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Jan 26th

Do the positive experiences outweigh the bad ones?

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Over at Pokerstrategy.com, Lutz Enke authors the very insightful “Pokerstrategy.com Confidential” blog. In a recent post he talks about the importance of manners for the greater good of the game. Lutz discusses these manners in context of an even greater topic which he summarizes like this:

“So to make poker flourish and recreational players stick with the game, it’s important to make sure that while playing poker, there are way more positive than negative experiences.”

Full house right there. That’s what it is about. Lutz also, almost in bypassing, goes on to list some of these positive and negative experiences a player can theoretically experience while playing online poker. Knowing that his list is far from complete, he sort of challenges the rest of us to add to it.

Challenge taken.

My main point with this entry is to show how complex an entertainment product online poker really is and how many individual experiences and moments can be enhanced to improve the entertainment value of the game.
No detailed analysis of each one. And not grand promises that the list is complete. It isn’t by a long shot. It is just a bit more complete than Lutz’s.

Alright. Armed and ready. In no particular order…

It’s all good! Or?

POSITIVE EXPERIENCES

Winning a hand, picking up a good hand, successfully bluffing, hitting a good flop, hitting a good turn, hitting a good river, calling and all-in bet and finding yourself ahead, showing a bluff, making a great laydown, getting call when you’re ahead, making the money, making the final table, busting a player, being informed of people busting when close to the bubble or in the money, seeing someone you dislike lose, seeing someone you dislike bust, play a hand with someone famous, win a tournament, playing the first hand in a massive tournament you’ve qualified for, waiting to play a massive tournament you’ve qualified for, waiting to play a massive tournament period, chatting with someone who’s nice at the table, get respect in the chat for your game, serve a douchebag an awesome zinger, say something honorable in victory, clear something, purchase something for loyalty points, see positive stats about your game, get something for free, take the chip lead, get to see cards for free when you would have folded to a one cent bet, have an issue resolved by customer support, learn something, successfully apply what you have just learned, watch others play great, watch others play really, really bad, friendly banter, leave a cash game session ahead, leave a cash game session with a minor loss compared to the near-broke state you’ve been in all session, finding the perfect tournament for your session, finding the perfect table for your session, playing with people you know and like.

All these examples represent recurring moments and experiences in the lifetime of an average online poker player. It is the job of game designers, usability experts, community managers and retention teams’ to make the most out them. If they are given the opportunity of course.

To examplify the vastness of this task, I’d argue that the recently released Home Games concept from Pokerstars addresses perhaps three or four of these.

There’s a lot that can be done to further enhance the positive feelings generated by these regular events in a player’s lifetime.

NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES

The negative experiences mirror the positive ones almost to the tee. But there is one category of negative experiences that must be added. And that is negative experiences caused by failure to deliver the most basic functionalities and services. If these aspects of the experience work as intended, nobody jumps for joy, but if they fail, players will become very discontent. Some examples:  

Not finding the type of game you’re after, lag, server crashes, money gone missing, late customer support response, learning of cheating, suspecting cheating, getting account hacked, people knowing stuff about you and your game that is not made public by the site, not being able to deposit, not being able to cash out, not understanding the rules, not understanding where to click, not understanding what to fill in, not knowing what to fill in, being sat out involuntarily.

That’s a few to get the point across. Looking at it, you realize that the main providers have been far more focused on mitigating negative experiences than enhancing the positive moments – with a varying degree of success.

We’re far away from perfecting online poker as an entertaining experience. And while it is sometimes much more intriguing to invest time and money on edgy inventions (I’m so guilty there’s no need for a jury), a lot can be gained from just improving the rudimentary experiences that make up the majority of a player’s, hopefully entertaining, roller coaster ride at the tables.


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