Ever since the deal between Zynga Poker and the gang behind Pokertableratings was announced I’ve been eager to comment on it. But I have found it uncharacteristically difficult to figure out what to say. I simply have such mixed emotions about it. And it took me a while to realize that that was probably the best possible thing I could say.
I think it it’s a brilliant deal.
And a joke.

My spontaneous reaction when the deal was announced was to laugh. I just found it so refreshing that a company from the outside could sweep in and immediately recognize the potential of the type of work PTR does. [intlink id=”554″ type=”post”]I’ve talked repeatedly about the need for companies in the online poker industry to acquire and merge along the chain of power not across it[/intlink]. Essentially I am saying that there is more value in owning a greater range of various entities that have a stake in a player’s gaming life than owning more of the same type of entity. A theory that came to life when Pokerlistings entered into a strategic partnership with Cake Poker.  And when P[intlink id=”885″ type=”post”]laytech paid plenty to acquire marketing assets[/intlink] from its own dominant shareholder.

This deal between Zynga Poker and PTR may be a sign of the same trend – if Zynga Poker fully understands the nature of PTR’s business. If they don’t , they just got their first ugly sting from a real money industry full of angle shooters who have no problem outplaying an inexperienced play money player like Zynga.

So what is the nature of PTR’s business then? Well, they are cancer.  They are a virus that found a weakness in the immune systems of online poker room and managed to infiltrate the neurons of the host sites to somehow make them think that it was all a good thing. It’s taken a couple of years and many liters of fresh industry blood for sites to finally pick up on it.  
You don’t want PTR to exist – unless of course you enjoy the feeling of being financially raped.  PTR caters to a minority of players who represent negative business value to any sites associated with them. Not only does PTR reduce site’s capacity to earn money, the violate terms and conditions, load servers and assist bot makers.

PTR are making money because they offer something that no sound business upon which PTR’s services rely would permit them to offer. And it seems like this fact is starting to dawn on people.  Sites are starting to slowly fight back.

Now, the big question for Zynga Poker is the following:

How aware of the nature of their own business are the guys behind PTR?

As I see it, there can be three reasons why Zynga Poker wants to deal with the PTR people:

a) They are unquestionably superb data gatherers and data analysts. And they have access to insane amounts of data. And that’s right up Zynga’s alley.

b) It’s clear by now that Zynga Poker themselves understand they lack industry knowledge. Maybe they think these guys posses it.

c) Access to e-mail lists.

I’ll eat my hat if the last option is the reason.[intlink id=”910″ type=”post”] Zynga Poker has no reason to ever move into real money territory[/intlink] and pay to gain access to, in their world, very few players.  That leaves A and B.

Reason A I understand. What Zynga does to an extent that we in the real money gaming industry can’t match is analyzing customer behavior. They do it to an extent that crosses into the cynical even  if my sources are to be trusted. Whatever button that can be introduced that will sink the addiction hook deeper into the souls of their users, they’re game. If that is “worse” than the financial ruin the real money industry threatens to bestow upon its customer despite its attempt to hinder problem gambling, I leave for someone else to discuss. But with this in mind, the acquisition of some of seriously adept data miners, data analysts and data tool makers, makes sense. Well played Zynga!
Hopefully the lesson is learned.

Reason B is the potential poison pill. If the PTR guys genuinely don’t understand the damaging nature of what they do, then they are the last people I would ever recruit to give me advice. If you run a site lie PTR and don’t fully understand that you are a parasite leeching of the lesser knowing, then you know nothing about the intricacies of the online poker industry. You don’t understand rake. You don’t understand player liquidity. You don’t understand the importance of differentiation. You don’t understand the primary ingredients necessary to cook up a juicy poker playing experience. You only understand the need to have your own Ferrari.
And if that is the case what does that tell you of their business mentality? Is that the kind of people you want to work with?

Never met anyone of them. Don’t want to fault them for exploiting idiots who didn’t listen. But I’m certainly not going to give them more credit than they deserve.  
Neither should Zynga.