A hospital appointment effectively killed any chance of me attending the IGNA 2015 conference last week. It would have been a long and expensive trip to take for a start-up on a shoe-string budget regardless, but considering the quality of the panels it might have been worth it.
That, however, doesn’t stop me from discussing some of the topics discussed during the conference.

The first topic I want to address – that losers in poker lose too fast – was  brought up during the ”bring fun back into online poker”  panel which I was really looking forward to (and wanted to be on). Two plus two representatives, poker book authors and game theoreticians Mason Malmuth and David Sklansky did poker a huge favor by presenting a strong case for increasing attention on recreational players on that panel. As representatives of the shrine that all devoted players journey to, their opinions weigh heavily. Mason published a recap in this 2+2 thread.

The argument is one I discussed repeatedly and I think it is worth reminding  why one needs to treat it with caution. While it is true in some sense that losers lose too fast, it’s a flawed problem statement. It is indicative of a metrics driven view on products and customers that bypasses strong counter-arguments.

Losers don’t lose too fast because:

… the problem that arises from losers losing to fast is partly a monetization problem related to rake caps. Remove the rake cap and that part of the problem is eliminated. If I lose $100 in one hand, my willingness to play again is not significantly affected by the fact that the house receives $11 instead of $2 of that money. Conversely, if I as a casual player find myself on the right end of that hand, I’m virtually equally thrilled with my $89 win as I would be about winning $98. My frame of mind does not extend to the variance adjusted-longterm where my margin drops catastrophically.
I’m not arguing for the removal of rake caps, but in order to solve a problem, one needs to understand the crux of the problem.

… losers can’t lose infinitely much slower. Playing casually, by definition, means that time to play may be a more valuable asset than money. So what a room might gain in churn due to lower loss speed, it might lose in deposits since a casual player might not play more regardless.

… how fast one loses is a lousy measurement of the enjoyment of play. It is quite possible to have a blast while losing $100 in just one hour and hate the game after having drip-lost the same amount in five hours. Enjoyment of play is not the only factor determining the chance of a losing player returning to the tables, but it is the most underestimated one. Having to spend time doing something is inherently negative. So unless the experience of doing it radically changes and/or the outcome changes from negative to positive, having to do it for longer will, in retrospect, worsen the experience. A losing session over two hours SHOULD be different enough from a thirty minute losing session, but as online play grows increasingly more static, It’s not a given.

Losers lose too quickly if they lose before even understanding how and why they lost. Beyond that, the problem statement should be a more experience oriented one.