Disclaimer: Opinions and ideas expressed on DadsPokerBlog and MyOwnPokerBlog are mine and mine alone.
On April 30, 2013, Ultimate Poker started up, on a trial basis, offering No Limit Hold’em and Limit Hold’em to anyone physically located in the State of Nevada, citizens and visitors alike. The State of Nevada had passed bills legalizing the playing of poker online. I think this was done because it appears that the U.S. Government was not going to pass bills allowing online poker on a nationwide basis.
The start of Ultimate Poker was not smooth. The client software crashed and failed a lot during the trial testing period. This could happen if you were playing in a cash game, a Sit and Go (SnG) or even a tournament. The only recourse was to notify, via email, PlayerCare@UltimatePoker.com and wait for a reply.
Ultimate Poker (UP) was deluged in a sea of emails. Not only did the client software crash but the required Geo-location aspect failed for a variety of reasons. Your cell phone had to be found in the borders of Nevada and the cell phone providers had to allow for this type of activity. AT&T worked, Verizon Wireless did not. Some of the smaller carriers worked, but not all did.
Credit card deposits did not always work. Visa had the most declines. Prepaid MasterCard worked most of the time. Because UP was affiliated with Station Casinos, that was not a problem. You could go to the cashiers cage at any of the Station Casino’s and make a deposit. All you needed was cash, a valid id from any state or country and an email address. Once the deposit was made, you would receive notification via email of the deposit and you were good to go play. Withdrawals would be just as easy and could be picked up at the casino cashier cage as well.
While over 10,000 may have signed up with Ultimate Poker, only a few hundred or so played at any given time, causing delays in starting SnG’s. Tournaments ran as scheduled but you had to sign up before the tourney started as there was no late registration built into the early software.
The initial social media tools, Twitter and FaceBook, were not manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week even though their site ran 24/7. Ultimate Poker was unprepared for the onslaught of Tweets that players would send, both good and bad. That caused some bad feelings with some new players to the site.
It was as though the company did not care enough about their customers to respond to their concerns. That was not true, as Ultimate Poker did not expect to be so busy out of the gate. But, first looks are what customers remember.
Diane and I contacted Chris Danek, Poker Product Manager for UP and offered our assistance. He declined, thankfully so, as we later found out that employees are not allowed to play on their own site. Both Diane and enjoy playing online poker.
UP started ramping up the support group and had the capable and very likable Terrance Chan, Director of Player Operations to assist with support. Terrance actually responded in person to some of my earlier emails to support and he and Chris Danek responded to individual Tweets.
Tweets were being answered reasonably quickly from 8am to 5pm and eventually almost on a 24 hour a day basis. Some holidays and weekends were a little skimpy with UP tweet responses but the heart of UP, Joe Versaci joined in to help respond to questions, concerns, and complaints.
Move forward two software versions and seven months later. Emails are responded to automatically as an acknowledgement with a real human response within 24 hour or less, usually within two hours. The company uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, TwoPlusTwo Support forum, and PocketFives.com (JT From UP), to communicate and deliver education to enhancement the player experience.
As is the case in the real world, you can not please everybody.
Case in point: Me!
I am currently doing some paid, freelance reporting and posting for and on, PocketFives.Com.
I try to summarize the weekday and weekend tournament activity for events with a guaranteed payout of $1,000 or more. Sometimes I am unable to find the results for a particular regularly scheduled tournament.
I would send Tweets asking what happened, but sometimes I would get absolutely no public response. Instead, I would find out from an informed source that a technical problem happened or that not enough people signed up and the event did not run. Many tournaments have a minimum number of players needed to start, as well as a maximum number allowed.
My concern is that the site, Ultimate Poker, should be more upfront when things go wrong or when tourneys are not able to start. I can see in the UP tournament lobby the tournaments that were canceled, but not the ones in question.
I think the company should be more proactive and let players know via Twitter and Facebook that an event was cancelled.
Being open and transparent should be their goal.
I know that the world is not perfect. I am not perfect. I don’t expect UP to be perfect.
But, when asked an operational question, I expect that UP should respond in a timely manner.
The cancelling of a tournament or SnG or cash game is an operational event.
I don’t expect responses from general gripes or complaints.
Am I being too severe in my expectations?
What do you think?