of money due to the solving software available today.
“Getting it back to basics of a fair game is the priority of party. I don’t see any future for online cash games in the current climate, I think they will just continue to eat themselves. I think the only future for online cash games is to become more like a live cash game. I think become lower stakes. I think people are going to be very nervous to risk high stakes with all the solvers out there, certainly, I would never play high stakes online, unless it was a private game, so how can I ask someone else too?”
So there you have it, you now know how Yong got into bed with partypoker, have some insight into what is coming soon to partypoker, and Yong’s thoughts on the current state of online poker. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you at the tables!
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