Last week, Party Poker announced the creation of a “Player Panel”. We´ve come up with a few issues we think the panel should be discussing as a priority.
The news that Party Poker is creating a Player Panel was greeted with mixed feelings in the PokerNewsReport office last week. Inasmuch as it is admirable the site wants to “improve lines of communication” between players and management, the news rather ironically came within three weeks of Party Poker withdrawing its support from the popular 2+2 poker forum.
Admittedly, the Party Poker thread on the 2+2 poker forum was often populated by an elite group of whingers with nothing better to do than complain about issues that could have been resolved by contacting customer support. However, it does seem that – by creating a player panel packed full of millionaires – the site is replacing one elite group with another elite group.
We would be surprised if Sam Trickett, Ike Haxton, or Fedor Holz can remember the last time they entered a tournament with a $5 buy-in, or sat in on a cash game with blinds of $0.10/$0.25, but these are the type of games Party Poker needs to make more attractive to new players in order to achieve the panel´s objective of resolving issues such as poker ecology and maintaining its loyal player base.
Consequently we created our own Party Poker Player Panel to discuss what really matters to players at the bottom of the food chain. Our suggestions are not only relevant to Party Poker, but to every online poker site. Indeed, we actually feel Party Poker is doing quite a good job at supporting new players, but there are certain areas in which the poker product could be improved.
Get Rid of Late Registration below a Certain Buy-In
We appreciate that some extended late registration periods are necessary in order for headline tournaments to reach their guarantees, but some low buy-in tournaments yesterday had nearly four hours of late registration. Any player logging in with a couple of hours to spare looking for a $5 game is practically limited to turbo or hyper-turbo Sit & Go games or three-handed Jackpot games.
Why not scrap late registration periods for tournaments with buy-ins of $5 or less? There might be some loss of traffic (and rake) for the Sit & Go and Jackpot games, but recreational players would see their cash last longer, have an opportunity of winning a better prize in a shorter tournament, and be more likely to return to the site the next time they have a couple of hours to spare.
Shorten the Length of Time Players have to Act
This suggestion applies equally to tournaments, Sit & Go games, and cash games. At present, players get a minimum of thirty seconds to act plus extra seconds depending on how deep they are in a tournament or how many raked hands they have played. Again we appreciate players in high-value tournaments or substantial cash game pots may need the extra time to make the correct decisions, but is such an extended amount of thinking time necessary in games with a $1.00 buy-in?
Even in games of FastForward Poker in which you can fold your cards and go to another table, a scenario exists in which you could be sitting in the Big Blind with 27o and have to wait up to three minutes before somebody bets and your cards are folded. In poker tournaments, it can take up to five minutes for a round of pre-flop betting to take place, and potentially fifteen minutes to play out a single hand. That´s not much of a good experience for somebody not involved in the action.
Sort Out the Get Started Missions and Make them More Attractive
Party Poker’s “Casual Cash Game Tables” – tables specifically assigned for recreational players – were removed last November to improve cash game liquidity on the “regular” tables. Not only was this a bad idea (in our opinion), but it also means it is impossible to complete some Get Started Missions. We don´t know how popular the get Started Missions were because we have been playing at the site for too long to be eligible, but we feel they could be made far more attractive to new players.
By our reckoning, players have to deposit a minimum of $40 over four transactions in order to complete the Get Started missions (including their initial deposit) and in return can receive $40 in cash, $11 in tournament tickets and (if they have deposited $40) a further $30 in bonuses. It´s not that generous, and the program itself is not that easy to understand for a new player. It definitely needs simplifying, and it would get a lot more attention if the rewards for completing the missions were more attractive.
It´s Not Rocket Science, Provided You Talk to the Right People
Putting together a panel of millionaire poker players is hardly going to be of any benefit to the casual Joe who logs into his or her Party Poker account on a Saturday afternoon hoping to have a good time and win a few dollars. Sure, there will be a few ideas that get implemented just to make sure Party Poker´s PR machine can issue a press release claiming “we listened”, but who did you listen to?
Pandering to players with five-figure bankrolls is not going to help the poker ecology – and this applies to every online poker site, not just Party Poker. If sites are really interested in providing a poker product that will excite and retain new players, we feel our three suggestions should be seriously considered. It´s not rocket science, provided you talk to the right people.