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Online Poker Sites Slow to Respond to Customer Desires

Road Sign: Slow

Though there have been many innovations in the internet poker landscape since Planet Poker opened as the first real money site in 1998, poker companies sometimes seem wary of change. While operators are quick to implement new features that will immediately generate revenue, like Full Tilt's RUSH Poker back in the day and PokerStars' Spin & Gos more recently, they're much slower to respond to demands made by their customers. This leads to frustration as users bombard poker rooms with suggestions that often seem to be ignored.

Examples of Sites Ignoring Customer Requests

Talk to the Hand

Perhaps it's best to illustrate what we mean with a few concrete instances. In October 2015, Americas Cardroom on the Winning Poker Network launched a Mac client for beta testing. Despite the input of hundreds of users, the software is still in the beta phase more than two years later. Not only that, but errors and glitches are widespread, and so some customers find it easier to run the Windows poker client using emulation software on their Macs rather than launching the program that was designed specifically for Macs. Another issue on the same network is the lack of ability to customize the bet size buttons, which remain at 1/4 pot, 1/2 pot, 3/4 pot, et cetera, which might not be the right fractions to use for someone's preferred strategy. Players have asked for this for more than a year but it hasn't arrived yet.

ACR's competitor Juicy Stakes has had payout problems in the past, but this all changed when the enterprise was bought out by Zagox Management in October 2013. After what were described as modest rake requirements, customers could withdraw the funds that had been transferred over to the new JS poker room. Unfortunately, there was no indication of this policy on Juicy Stakes' website, and players who contacted support for information were given vague and sometimes contradictory information. Many have called for the details of any rake requirements on carried-over balances to be made publicly available, but the site has elected not to do this. To this day, there are still some users who are unable to withdraw because they have not fulfilled the playthrough conditions, and in some cases, players don't even know what totals they must achieve. The applicable formula is contained in a post made on twoplustwo.com, but it's hard to find, and most users wouldn't even think of looking for it there.

Americas Cardroom and Juicy Stakes are both offshore sites that aren't regulated by the U.S. federal government or the states, but similar stories can be found even at state-licensed cardrooms. In the PartyPoker NJ sponsored support forum at Twoplustwo, user “Two SHAE” petitioned in June 2016 for $10/$20 and higher PLO tables to be added. The site representative declared that they would be happy to spread the game and that he would liaise with his team and get back to the forum. There followed more than half a year of players being told that it was just around the corner and to wait patiently. The rep posted in March 2017 that the new tables would go live on April 1. This deadline came and went without the requested blind levels appearing. Finally, $5/$10 PLO tables showed up on July 6, 2017: more than a year after “Party_Rep NJ” agreed to the proposal.

Slow customer service at PokerStars

Even industry giant PokerStars, once renowned for its focus on the customers and the speed with which it addressed concerns, has started to slip since its sale to Amaya in 2014. After the handover, PokerStars raised the rake, eliminated a few popular promotions, cut back drastically on its VIP program, and left the Australian poker market. All of these changes were lambasted by the player community, but they were not listened to. Cash game player volumes at Stars declined by about 20% in 2015 and again in 2016: strong evidence that customers had not been just complaining for the sake of complaining but were actually quitting the site in droves.

Reasons for Lethargic Movement

Question Mark

It's tempting to believe that poker room managers are just sitting back in their office chairs, lighting cigars with $100 bills, without a care in the world. The reality is more complicated than this. The owners of online poker sites have to balance a wide array of competing goals and try to dedicate resources in the most effective way. Particularly for those customer requests that involve software upgrades, seemingly simple fixes may be troublesome to implement. Developers have to act cautiously so that they don't inadvertently break existing functionality while attempting to give users what they want. It's essential that the software that powers internet poker rooms remain stable and error-free particularly when we consider the amount of real money flying around the virtual felt at any time. Overhasty alterations could wind up costing companies millions of dollars if they contain unsuspected bugs.

Also, new elements that satisfy one group of users may anger another. For instance, some players enjoy being able to access blackjack and other casino games within the poker lobby. However, others are solely focused on poker and feel that these other products are just irrelevant distractions. Endeavoring to please as many customers as possible is a delicate balancing act, and so most sites elect to stick with what's working unless there's a solid reason for adjusting what they're doing.

Feedback gleaned from poker forums and social media can be valuable, but those charged with monitoring these channels are often pretty low on the totem pole within their organizations. The most that forum representatives can usually do is pass along ideas to those in charge, but of course, the messages sometimes get mixed up along the way, further increasing delays. This is even truer with email and live chat support personnel who don't wield much influence at all with poker site execs. In many cases, they're poorly trained and appear unknowledgeable about the policies and rules in effect at the sites they're working for. It's no surprise that casual opinions discussed with first-level support workers often go nowhere.

Some poker site decisions, like Stars' cutting back on rewards, are motivated principally by revenue and profitability interests. It would be great for poker players if a site cut the rake to a quarter of its present levels, instituted generous promos and rakeback programs, and ran massive freerolls and overlay tournaments 24/7. However, such a poker paradise would soon go out of business or at least reduce its bottom line considerably. Remember, the duties of poker room supervisors, particularly at publicly held companies, are mainly to the shareholders, not the players. They could even be held to be in violation of their fiduciary responsibilities if they cater exclusively or mostly to the interests of the players rather than those of their employers.

Conclusion

Spectacles Atop Open Book

It can be annoying to pitch changes to online poker rooms only to be given the cold shoulder. With the vast number of suggestions offered on a daily basis, however, it would be impossible and undesirable for all of them to be enacted. The best poker sites will give the players what they really want – eventually. That said, there are some poker operations that are worse in this area than their peers. If your site habitually fails to deliver what you expect, then you can switch to another. That's the power you have as a consumer in a free market. For a list and description of the top poker sites for Americans, check out our guide to U.S.A. online poker.

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